Quin Hillyer wrote an article in the American Spectator titled "The Problem With Palin." By contrast, this post will detail the problem with Quin Hillyer's problem with Palin. One big difference between our posts will be that this post will actually have citations to back up assertions.
The first problem that we have with Quin's problem with Palin is that while he correctly praises Palin's application of supply-side principles during her career in elected office, he claims that her fiscally conservative credentials are lacking. Kathy Carpenter has discussed Palin's fiscal conservatism in office extensively. The final budget that her predecessor, Frank Murkowski, authorized in fiscal year 2007 totaled almost $11.7 billion. The final budget that Palin authorized in fiscal year 2010 totaled a little over $9 billion. So the final budget she signed into law was actually smaller than the final budget that her predecessor signed into law. Does Quin know of another governor in the country whose final budget was smaller than the final budget of his or her predecessor's during the period in which Palin was governor of Alaska?
Quin neglects to tell his readership about the dramatic decrease in the amount of earmarks that Alaska requested from the governor's office during Palin's time in office. Murkowski requested sixty-three projects for $349,497,000 for fiscal year 2007. In fiscal year 2010, Governor Palin requested eight projects at $69,100,000. These numbers show an 80% drop in earmark requests from the Alaska Governor's office during Palin's tenure as governor.
Our second problem with Quin's problem with Palin is that he makes claims about Palin that do not stand up to scrutiny. For example, Quin suggests without asserting (a common tactic employed by those opposed to Palin from the center-right) that Palin declined her invitation to speak at this year's CPAC because the organization wouldn't pay her $100,000. The Hill's A.B. Stoddard made this same claim. This claim doesn't hold water, as Governor Palin spoke at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference for free. The fact that she spoke at one high-profile Republican convention for free while declining to speak at another strikes me as pretty convincing evidence that the reason why she declined the CPAC invitation had nothing to do with money. Quin doesn't even consider that it had something to do with pay-for-play and extremism, two things that Palin has fought against her entire career. Upon learning that she had the facts wrong, Stoddard withdrew her claim about Palin declining to speak at CPAC because she wasn't paid. Let's see if Quin does the same (We should also note that Governor Palin regularly speaks to pro-life organizations for free and in some cases, donates her fee back to the organization).
Our third problem with Quin's problem with Palin is that he effectively accuses her of being a liar without backing it up (of course, he uses softer language but it's pretty clear what he's implying). He claims that she misrepresented the "details of her famous gas pipeline negotiations" in Going Rogue without documenting what she allegedly misrepresented about those negotiations in her memoir. Quin also claims that she lied about the Bridge-to-Nowhere. Damian Geminder does a great job in effectively pointing out that Quin's argument is essentially that changing one's position on a subject is akin to lying. All Palin said was that she killed the project and nobody, not even the Alaska Democrat Party, can claim otherwise. Finally, Quin accuses Palin of engaging in what he characterizes as the allegedly questionable practice of purchasing one's book to use as a fundraising tool (this move is clearly distinguishable from the bulk orders that another 2012 Republican candidate relied upon to get his book on the bestseller list. As Taggan Goodard notes, the books that Palin purchased would not count towards her book sales in any of the bestseller book rankings Going Rogue achieved). Quin fails to inform his readership that what Palin did is a common practice among politicians (i.e., offering signed copies of her book as incentives to get people to donate to her PAC).
Our fourth problem with Quin's problem is that he minimizes her political accomplishments. He characterizes Palin's victory over Frank Murkowski as "not too hard." Oh really? What Quin fails to tell his readers is that Palin is one of three people to have defeated an incumbent Governor or Senator in a primary and to have won the subsequent general election in the last twelve years. She did it in an election year when Republicans across the country suffered record losses. She did it with the Republican Party establishment opposing her candidacy and openly threatening her on the phone should she dare cross them. She did it without the political consultants upon which too many in our party foolishly rely. The liberal Anchorage Daily News wrote the following about her campaign:
Still, no national consultants have been brought in to hone Palin's message or protect her frontrunner status with carefully scripted appearances.
"It's the most remarkable campaign I've ever seen," said Babcock. "She's just running as Sarah Palin and talking about what comes up."
What seems to drive the Beltway, as well bloggers like Quin, crazy is the fact that she neither seeks nor needs their assistance. The bloggers over at Hillbuzz met Governor Palin over the weekend in Peoria and she expressed her thoughts about the political chattering class to which Quin belongs quite succinctly: "Oh, I got their number."
Quin also tries to characterize Palin as someone who leaves jobs in order to advance herself politically. This argument is quite paradoxical considering that in the same article, Quin argues that her resignation hurts her politically. In fact, the resignation goes against Quin's storyline that she has quit jobs to climb the political ladder. If all she cared about was her political future, she wouldn't have concluded that the circumstances created by her adversaries made it impossible for her to advance the state's interests as governor and that the best decision she could make for her state was to hand the reins over to someone who shared her values even if it meant that she would take a hit politically.
Our fifth and final problem (there are more but space is limited) with Quin's problem with Palin is the "you can be our cheerleader, sweetie, but don't even think about running onto the field; that's for the big boys" message. How it works is that bloggers like Quin will lavish praise on Palin for the "energy" she brings to the party and movement but at the same time argue that she can do more good from the sidelines waving the pom-poms. These writers can't legitimately call her irrelevant because she regularly draws massive crowds to her events (over 10,000 in Tim Pawlenty's state where even David Frum conceded she "utterly outshines Pawlenty."), so instead they praise her "activism" while also making it clear that she can't possibly be anything more. You see it in Quin's suggestion that she continue to utilize her "ability to turn a pithy phrase to convey powerful messages"....on television while shelving any national political aspirations until 2024.
The purpose of this strategy is to demoralize her supporters and push away people who are inclined to support her in a prospective presidential run. What makes this narrative so effective is that Palin cannot challenge it in any substantive way as it would be irrational on her part to telegraph her intentions at this time considering that the 2010 midterms are still months away (according to the "Palin rules," if she did make her intentions explicit, she'd be accused of being selfish and arrogant). In the same fashion as some of our country's greatest leaders, she is someone who is reluctant to serve and not someone who spends every waking hour of her life thinking about how she can become President. She seems to recognize that serving as our country's leader would require her to sacrifice more than she would get in return. Reluctance is a character trait that sets her apart from our current President and many Republicans.
However, until the time comes when Palin makes a formal announcement about her plans, her opponents on the right will continue to pound this meme in order to convince those who support her or those favorably disposed to her candidacy that she is uninterested in pursuing national office and is better off in a television studio. That this tactic is effective doesn't make it right. For the rest of the year, Palin will continue to stay on the frontline and inflict damage on Barack Obama's approval ratings while others will continue to lay low and focus on their own runs for the presidency. She seems perfectly willing to take the fire from the Democrat Party while others seem willing to push narratives with the intent of eroding her support. Yes, there may be a problem with Palin....the problem is that she's willing to put up with claptrap.
Update: Come on Quin, isn't this the reason why you have a problem with Palin?