David R. Henderson  

Rubin on Palin

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Two Follow-ups... The Origin of the Word "Relati...

I'm glad Arnold called our attention to this piece on Palin by Jennifer Rubin. I thought Rubin nicely explained the visceral reaction many Jews, including one woman I'm very close to, have to Palin. I'm not a Palin fan and I don't even think she's a conservative, let alone a libertarian. I think she's a populist and I thought Joe Biden's only good moment in the whole campaign was during the debate, when he pointed out that he and Obama wanted to do to oil companies on the national level what she had done to them on the state level. But I hate that visceral reaction because it's so unfair.

Rubin makes clear just how unfair it is and, in the process, gives evidence against Bryan's view of the effect of education on opinions. Assuming I understand his view correctly, it is that the more educated you are, the more clearly you think about political issues. I think Bryan has the evidence to show it. But Rubin presents evidence the other way. Notice that, according to her, many American Jews credulously believed what they were handed about Palin and seemed to have zero curiosity to make them look further.

Arnold sees no downside to kicking the elites out of Washington, but I think he goes too far. I think this is the first instance where I have agreed with SydB, who commented on Arnold's post.

Tragically, Rubin points out a way for Palin to reduce the upset American Jews have with Palin, writing:

Certainly her willingness to speak in favor of the special relationship America has with Israel could mitigate some of the damage done to her reputation, once news of her support for the Jewish state and opposition to the administration's effort to put "daylight" between the U.S. and Israel finally gets through to the Jewish community.
In other words, the way in for Palin is to identify even more closely with one of the first foreign-policy stances--almost-complete lack of criticism of Israel--that the U.S. government has had.

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COMMENTS (28 to date)
pj writes:

Palin is undoubtedly a conservative of libertarian sympathies. She may be populist in spirit now, but why not? The public is conservative and libertarian compared to Washington, so true conservatives and libertarians become populists as a matter of course.

Biden's comment in the debate was just wrong. Palin didn't do any harm to the oil companies, she just negotiated a good deal for Alaska's oil rights. Biden and Obama want to coerce the oil companies.

OneEyedMan writes:

"the more educated you are, the more clearly you think about political issues. I think Bryan has the evidence to show it. But Rubin presents evidence the other way. Notice that, according to her, many American Jews credulously believed what they were handed about Palin and seemed to have zero curiosity to make them look further."

I think the point here is that just because more educated people reach the better policy prescription on most political issues doesn't mean that they do so on all issues, nor does it mean that that reversal is random. They have an ideological bias that more often happens to coincide with optimal policy which is very different than having the right opinions for the right reasons.

That's the difference between believing in evolution without understanding and both believing and understanding it.

Nick writes:

I found the Rubin piece to be heavy on conjecture and light on empirical evidence to support her views. I am Jewish most of my friends are Jewish as well. I know that anecdotes do not empirical evidence make but I can say for myself and my friends our opinions of Palin were not based on many of the factors Rubin cited.

Personally I found that in interviews Palin's answers seemed to display a lack of substance at best, and were evasive, at worst. Her discussions of complex issues lacked nuance and I found myself feeling that characterizations of her as simply spewing GOP talking points seemed fairly on the nose.

It is funny to me to see economists supporting anti-intellectuals such as Palin. Anti-intellectuals often make decisions based on 'common sense' or 'gut feeling'. Economics, seemingly more than other sciences seems to make a habit of pointing out that common sense is usually counter-factual.

David R. Henderson writes:

pj,
That's not how I recall it re oil companies. I think she raised their tax rate. But I'll check and report if I find different.
Nick,
In case it wasn't clear, I don't support Palin. Also, your reasons for not liking Palin are more like mine. I saw her whole interview with Hannity, a friendly interviewer, and I came away thinking she doesn't know how to answer in a pithy way--ever. I have her book and I'll report if I find anything interesting.
Best,
David

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:

No, David, pj is right. Palin renegotiated the share of revenues that Alaskans got. She didn't enact any windfall profits tax at all. Biden and Obama can't do what she did. The Gov. of Alaska is unique in that respect.

David R. Henderson writes:

Here's the link supporting my point about taxes. Neither, of course, is a windfall profits tax. But the federal proposal appears similar to the one she implemented. It appears to be a graduated excise tax.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008103325_alaskatax07.html

Bryan writes:

Perhaps its because I've been studying for the LSAT, but I noticed this:

"the more educated you are, the more clearly you think about political issues. I think Bryan has the evidence to show it. But Rubin presents evidence the other way. Notice that, according to her, many American Jews credulously believed what they were handed about Palin and seemed to have zero curiosity to make them look further."

Clearly your assumption is that "American Jews" are very highly educated, which implies clear thinking about political issues, which implies they would make the best political decisions.

I'm not sure why Jews are singled out here. Most educated people, even (R)'s and (L)'s, think Palin is dangerously stupid. Rubin's implication that if Jews only knew what Palin thought of Israel, they would somehow change their minds would be insulting to me, were I Jewish.

Palin is just not fit to be president, which isn't meant to be an insult but a statement of fact. The powers that be are clearly quietly starting to gear up to position her as a candidate in 2012 and we have to be willing to say no. And we say no by rebutting this garbage by Rubin, and the almost garbage by Henderson.

Eric H writes:

I don't think Palin would be as popular had the governming elites shown themselves capable of the kind of leadership that promotes growth and freedom. That's not to say she's capable of such leadership. She could have been, maybe. Who knows?

Whatever shreds of conservatism I possessed disintegrated with the McCain/Palin loss, but it still turned my stomach to read Will Wilkinson's tasteless objectification of Palin. Instead of sexual/political navel-gazing, libertarians might have supported McCain/Palin in order to guilt them into good governance once elected. But like I said, who knows? We'll see how bad things can get when the stimulus hammer drops in 2010-2011.

Did that kind of commentary increase freedom, on net? Who knows. The contrarian in me thinks it gave us a net decrease, especially in light of the election results. No one mentioned her in such terms when she was just a governor with a stringy perm.

I'm surprised that she rubs you the wrong way, David. Reagan had his populist streak too, and he is, after Goldwater, the mainstream presidential candidate libertarians could really get behind.


RL writes:

Bryan (commenter, not Caplan): "Palin is just not fit to be president"

This is clearly true. What is perhaps somewhat less clearly but nonetheless demonstrably true is that NO ONE is fit to be President, as President is viewed today. See Gene Healey's "The Cult of the Presidency"...

Eric H: "libertarians might have supported McCain/Palin in order to guilt them into good governance once elected"

And that strategy has worked...when, exactly? The Federal Government is not the PTA writ large, Eric...

Nick writes:

Bryan,

You are correct, it is an insulting implication that all (most?) Jews naturally agree with Israeli policies and support American leaders who are not critical of Israel. I don't think all Jews even support Israel (the Hasidim certainly do not).

It is similar to saying all Americans support the policies of the American government. Not even all Israelis support Israel's politics :-)

In regards to whether or not Jews as a whole are disproportionately better educated this is true. A Pew study found that 11% of Americans have a postgraduate degree. Amongst Jews 35% have a postgraduate degree. Though better that almost all of the other major faiths surveyed, a staggering 48% of Hindus held a postgraduate degree. Maybe someone should be asking if Hindus support Palin, and if not, why?

Nick writes:

Bryan,

You are correct, it is an insulting implication that all (most?) Jews naturally agree with Israeli policies and support American leaders who are not critical of Israel. I don't think all Jews even support Israel (the Hasidim certainly do not).

It is similar to saying all Americans support the policies of the American government. Not even all Israelis support Israel's politics :-)

In regards to whether or not Jews as a whole are disproportionately better educated this is true. A Pew study found that 11% of Americans have a postgraduate degree. Amongst Jews 35% have a postgraduate degree. Though better that almost all of the other major faiths surveyed, a staggering 48% of Hindus held a postgraduate degree. Maybe someone should be asking if Hindus support Palin, and if not, why?

Nick writes:

Mr. H,

"Reagan had his populist streak too, and he is, after Goldwater, the mainstream presidential candidate libertarians could really get behind."

I certainly beg to differ, tax hikes, massive deficits, military expansion, escalation of the War on Drugs, kowtowing to the religious right, abysmal foreign policies (Grenada, Iran-Contra, etc..).

I think any libertarian who holds up Reagan as an example is being intentionally disingenuous, or
at the very least confusing the myth of Reagan with the man.

You have a far better case for Barry Goldwater.

agnostic writes:

"Assuming I understand his view correctly, it is that the more educated you are, the more clearly you think about political issues."

It's a little more circumscribed: the more educated you are, the more you think like an economist on economic policy questions. That doesn't necessarily make you less credulous of rumors, less susceptible to fads, and so on.

"but it still turned my stomach to read Will Wilkinson's tasteless objectification of Palin. "

It turned my stomach because he's in his mid-30s and she's in her mid-40s. The MILF / Desperate Housewives / Cougar Town epidemic spreads further... Lusting after older females is only cool when you're 15 and find yourself around college girls.

David R. Henderson writes:

Bryan (commenter) writes:
I'm not sure why Jews are singled out here. Most educated people, even (R)'s and (L)'s, think Palin is dangerously stupid.

They (most educated people) might have good reason. I was taking Rubin at her word that she had done her homework. There are many reasons for people, Jewish or otherwise, to think badly of Palin. It's just that almost all the reasons Rubin singled out for Jews didn't make sense because they were based on claims that were false and easy to check. That was my point.

And I agree with RL that everyone is unfit to be President.

GU writes:
"Personally I found that in interviews Palin's answers seemed to display a lack of substance at best, and were evasive, at worst."

Yep. Perhaps the one thing politicians are supposed be good at is delivering sound bite answers to softball questions from reporters—and Palin was unable to deliver. This despite the hours her staff spent briefing her, telling her exactly what to say, etc.

Probably many policy experts are not great orators, but she gave answers to common questions that simply lacked both coherence and substance. It happened many times, it was not a fluke.

I do not think Palin is intelligent enough to be President of the United States. Surely we can find someone better than her.

Eric H writes:

RL--

"And that strategy has worked...when, exactly? The Federal Government is not the PTA writ large"

And the once-every-four-years election pageantry isn't the PTA writ large? Or better still, isn't it more like student council writ large?

I think it is.

I should be clearer: the choice between Obama and McCain was a choice between two least-best alternatives. Same for Biden and Palin.

I don't think the presidential election process is an accurate means of judging a candidate's intelligence or fitness for office. Look at the history of the office and see for yourself. Was who the people voted for in '68 who they got in '74? What about 2000 versus 2003? Was the George Herbert Walker Bush who pledged not to raise taxes in '88 the same man who raised them in 1990? Go back further--each presidential election, from the beginning, featured unkept promises, empty rhetoric, and criteria that ended up having little to do with the tide of history. Yet still we carp on Palin for being "stupid."

One of the smartest presidents, supposedly, was Woodrow Wilson, and he re-segregated D.C. and screened Birth of a Nation in the White House. Nixon, too, was highly intelligent. Ditto for Grant, and he was a boozer.

Given the careening course of history, I fail to see how Palin was any worse ex ante than any of these guys were ex post.

I'm not trying to convince anyone to abandon their standards or think of Palin as some kind of savior. I'm trying to place her in the context in which standards aren't that high in the first place. In that context her candidacy, her popularity, and her failings are not remarkable.

David, with all respect due an accomplished academic and economist, I think you're dangerously close to imitating the Cretan Liar. Is it really possible that no one can be fit to be president but anyone can judge who is fit to be president?


Whatmikesaid writes:

Michael Medved:

"For most American Jews, the core of their Jewish identity isn’t solidarity with Israel; it’s rejection of Christianity. This observation may help to explain the otherwise puzzling political preferences of the Jewish community explored in Norman Podhoretz’s book. Jewish voters don’t embrace candidates based on their support for the state of Israel as much as they passionately oppose candidates based on their identification with Christianity—especially the fervent evangelicalism of the dreaded “Christian Right.”"

Elliot writes:

This clip from the daily show I found to be relevant to this conversation. Detractors don't like Sarah Palin because she is a Republican talking points Mad Lib. And she has the gall to be proud of what she's saying when there's nothing behind it!

The main part of the clip is 3:35-6:15.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-november-18-2009/daily-show--the-rogue-warrior

David R. Henderson writes:

Eric H,
I agree with most of what you said, although I would point out that virtually none of it contradicts what RL said.
Thank you for introducing the term "Cretan Liar." I hadn't been familiar with it, but Wikipedia has a nice write-up. It will become part of my intellectual toolbox. I've made the point before, but I hadn't known the Cretan Liar story.
But no, I haven't come dangerously close to imitating the Cretan Liar. My point is simply the same one RL made. No one should be trusted with that much power. For all his negatives--and there were many--that's what I liked most about Ronald Reagan. He didn't seem power-lusting the way every other president in my double-digit years has. I would second RL's point about reading Healy's book. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but what I have read makes the point well.
Best,
David

Joe Kristan writes:

I'm inclined to be sympathetic to Palin, maybe for many of the same reasons that she rubs the intelligentsia the wrong way. But what I'd really want to ask libertarians is -- of the viable candidates out there, which one is most likely to pursue libertarian-leaning policies?

Obama should have cured his libertarian voters by now. Huckabee is a libertarian nightmare. Mitt Romney of Massachussettscare? If Governor Daniels of Indiana can get traction, wonderful, but unlikely, and the ex-Governor of New Mexico also seems improbable. Compared to a likely field of Obama, Huckabee and Romney, she looks pretty good.

Is she ideal? Of course not. Is she up to the job? Nobody is, the job is too big because government is too big. But you have to compare her to the actual alternatives. Ayn Rand isn't running.

Eric H writes:

David--

I think you and I and RL are for the most part in agreement. I will look for Healy's book and read it when I find it.

I misappropriated the liar paradox in part because I was writing at a time when I should have been sleeping!

Perhaps I stumbled on epistemology. I don't know. But "All Cretans are liars" and "no one is fit to be president" are both categorical statements the truth of which can never be known. Perhaps some Cretans lie 90% of the time and others not at all. Perhaps all Cretans lie some of the time. Likewise, maybe some Americans might be completely unfit for the presidency while others are fit to perform 10% of presidential duties and still others are fit to perform only 60%. We live in a world of "no solutions, just tradeoffs" and so the question of how fit someone is to be president is really moot: out of all people who are unfit to be president one will be chosen!

In this kind of world, criticism of Palin for being "stupid" is disingenuous. Would some have preferred her answer to Katie Couric's "what newspapers do you read" question to have been "The New York Times, front to back?" Undoubtedly. But shouldn't people who would draw satisfaction from such a statement be reminded that "All the News that's Fit to Print" is itself a categorical statement? If awkward answers to stupid questions automatically disqualified politicians, both houses of congress and the White House would be empty.

HotPundit writes:

Palin's interviews were disasters. Before the interviews, she was a woman who earned a bachelor's degree after 5 colleges. After the interviews, people knew she was not fit.

But did people also have some bias because of Palin's gender? During the campaign several issues came up where womanhood played a prominent role. For examples, hockey mom, teen pregnancy, clothes, lipstick.

Just like, Hillary possessed a glowing record, but somehow Obama was better.

Does sexism still plays a role in Jewish conscious? Just like it does in Muslim mind.


Nick writes:

HotPundit,

I would think not, Hillary Clinton had an edge with Jewish voters over Obama throughout the primary race. This Gallup match-up showed Jews would favor Obama over McCain but a higher margin would favor Clinton over McCain.

As Jews are a largely aging population in the USA I would suspect the "secret Muslim" rumors or racial factors may have played into the 5% swing that Gallup shows.

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:

David, here is what Biden said in the debate:

And, look, I agree with the governor. She imposed a windfall profits tax up there in Alaska. That's what Barack Obama and I want to do.

That's just flat untrue. I suppose you can call Alaskans' share of the revenues for what gets pumped out of the ground up there a 'tax' if you want to, but Biden was being disingenuous.

As for Palin's stupidity, remember just what Couric actually asked her. It was, what newspapers do you read in forming your worldview?

What was probably going on in Palin's head was something along the line of, 'Sheesh, what moron forms his worldview on what's in newspapers!' Palin's worldview is obviously formed by her experiences in life.

And one part of that is her firsthand look at corruption in government. She has a healthy regard for what can go wrong when the ruling class can enrich themselves at the people's expense. Which, I would think, a libertarian ought to appreciate. I liked the fact that when she was mayor, she made the police chief report to her everyday what he'd done to make the citizens of Wasilla better off.

Does anybody here really think we'd have worse policy if Palin was now in DC, rather than Obama (speaking of ultra-thin resumes)?

SydB writes:

I heard about Republicans in the area in which I live donating to the Obama campaign because they could not stand Palin. I suspect that's what the GOP faces if they go the Palin route.

The main problem I have with someone like Palin is that she seems to belong to the "I don't need to understand something in order to make a decision" school of non-thinking. George Bush belongs to that same school of un-thought.

Doc Merlin writes:

I have to agree with Joe Kristan on this.

Also, a lot of oldschool republicans are anti-tea-party movement as well. The establishment republicans can't stand the tea partiers, and they are the closest thing we have had to a widespread fiscal libertarian movement in this country in many decades.

Romney is the ideal candidate for a lot of establishment republicans, but he is farther from libertarian than Palin is, and he supported in Massachusetts a bill very similar to the one that is being passed in congress. While Palin is far from ideal, she is the closets to a libertarian I see that has a chance of winning the republican ticket. Gary Johnson would be more libertarian, but I don't see him having much of a chance of winning... 1212 is far away though... so who knows.

David R. Henderson writes:

Patrick R. Sullivan,
I never used the word "stupid" to describe Palin and I wouldn't do so because I think she might even be smart. I just don't know. And I think she would be a better President than Obama. That's a VERY low bar, by the way.
But maybe you weren't addressing me.
Best,
David

Mike Rulle writes:

David
It is encouraging to read your last comment to Patrick R. Sullivan. That indeed may be damning with faint praise, but at least it asserts a relative standard. The most interesting aspect about Sarah Palin is the degree to which her detractors don't merely disagree with her, but find it incomprehensible that anyone could conceivably support her.

If there were such a thing as a "weighted scale" that measured intensity of opposition, I am sure Palin would be off the charts. She conceivably would have similar policies as many Republican candidates, but one's support for say, Romney or Pawlenty, would never engender disbelief, as when I say to people I know "I like Sarah Palin".

I think she fits every personality profile that is presumed a priori to make her unqualified to be a president. She seems like a stay at home Mom (what stay at home Mom shows up for work the day after giving birth?) whose public image for those who dislike her is a parody of a real person. She is considered backward and in this sense she is "Reagan-esque" (even as the latter has been "rehabilitated" by some of the intellectual class upon the discovery of his "letters").

She is the only politician who expressed any skepticism about the existence, magnitude and danger of AGW. This was seen as the equivalent of a monstrous ignorance. She invented the inflammatory phrase "death panels" to describe what we all know would be inevitable under a system which promises to expand coverage and lower costs.

I don't know if she has the desire to be president. It takes enormous hours and effort to become president. I don't know how anyone can do it. There is an element of a self corrupting nature in the process itself. One is always speaking to 2 audiences--the one's who know what the candidate is really about, and those who politicians need to say virtually anything to get their vote. When the contest is close, the latter predominates.

But as I have often said, one can support economic policies consistent, for example, with Hayek, without having ever read Hayek, far easier than one can support economic policies consistent with Keynes without ever having read Keynes. What I mean by this, is education relevant to politics is more likely learned during what one does with one's life, than whether one went to Harvard Law.

This per se does not make Palin qualified of course. But our general measurement devices for politicians are flawed I think.


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