Monday, March 29, 2010

Palin, Podhoretz and the imperative to know what you're talking about

In this morning's WSJ, Norman Podhoretz steps up "In Defense of Sarah Palin," and sees class snobbery in the reluctance of (some -- he probably exaggerates how many) conservative intellectuals to support her. He also rehashes William F. Buckley's line about preferring Boston phone book names to Harvard faculty in staffing the government.

I'm going to cite what Palin said recently about a subject in which I, as a financial journalist, have a particular interest: the role of the Fed. Here's an excerpt from her January 13 interview with Glenn Beck. (Note: I'm linking to Media Matters because they've conveniently posted this transcript, not because I like those left-wing hacks.)

BECK: Did you see that the Fed made the -- you know, Exxon had their record profit a couple years ago. It was $45 billion. The Fed just had record profit, over $50 billion. Nobody's having hearings on the Fed, nobody is looking for a windfall profits tax on the Fed. Nobody seems to -- we can't even open the Fed's books.
PALIN: Yeah. Yeah.
BECK: Where do you stand on the Fed?
PALIN: That -- it's so ironic there too, especially that you bring up this private-sector company, Exxon, because in Alaska we saw what was going on with Exxon, and we did have our own hearings on what was going on with this private-sector company and how could the state of Alaska adjust some things to make sure that there was a share of the resource -- yet you're right. Nobody has even lifted a finger to go that route with the Fed. And it's a scary thing -- it's one of those things that we're thankful for, Glenn, that you're bringing this to light. And I don't know anybody else who is, certainly nobody else who has a platform or the megaphone like you do.

Me: As Beck and Palin clearly don't (or didn't) know, the Fed's profits go to the Treasury. Demanding a windfall profits tax on those profits is like saying we should tax the IRS because they have so much income. It's the kind of thing you say when you don't know what you're talking about. It's the sort of thing that makes me not want Palin anywhere near the Oval Office -- because I want policymakers to have some clue about policy. It's not because I look down on moose hunters or something. It's because she's not qualified for the job.

UPDATE: In response to Buckley's ancient quote, a government of random Boston residents and one of Harvard faculty would both be extremely sub-optimal, given the limiting and irrelevant nature of the selection mechanism. Also, Podhoretz closes by saying he'd prefer Palin over Obama as president. That's another example of extreme sub-optimality.


Gil Weinreich said...

Reagan, George W. Bush, etc., etc. --- they all said things that have made their intellectual confreres cringe, or worse. Many times. So I believe Podhoretz is correct. One needs to look at the basic values, and political savvy, of a candidate if you want your ideas to succeed in the policy battleground. Pinhead intellectuals ain't gonna cut it. America, as a democratic country, expects its leaders to have the common touch.

Kenneth Silber said...

I'd distinguish between Reagan, who spent decades on serious study and commentary on policy issues, and Palin, who hasn't. I do think , though, that Reagan's aw-shucks persona helped foster a worryingly anti-intellectual tendency in conservatism.

As for GW Bush, I'd say his example is ambiguous at best.

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