MSNBC Gets It Right About Palin (Sort Of)

If you are perverse enough to want to peer inside the Borg-like consciousness of the mainstream media, you could do much worse than a daily perusal of MSNBC’s “First Read” blog. On this blog, NBC’s political reporters (Chuck Todd and company) provide “off-the-cuff” analysis of the day’s political events, free from the rigorous journalistic standards of MSNBC’s on-air reporting. The result is a collection of rambling Beltway insights that combines the intellectual originality of David Gergen, the journalistic daring of Larry King, and the ideological independence of Andersen Cooper.

Despite these shortcomings, Chuck Todd’s ‘First Read’ entry today proves that a blind squirrel can find a nut now and again (even if the squirrel is also mentally challenged, a little on the pudgy side, and has a really goofy goatee):

When she wrote that it’s “honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling,” Palin might very well have been referring to Obama, who began running for president just after two years into his first U.S. Senate term. But there is one big difference between the two: Obama’s national reputation was pristine from the moment he gave that 2004 convention speech to his presidential announcement, while Palin’s image (after the Bristol-Levi breakup, the feud with David Letterman, and that devastating Vanity Fair piece) is more of mixed bag.

Todd correctly identifies why Palin cannot mount an Obama-like “movement” campaign for the presidency (if that is what she intends). To create the compelling cultural icon that Obama became during the 2008 campaign, you need a completely unsullied blank slate. Palin cannot be that blank slate because she is already defined in the media as incompetent, unintelligent, and uninspiring. (I know this description enrages many readers, but this is the conditioned reaction to Palin for about half of the voters – not only those on the Left but also those uninformed swing voters who get their impressions of candidates through osmosis from the popular culture.)

Not unexpectedly, Todd does not ask the important question, the question RedState readers should immediately be asking themselves: Why did Obama – with his ties to leftist terrorists like Ayers, corrupt thugs like Rezko, and racist radicals like Wright – have a “pristine reputation” in 2006, while Palin – who by comparison is as clean as the driven snow – is irreparably damaged after less than a year on the stage?

We could whine about media bias or moan about the other side’s unfair attacks, but the truth is that we have not had the will or the organization to hit hard and hit early. Barack Obama should have been seen as a laughingstock, a caricature of a corrupt leftist radical, within months of forming his exploratory committee. The Ayers story was known from the beginning of Obama’s career. Rezko was indicted in October 2006. Wright’s racist rants were being sold to the public on his own church’s website. If we had launched attacks daily and relentlessly on each of these fronts from 2006 forward, the media would be forced to cover the story. Sure, the reports would have been written with heavy undertones of “Look what those dirty, racist Republicans are doing now,” but the story would still be written and Obama’s “pristine” reputation would be gone.

I know the above sounds like a sad and fruitless lamentation over one of the many things that went wrong during the 2005-2008 political season. After all, the battle is lost with respect to Obama – if we beat him now, it will be on his record as President and not the old Chicago stories of radicalism and corruption. The battle is probably lost for Palin as well – it is hard to see an event or story with enough impact to undo all of the negative impressions that have been created over the past year. In sum, Obama is president through 2012, we’ve lost a charismatic champion for our side, and there is little or nothing we can do about it now.

However, we have to learn the lesson that this sad story tells. The politics of personal destruction are here to stay, and we do not have cadres of “unbiased” news reporters to do the dirty work for our side. Maligning reputations of public servants may be a cruel and unsavory weapon, but it is a weapon the other side is wielding to deadly effect. Instead of unilaterally disarming and hoping the rules of the game change, I humbly suggest we take Regan’s “peace through strength” approach. In other words, we need to find the future leaders of the Democratic Party and take them down. Today.