She may not be dumb, but her blogging isn't smart

A recent post on Sarah Palin by U.S. News blogger Bonnie Erbe claims: “Sarah Palin May Not Be Dumb, but She’s Not Smart.” It was written in response to her colleague Robert Schlesinger, whose own Palin post began, “I don’t think Sarah Palin is dumb, but I do wonder how ready to work she is.”

I wonder how ready to work Bonnie Erbe is, because I find her lack of intellectual honesty… disturbing. For example, Erbe claims that she wants to be “fair.” But her contention that Gov. Palin is not smart is shot down by her own colleague Schlesinger, who quotes no less an intellect than economics professor and former McCain policy director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who expressed his opinion that the governor is smart. 

Ms. Erbe seems to have missed Democrat Elaine Lafferty’s Daily Beast posting in which the former Ms. magazine editor said of the former vice presidential candidate:

Sarah Palin is very smart.

Ms. Lafferty reveals that she had heard rumors that Sarah Palin possesses a photographic memory and testified that she was able to witness it firsthand:

She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

For all those old enough to remember Senator Sam Ervin, the brilliant strict constitutional constructionist and chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee whose patois included “I’m just a country lawyer”…Yup, Palin is that smart

What reasoning does Ms. Erbe give for her contention that Gov. Palin is not smart? She cites the interviews with ABC’s Charles Gibson and CBS’s Katie Couric. Admittedly, Palin was not properly prepared for either interview. The governor should have done a lot better.

But broadcaster and writer Charlie Wolf is one of those who, unlike Erbe, does his homework. Just a little bit of investigating is all that is required to discover that:

The press talked down to her and asked her silly questions as if she were participating in a pub quiz; the editing did her no justice and there is a world of difference between the segments that went to air and the un-edited items…

The press and the intellectual elites want to make out that she is stupid – she’s not

The Gibson ABC interview was indeed heavily edited, and for the See-BS interview, Katie Couric prepped with Obama advisors Sam Nunn and Richard Haas.

More from Ms. Erbe:

Is there anyone out there who would claim with a straight face that Governor Palin is a terrific intellect? I don’t think so.

Ms. Erbe doesn’t think so, because she is either too intellectually disingenuous or lacks the intellectual curiosity to put Google to work.

Charlie Black, a veteran of Republican campaigns going back to Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential bid, said of Sarah Palin:

“She’s plenty smart. She’s brilliant. She’s incredibly talented.”

Former House Speaker and history professor Newt Gingrich:

“She talked about Reagan with great affection. But then she also talked about Lady Thatcher, and I think it’s interesting for a number of our friends who assume that, if you come from Wasilla, you can’t be very sophisticated. She was pretty vividly aware of who Margaret Thatcher was, and it made an impact on her as a young woman, watching and growing up in high school and college.”

Congressman Eric Cantor, who holds a law degree from William & Mary and a masters from Columbia:

“Sarah Palin is a smart conservative woman who represents change.”

Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan:

“I found her quite a capable woman. She asked the right questions on Afghanistan.”

Boston globe pundit Jeff Jacoby:

“I suspect that the loathing of Palin by so much of the opinion elite is driven not by contempt for her brainpower but by fear of her political potential.”

Feminist, author and college professor Camille Paglia:

“As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is — and quite frankly, I think the people who don’t see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma.”

Military historian, columnist, political essayist and former classics professor Victor Davis Hanson:

“I did learn that by the standard of John Kerry’s pick of John Edwards, and now Barack Obama’s choice of Joe Biden, as running mates, she is wise and ethical beyond their measure.”

Democrat and former Manhattan Supervising Judge Judith Sheindlin:

“I think she’s smart… And anybody that thinks that this woman is stupid is just plain mean- spirited and wrong.”

Search engines are not that difficult to use. Really, they aren’t. Ms. Erbe concludes her attack on Sarah Palin with this:

Is she dumb? Well, let’s put it this way: She’s clearly no intellect.

Not so clearly and not so fast, Ms. Erbe. Consider this from Yuval Levin’s recent Palin essay:

She is the product of an America in which explicit displays of pride in intellect are considered unseemly, and where physical prowess and moral constancy are given a higher place than intellectual achievement. She was in the habit of stressing these faculties instead—a habit that struck many in Washington as brutishness.

This is why Palin was seen as anti-intellectual when, properly speaking, she was simply non-intellectual. What she lacked was not intelligence – she is, clearly, highly intelligent – but rather the particular set of assumptions, references, and attitudes inculcated by America’s top twenty universities and transmitted by the nation’s elite cultural organs.

Those who have done battle with her will admit that underestimating her intellect can can be hazardous to one’s political future, as Fred Barnes reported:

Randy Ruedrich, the Republican chairman in Alaska, is someone you might suspect would be a friend and ally of Palin. He isn’t. She helped drive him off the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, criticized him publicly, and later tried to get him ousted as party chairman. Ruedrich is part of the “body count” of male politicians Palin left behind as she rose to become governor of Alaska. Yet Ruedrich says Palin is smart, very capable, and a political star

Barnes points out that Sarah Palin’s harshest critics are usually those who have never met her:

In judging Palin, it comes down to who is more credible. Is it those who’ve worked with her, or know her, or have at least met and talked with her? Or those who haven’t? The answer is a no-brainer.

Bonnie Erbe, by her own admission, is one of those who never met Sarah Palin, nor does Ms. Erbe seem even slightly interested in using that most basic tool of research – the search engine. A few minutes of her time, a modicom of intellectualy curiosity and the desire to execise her computer’s mouse could have saved her from the embarrassment of demonstrating just how baseless and foolishly elitist her mean-spirited attacks on Gov. Palin’s intellect are.

If Ms. Erbe doesn’t like Gov. Palin’s position on the issues – fine. She should challenge them. If she believes that Palin, like most other governors, needs schooling on national and international issues, that’s grounds for legitimate criticism. If the blogger doesn’t like Palin’s hair, what she wears, her faith, her folksy mannerisms or the fact that the former vice presidential candidate believes in being fruitful and multiplying, then she should say so. These last things have no real political substance, but by all means Ms. Erbe should voice her objections on these grounds, if she has them. But you cannot attack another person’s intellect without making your own fair game.

Bonnie Erbe may not be dumb, but her blogging certainly isn’t very smart.

– JP