Sarah Palin speaks at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday in Des Moines. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
By Karen Tumulty
January 28, 2015 at 6:21 PM
They’re over her.
Sarah Palin’s odd, rambling speech last weekend before an audience of committed conservative activists in Des Moines has many influential voices on the right saying that the time has come to acknowledge that the romance has gone cold and the marriage is dead.
This is despite the fact that the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee told reporters upon her arrival at the event that she is “seriously interested” in running for president in 2016.
Her address was a 34 1/2 -minute roller coaster ride of cliches, non sequiturs and warmed-over grievances. One line that stood out: “GOP leaders, by the way, you know, ‘The Man,’ can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then The Man can’t ride ya.”
The critiques have been devastating — and those are the ones from her friends.
“Quite petty,” wrote Byron York in the Washington Examiner. “A long and incoherent speech,” in the view of Craig Robinson of the Iowa Republican blog. “The foreordained culmination of a slow and unseemly descent into farce,” added Charles C.W. Cooke of the National Review.
Cooke’s assessment was a far cry from what National Review editor Rich Lowry had to say about Palin’s performance in the vice presidential debate, shortly after her dazzling national debut on the stage of the Republican National Convention in 2008: “It was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.”
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol was an early booster of Palin, all the way back to 2007, when she was a new governor little known outside of Alaska. Less than a year ago, he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Palin “might be kind of formidable in a Republican primary.”
“Did I say it that recently?” Kristol said Wednesday when reminded of that comment in an interview. “The name Sarah Palin hasn’t come up in the past three to six months. . . . Maybe the speech Saturday was just a confirmation of her no longer being a major player, at least in these circles.”
Still others expressed concern that the GOP is damaging its own prospects by treating Palin as though she is doing more than promoting herself and her various ventures.
“Yes, Palin is still a draw. Yes, conservatives still empathize with her over the beating she took from the media in 2008,” York wrote. “But if there is indeed nothing behind her ‘seriously interested’ talk — and it appears there is not — should she be included in events leading up to the 2016 caucuses?”
There is also a tone of soul-searching and even repentance in some of the commentary, as pundits on the right reconsider their own role in stoking the Palin phenomenon.
“In hindsight I regret contributing to the premature deification of Sarah Palin,” columnist Matt Lewis wrote Wednesday in the Daily Beast.
He added that “maybe her early critics saw some fundamental character flaw — some harbinger of things to come — that escaped me.”
Among those critics had been Washington Post op-ed columnist Kathleen Parker, who also weighed in after Palin’s speech contending that the Republicans had themselves to blame.
“In the end, the story of Palin’s rise and fall is a tragedy,” Parker wrote. “And the author wasn’t the media as accused but the Grand Old Party itself. Like worshipers of false gods throughout human history, Republicans handpicked the fair maiden Sarah and placed her on the altar of political expedience.”
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