“The Biden Curve”

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Is Sarah Palin really dumber than Joe Biden? Or is something else going on? From the WSJ:

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Over the weekend, as we noted yesterday, Vice President Biden said that if Israel decides it needs to take military action against the Iranian nuclear-weapons program, the U.S. will not “dictate” otherwise. A reader points out that Sarah Palin, who ran against Biden in last year’s election, said much the same thing in a September interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson:

Gibson: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

Palin: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don’t think that we should second-guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.

Gibson: So if we wouldn’t second-guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative [sic in ABC transcript] or agree with that.

Palin: I don’t think we can second-guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

Gibson: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.

Palin: We cannot second-guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.

Palin reiterated the point in a later interview with CBS’s Katie Couric.

This column agrees with both Biden and Palin and is glad to see that the bipartisan consensus recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself appears sturdy. But we suspected not everyone would be so consistent, so we went back to see what people had said about Palin.

Matthew Yglesias, who when he was young drew much praise for his thoughtful and fair-minded commentary, wrote a blog post titled “Palin: If Israel Wants to Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran, That’s Okay With Me”:

Palin reiterated her absurd view that the President of the United States shouldn’t “second-guess” Israeli policy under any circumstances.

Palin is okay at repeating various “pro-Israel” buzzwords, but she can’t run away from the fact that her underlying position on this topic is stupid.

So when Biden said the same thing, did Yglesias call it “absurd” and “stupid”? Well, is the pope Italian? Here’s what he wrote yesterday:

This is being read by some .  .  . as a “green light” for an Israeli attack. .  .  . I think the most straightforward reading of what Biden said is rather different, he’s trying to distance the United States from any possible Israeli military action by making it clear that what Israel does or doesn’t do is decided in Israel rather than in Washington.

The main problem with this, I think, is that probably nobody’s going to believe it. Already you see many Americans taking Biden’s statement that the U.S. doesn’t control Israeli policy to “really” mean that the U.S. is encouraging Israel to attack.

When Palin says it, it’s stupid. When Biden says it, he gets graded on a curve: The problem is that other people are too stupid to understand the deep subtlety of Biden’s thinking.

(by James Taranto)

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See also. As I have noted, I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. I disagree with her about many things and I didn’t vote for her ticket. But I think the abuse being heaped on her for resigning her Governorship is disproportionate to whatever her crime is supposed to have been. Shouldn’t the people who are vilifying her for stepping down be GLAD that she will leave office, rather than so very angry at her?

I imagine many women reading this would like to believe that what happened to Sarah Palin can’t ever happen to them. We’re smarter! We have advanced degrees from prestigious universities! We talk in complete sentences, with verb/subject agreement! But if you were paying close attention to the campaign, I’d bet deep down you felt a little flash of recognition and maybe even some empathy for Palin at least once. Mine came when she blinked in stunned silence after being asked which magazines she read. I know my teaching subject areas pretty well and I’m usually reasonably diligent about preparing for class, but once in a while, a question from a student that I should be able to answer easily, completely stumps me. Luckily for me I’m not generally on camera when that happens, and I can either take a minute to regroup, or promise to address the query at the next class meeting. Generally the answer comes to me about five minutes after class has ended.

If I had to unexpectedly answer a question about which magazines I read, I might stumble too. I used to subscribe to the New Yorker but now I just pick it up at bookstores from time to time. I currently subscribe to The Atlantic but I don’t read every issue cover to cover. I read the NYT Sunday Magazine online most weeks but does that really count as a magazine? Etc., etc. It would take me a while to formulate the answer to that question just as an ordinary person. If I was a politician running for office, I’d also be worried about what “messages” I was sending. If Palin had said she read something like Glamour she would have been mocked for that. If she said she read The Economist she would have been challenged to name specific stories from previous issues, and accused of lying if she couldn’t. There wasn’t any way to answer that question that couldn’t lead to trouble. So she froze, and I thought “Ouch, been there.”

–Ann Bartow

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