Pundits: Palin Flunked Presidential Test on Giffords Shooting

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You know that feeling you get when you're about to bite into something really spicy, like a super hot pepper? That feeling of salivating eagerness mixed with dread? That's how pundits feel about Sarah Palin's potential presidential bid. And so they periodically declare certain events to be "tests" in which Palin might perform in an unexpectedly presidential, manner, full of gravitas. Pretty much every time they decide she has failed, and go for the jugular.

The latest "test" has come in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Palin's notorious crosshairs map has brought her a lot of criticism for, at minimum, glamorizing violent political speech. Thus, her response to the Giffords shooting was closely watched. Would Palin handle the tricky situation with grace?

On Monday, black sheep conservative David Frum laid out what Palin needed to do to pass this test. On Tuesday, Palin posted with a video on Facebook in which she accuses the media of "blood libel" for suggesting she had anything to do with Jared Lee Loughner. The thing with the phrase "blood libel" is that, given its fraught history, it's not a term you want to toss around in any old political fight. It's like when, say, strippers declare their battle against a lap-dancing ban is like the struggles of Rosa Parks. It's just kind of, well, tacky.

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Still, the question remains: was this Palin's final test? The nail in the coffin? Most say yes, while (probably) secretly hoping no.

  • 'Baked Alaskan'  The Spectator's Alex Massie decides that Palin is "done." The Tuscon fallout has "added weight to the sense, fair or not, that nominating her may be more trouble than it's worth." Massie goes on to list seven reasons Sarah Barracuda is toast. Among them, "If you think she can win then you have to think Republican voters are rubes. They may like her style, they may admire her attitude and they may love the ease with which she can wind up Democrats but deep down they know she's not done enough to show that she's a serious politician. ... In the end, it's just tough to imagine her actually in the Oval Office. And that matters since it's a basic credibility test any candidate must survive."
  • More Like Culture Warrior in Chief, The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz writes.
The talk in political circles has been that Sarah Palin had a rare opportunity in the wake of the Tucson tragedy to reach out beyond her base and recalibrate her image beyond that of a gun-toting mama grizzly. ... I can imagine that the former governor was angry about how liberal detractors dragged her into this story. But after days of silence, she had a chance to speak to the country in a calmer, more inclusive way. ... Instead she went the blood libel route. ... I would say that sounds like the response of someone who wants to stoke her base and further her lucrative career as a culture warrior—not someone who is plotting to run for president.
  • Not Exactly Churchillian, and Definitely Not Authentic, Reason's Nick Gillespie writes. Palin's video "is not only curiously dispassionate but vague and legalistic (filled with barely earned conclusions prefaced with 'so,' 'thus,' etc.). It is a tapestry of threadbare cliches ('our Founders' genius,' "May God bless America,') in search of a news hook, the type of windy oraration that could be dusted off for any event, from a disaster site to a Kiwanis luncheon." He admits that "one of the things that excited people about Sarah Palin was her apparent authenticity, her down-to-earthiness, her experience of working, living, dreaming, and achieving far from the conventional centers of power in American society. ... But since her bravura entrance onto the national stage, virtually every interaction she has had with her public has been so tightly stage-managed and scripted that her main selling point has been swathed and suffocated ... "
  • She Didn't Make the Best of It, Newsweek's David A. Graham argues. "On the pro side, Palin had to speak out, and she approached it in a sensible way." But her speech comes with three downsides: First, the use of the term "blood libel." Second, she's portraying herself as a victim, which is jarring when people actually died. Third, Graham continues, Palin's "doubled down on heated political rhetoric--not only saying it isn't to blame, but in fact promoting it. ... [W]ith her victimhood play, strange word choice, and decision to go all-in on inflammatory speech, her video and statement fail to make the best of a bad situation."
  • She Looked Presidential, Scott Conroy says at Real Clear Politics. The media criticism is interesting, Conroy writes, but "at least as notable in a political context was the video's production quality and format, which somewhat resembled an opposition party's response to a State of the Union address. The video was unlike anything Palin has released to the public before and suggested that the former Republican vice presidential nominee was seeking to project herself in a manner befitting a judicious and accommodating leader--and perhaps a presidential candidate."
  • She's Not Reaching Out to Moderates, Time's Jay Newton-Small writes. "On the day when Obama himself is due to give a speech about the tragedy, Palin's video strikes a tone that is rarely heard from the strident Republican: one lacking the passionate battle cries she has become known for. At the same, her message hasn't changed and she goes after a familiar enemy: the 'lame-stream media.'" Her messages target only her supporters, a GOP consultant notes, and Newton-Small adds, "And it did little to convince those establishment Republicans who remain dubious of her potential candidacy."

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