In a scintillating interview with People Magazine, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Caribou Barbie (also known as Sarah Palin) proudly described herself as an intellectual:
People – Do you think you're intellectual?
Caribou Barbie – Yessss. "You have to be up on not only current events, but you have to understand the foundation of the issues that you're working on as a governor. I had to do the same thing as a mayor. So it is not just current events but it's much more in-depth than that to understand how, in the case of me being governor, how did our state get to the position that we are in order for a decision to have to be made. You can't just go on what is presented you. You have to know the background, you have to know the players involved before you make a policy call. So, um, it's uh, it's a good job, it's a tough job and it's a very, very serious job. (snip) You don't just go with the flow and take a political pulse on policy. You have to go with what the foundational knowledge is that you have on issues in front of you and you have to put the people you are serving, put them first. You put them before partisanship you put them before special interests. That's how you make decisions as governor. (snip) I'm a voracious reader, always have been. I appreciate a lot of information."
There you have it; as a governor, it is important to maintain knowledge of current events and understand issues. Well said.
Of course, this is coming from the self-described intellectual woman who derided the entire East and West Coasts of America in her Vice-Presidential acceptance speech for being some sort of elites. She mocked young adults whose values include a basic curiosity about the world. "I'm not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents get them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world," she said proudly to the very mean journalist Katie Couric in a recent interview. In that same interview, Barbie said that she reads ALL of the newspapers and magazines, so she certainly must be a voracious reader. Barbie couldn't name a U.S. Supreme Court decision that piqued her interest when asked by that mean Katie Couric, but I'm sure she thinks some are important. Intellectual, indeed.
Or, is she?
The always-thoughtful Andrew Sullivan posed the following on Wednesday:
How has Palin brought up her own kids? Her eldest son is a high-school drop-out. Her eldest daughter has had, so far as one can tell from press reports, very uneven attendance in high school, and no plans for college. Her other daughters seem to spend a lot of time traveling the country with their mom at tax-payers' expense. I've seen them at several rallies with the Palins this fall. Are they not in school?
The least one can say is that none of her children seems to have been brought up thinking that college is something to aspire to. And her new son-in-law just dropped out of high school as well.
Sarah Palin's own record of several colleges over several years - ending with a degree in sports journalism - tells you a lot. So does her interest in policing the Wasilla library as mayor and using the town's money for a sports stadium. She cut funding for the town museum and opposed building a new library. So does her amazing ignorance about the constitution. She is, in my judgment, the final rebuke to what Buckley tried to do for conservatism. She is burying it as an intellectual tradition and returning it to the pre-Buckley era."
Caribou Barbie doesn't appear to have instilled much in the way of intellectual curiosity in her children. But, hey, that doesn't mean that SHE isn't a genuine intellectual, does it?
Noam Scheiber recently wrote in The New Republic:
"A trip through Palin's past reveals that almost every step of her career can be understood as a reaction to elitist condescension--much of it in her own mind.'Sarah is intimidated, in my personal opinion, by people who are intelligent,' said Laura Chase..." a Wasilla City Councilwoman.
Scheiber's article made it clear that such complex issues as conflict-of-interest seem to challenge Caribou Barbie's intellectual prowess: "The city had traditionally put up part of the purse for the Iron Dog competition--the grueling, 2,000-mile snow machine race that usually starts in Wasilla--and one year the council considered upping its ante. (First prize could be tens of thousands of dollars.) When a colleague pointed out that Palin should recuse herself because her husband was a perennial Iron Dog contender, she protested, 'I don't think I have a conflict of interest here because Todd won it last year. There's no guarantee that he's going to win it this year.' As others chimed in to explain the problem, Palin dug in her heels. 'Well, it could be perceived that way, but it isn't,' she harrumphed."
Palin's intellect doesn't let little things like the Constitution of the United States wield undue influence on her policy positions. Per Scheiber's article, "At one point, the council asked (city attorney Dick Deuser) about the legality of banning group homes--such as shelters for runaways--a position Palin championed. Deuser had an academic manner and was fond of citing Supreme Court precedent. When he explained that a ban would be unconstitutional, Palin appeared impatient with such legal niceties. 'I would describe it this way: Sarah was not an in-depth person. Never has, never will be,' Deuser says. 'Her instincts are political as opposed to evaluative.'"
Scheiber's article also displays Palin's formidable understanding of mathematics (especially addition, a number's tricky friend): "She'd demand(ed) to know why (John) Stein, the mayor (in the early 1990's), had "raised the budget." Stein and (a colleague) tried to explain that he'd done nothing of the kind--that, when a city grows, businesses collect more in tax revenue, but that new residents also increase demand for public services. Palin wasn't appeased. She'd say things like, "'Oh, okay. Well, that's the way you think about it,'" Stein recalls. "I was thinking--these are things she should know better. Why is she asking me these stupid questions?"
Stupid questions? That's pretty harsh. Perhaps Caribou Barbie wasn't thinking clearly at the time because she was so upset that the Wasilla Public Library hadn't properly censored the books on its shelves. Per Scheiber's article, "Palin mentioned to Mary Ellen Emmons, the library director, that something had been bothering her--a book she thought was overly indulgent of homosexuality. 'She said there was no room in our library for that kind of stuff,' recalls (fellow councilwoman) Chase. Emmons curtly disagreed, but Palin was adamant. She suggested the librarian could at least keep such books in the reference section, where visitors would have to request them. 'We don't believe in censoring books,' Emmons finally told her, at which point Palin trailed off muttering.
Or, perhaps Caribou Barbie was preoccupied with baby names. In reply to a question during the interview with People Magazine, Palin said that she regretted not getting to name a son Zamboni.
I'll leave final judgement of Caribou Barbie's intellectual credentials to our humble readers.