Cynical

| Sun Aug. 31, 2008 12:53 AM EDT

CYNICAL....Tyler Cowen has more cautionary advice about attacks on Sarah Palin:

There is one biographical fact about Palin's life that the critics (Drum, DeLong, Yglesias, Klein, Sullivan and Kleiman are among the ones I read) are hardly touching upon. I mean her decision to have a Downs child instead of an abortion. This is the fact about her life and it will be viewed as such from now through November and perhaps beyond.

If only for this reason, she will be seen as a candidate who stands on principle. I don't think the critics are sufficiently appreciating how tired the American people are of candidates who say one thing and do another and who abandon their principles at the first provocation. This is a deep and very strong current and it runs through virtually every group of American political voters. Because of her decision to have a Downs child, many voters will not view Sarah Palin in a cynical light, no matter what the critics say. No story about firing a state trooper will break that seal.

But I think this misses the point. Most of the critics aren't accusing Palin of being cynical, they're accusing McCain of being cynical. Even conservatives see this. For example, conservative Rick Brookhiser: "Either McCain thinks the war on terror isn't serious, or he thinks the vice-presidency isn't." Or conservative David Frum: "The Palin choice looks cynical. The wires are showing." Or conservative Ramesh Ponnuru: "Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?"

The primary criticism of Palin, conversely, is that we simply don't know much of anything about her. She has virtually no political track record; no settled views on much of anything other than God, guns, gays, and ANWR; and seemingly not even any interest in national or international issues before last Friday morning. She's just flatly not prepared for the job.

Now, I know that conservatives are gleefully pointing out that Obama supporters can hardly complain about someone else having a thin resume, but this is special pleading at best and sophistry at worst — or maybe just willful blindness. Not only does Obama have more relevant experience in fact, but after campaigning nonstop for the past 18 months he also has it in the eyes of the public. Palin just doesn't, and all the smart alec jokes in the world aren't going to change that.

That said, it's true that liberals need to be careful about being too rabid in their criticisms of Palin. She's appealing, sensible sounding, familiar, and tough enough to win a governor's race against entrenched opposition. Condescension toward her will not go over well. See M. LeBlanc for more on this.

And, of course, a caveat: my political instincts are no great shakes. Cynical choice or not, maybe Palin will beat the odds and not commit any monumental gaffes over the next couple of months. If she manages that, and to the extent that running mates make a difference in the first place, maybe her underlying character will be a net bonus for McCain. I don't think that will be the case, but if I'm wrong it wouldn't be the first time.