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Bill Kristol Walks Back His Criticism of Sarah Palin in His Interview with Benyamin Korn

Posted by Dr. Fay on March 30, 2011

In this excellent article at Jews for Sarah.com, Benyamin Korn recounts his interview with Bill Kristol, in which Kristol walked back his recent criticism of Governor Palin.  Mr. Korn’s forgiving attitude concerning Kristol’s mistake is commendable.  (Listen to the interview here.) 

William Kristol walks back his criticism of Sarah Palin

Posted On March 30 , 2011

A page from the Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin political journal

Benyamin Korn

It certainly was not in search of any controversy that I’d invited back to my fledgling Jewish talk radio show one of my American political idols. William Kristol was perhaps the first notable “Jew for Sarah Palin;” he had endorsed her for the GOP vice presidential pick in the spring of 2008, months ahead of the pack, and pushed for her selection by John McCain. In his well-respected Weekly Standard, Kristol had lauded the Alaska governor’s resolute campaigns against corruption and government waste, her stellar popularity ratings, her evident love for Israel, her infectious populist style.

Palin aside, Kristol carries forward a giant legacy in American Jewish life; his father, the sociologist Irving Kristol, was co-creator along with Commentary Magazine editor Norman Podhoretz, of the originally Jewish neo-conservative movement, a dynamic intellectual force which had played no small part in five GOP presidential victories over 30 years. And Kristol the son, ever gracious, had boosted my radio program with his nationally-known authority, from its very inception in September of last year.

Even after the failure of McCain-Palin 2008, through all of incumbent vice presidential nominee’s trial by hell-fire from the Democratic attack machine and the “journo-list” fueled media campaigns against her – leading to her resignation from the Alaska governor’s office – Kristol had calmly stayed the course of Palin advocacy. So it was with considerable shock that I read – just a day after he’d accepted my invitation to return to the Philadelphia airwaves on “Jewish Independent Talk Radio” – the headline screaming across the banner of CBSNews.com: “Onetime booster Bill Kristol sours on Sarah Palin.”

In a Q & A session– following a debate at Vanderbilt University on economic policy with Arianna Huffington, moderated by Politico’s Ben Smith – Kristol had answered a question about Palin’s presidential viability thusly: “[She is] is “unlikely to be the Republican nominee, and to be honest I think she probably shouldn’t be the Republican nominee for president.” Moreover, Kristol had opined a month earlier that: “I thought she had a real chance to take the lead on a few policy issues, do a little more in terms of framing the policy agenda. I don’t think she’s done that.” And now he was coming on my show, where I’d wanted and expected him to defend Palin. What was I to do?

I decided to take a page from Sarah’s playbook. “Don’t retreat when you’re on solid ground.” I’d respectfully challenge the pundit’s prediction about Palin’s candidacy. I’d prepare talking points to refudiate his claim about the Gov’s policy positions, or lack thereof. I challenge him to reassess his write-off of Palin’s Presidential viability. I’d stand my ground.

To my great surprise, and relief, Kristol’s manner on my program was almost apologetic. As I wrote in a quick note to the wonderful Palin blogger community, my comrades-in-arms:

Kristol came on and basically refudiatedwhat he’s said at Vanderbilt, saying maybe he misread things because she hasn’t been at the many conferences he attends, maybe he has too much of an inside-the-beltway mentality, that he remains a great admirer of hers (which he’d said at Vanderbilt), and he wants her to be engaged in our political life. 

He asked me if I thought she were running. I said yes, definitely. He asked why I thought so. So I said, for starters because a month ago she hired a senior veteran of 3 GOP presidential tickets to run SarahPac. He said, that’s a very good point. 

I said she has not been trooping around the country giving speeches since her book tour and that she had good reason to take a break after all she’d done [and with such great success] leading up to Nov. 2010, to be with her family, and to prepare. I said when most politicians say they want to be with their families, it means they need an excuse to get out of D.C., but when Sarah Palin says it, it’s because she means it. And he said, well that’s true, too. 

I also recounted something she’s said in her India Today Conclave speech. She said there is a scene from India [of Mother Theresa] on the wall in her house that she looked at while writing her speech. Imagine her telling this very high-falutin’ crowd of Indians that she wrote the speech in her kitchen. Most pols don’t write their own speeches, and even if they did most would never let on they’d written it in their kitchen. Most of the Indians in that audience never enter a kitchen because they have slews of servants. But when Sarah says it, you know it’s true, and you admire her all the more.

My friends in the Palin blogger community are pretty angry with Bill Kristol. I’m not. At least not over his comments re: Sarah Palin. Sarah’s unorthodox political style, her aversion to “inside-the-Beltway schmoozing,” “insider-trading,” and all the other usual accoutrements of political game-playing are delightful to her millions of ardent political supporters, but confusing to those whose lives revolve around politics-as-usual. That doesn’t make them bad people. It just means that even as courageous and visionary a supporter of hers as Mr. Kristol occasionally doesn’t get it right. And it is to this that I also attribute much of the criticism of the “alert Alaskan” (in Seth Lipsky’s wonderful phrase) emanating from the conservative commentariat of late.

Many present and potential Palin-for-President supporters ask me if she will be able to overcome all of the negativity surrounding her. This is a fair question, one that I imagine we all ask, and even she asks of herself. One answer comes to mind from the songbook of Chassidic Reggae star Matisyahu, in his theme song for the Winter 2010 Olympic Games, “One Day” –

Sometimes in my tears I drown

But I never let it get me down

‘Cause when negativity surrounds

I know one day it’ll all turn around

In Chassidic thought, we are commanded not to be depressed, because it interferes with our ability to serve the Almighty.

So in contemplating all the negativity around Sarah Palin, I think back to my early studies of communication theory on attitude change. Basically, there are two models. One is the process of gradual erosion, of repetition, in which attitudes change over time in response to repeated challenges of messages, challenges the audience can already apprehend. Through this method, Gov. Palin has already achieved great things, if we consider how much more public respect she is accorded, how many policy issues now bear her imprint, today as compared with a year ago. Even people today who may not like her message take her quite seriously. The other method of attitude change is the sudden breakthrough, the epiphany, in which all at once a completely different way of looking at things takes hold. And in this Sarah Palin is a master of political communication. Think “death panels.” Think “how’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ out for you?” Think (last week in the Holy Land), “Why is Israel apologizing?”

We should all read and re-read the Gov’s recent Facebook post about standing up to media bias. It is a classic statement for our movement.

I do not blame anyone for being upset with Bill Kristol’s ill-considered remarks at Vanderbilt. The man made a mistake. But he was big enough to come onto my little radio program and admit it. That, to my mind, is the essence of our Judeo-Christian culture. Repentance. Honest self-appraisal; the willingness to admit errors, correct them, and move forward. I admire him for it.

But next we’ll have to get to the collapse of the neo-conservative movement in regard to their garlands of praise for the “democracy” they see breaking out across the Arab world, and their timidity in confronting Obama’s catastrophic foreign policy. Stay tuned.

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One Response to “Bill Kristol Walks Back His Criticism of Sarah Palin in His Interview with Benyamin Korn”

  1. Joy said

    Good news about Kristol’s “change of heart” (or, more likely, change of attitude…) – it’s important to watch ALL Conservative commentary to detect any hint that policies/ attitudes may have changed AND, thus, may also need closer scrutiny!

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