I pose this question because, frankly, I do not know the answer.
I can see the negatives. Palin’s experience is limited. Much of what she has done since resigning her post as Governor of Alaska has been undignified. And she has a propensity for responding angrily to criticism on the part of folks like Barbara Bush that she would be best advised to ignore. All of this is true.
On the other hand, Sarah Barracuda has an instinct for the jugular that one almost never sees in American politics. When she responded to Obamacare by talking about “death panels,” she captured perfectly what is morally offensive in the presumption that medical care should be rationed by the federal government – i.e., in the notion that a passel of faceless bureaucrats operating behind the scenes will be empowered rule on the question which sick people in which circumstances will get treatment and which will be left to die.
Consider also what is to be learned about Palin from the editorial that was posted today on the website of The New York Sun:
The big question as Chairman Bernanke gets set for his first quarterly press conference is how Sarah Palin was able to figure out sooner than everyone else that the Federal Reserve’s campaign of quantitative easing wouldn’t work. Disappointment in the Fed’s policies is being reported this morning at the top of page one of the New York Times. It reports that “most Americans are not feeling the difference” from the Fed’s “experimental effort to spur a recovery by purchasing vast quantities of federal debt.” It reports that “a broad range of economists say that the disappointing results show the limits of the central bank’s ability to lift the nation from its economic malaise.”
It’s a terrific story, and well-timed, given that on Wednesday Mr. Bernanke will break tradition and meet with the press. It is part of the Fed’s effort to get ahead of what is emerging as a public relations catastrophe, as gasoline is nearing six dollars a gallon at some pumps, the cost of groceries is skyrocketing, and the value of the dollars that Mr. Bernanke’s institution issues as Federal Reserve notes has collapsed to less than a 1,500th of an ounce of gold. Unemployment is still high. Shakespeare couldn’t come up with a better plot. But how in the world did Mrs. Palin, who is supposed to be so thick, manage to figure all this out so far ahead of the New York Times and all the economists it talked to?
She did this back in November in a speech at Phoenix, which the Wall Street Journal, in a laudatory editorial at the time, characterized as zeroing in on the connection between a weak dollar and rising prices for oil and food. “We don’t want temporary, artificial economic growth brought at the expense of permanently higher inflation which will erode the value of our incomes and our savings,” the Journal quoted Mrs. Palin as saying. “We want a stable dollar combined with real economic reform. It's the only way we can get our economy back on the right track.” Now here is the New York Times quoting a raft of economists who have reached the conclusion that Mrs. Palin’s warning was right down the line.
It happens that Mrs. Palin’s demarche coincided with a piece in the Financial Times by the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, suggesting that a new international monetary system centered on the major currencies “should also consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values.” The FT is such a Keynesian bastion that the Journal likened Mr. Zoellick’s mentioning gold in its pages to mentioning Sarah Palin’s name at the Princeton Faculty Club. The FT issued an editorial attacking its own op-ed piece, while Mr. Zoellick’s scoop so startled the New York Times that it brought in no less a heavyweight than James Grant of the Interest Rate Observer to write a piece on the virtues of the gold standard.
Alone among general interest publications, the Drudge Report has been fronting the gold price almost daily. And now the Times itself is out with its story about how the Fed’s quantitative easing has been a disappointment. It may have, as the Times puts it, “pumped up the stock market, reduced the cost of American exports and allowed companies to borrow money at lower interest rates,” but “those benefits have been surprisingly small.” Will any of this bring some humility to the Fed and its chairman? It will be something to watch for in his first big press conference Wednesday. No doubt it will be one of the most crowded press conferences in recent memory, and there will be lots to ask about. But one of the questions will be how in tarnation Mrs. Palin figured it out so far ahead of everyone else.
I think I know the answer to the question that bedeviled the author of this editorial. A year and a half ago, I gave a talk at Stanford University at a conferenced aimed at donors sponsored by the Hoover Institution, and there, before my talk, I had the privilege of listening to John B. Taylor – who mentioned in passing that he had briefed Sarah Palin when she was the Republican vice-presidential nominee and that he had found her a quick study. My bet is that she has a kitchen cabinet of sorts and that John Taylor is a member.
If so, quietly in the background while no one was paying attention, Governor Palin has been filling in the considerable gaps in her education. I suspect that we have not heard the last of the lady.