In the last few days, I’ve been thinking a little about Dick Cheney’s image. This stems from a lunch a group of us had with him last week (and I wrote about it here). Cheney is an unusual person: very sensible, very measured, very trustworthy. No wonder he has been entrusted with so many sensitive government positions. He is a calm person, and he has a calming effect on others. He is the kind of man you want in public service — party or partisanship quite aside.
In the course of our lunch, he said that the recent Democratic victory was “part of the normal cycle of a competitive two-party system,” and “fundamentally healthy for the nation.” He also talked about how wondrous it was to swear in the first black president.
And what is his widespread image? He is a kind of Dr. Evil to people, although, unlike the Austin Powers one, not a comical Dr. Evil. He is a right-wing menace, a scourge of civil liberties, a Torquemada. This is absolutely perverse.
And what of President Bush’s image — at least one aspect of it? They say that he is less than bright: that he is stupid. And stupid is the last thing President Bush is. Call him willful, call him stubborn, call him petulant or cussed or difficult. Stupid, he is not.
Consider one more public figure: Sarah Palin. I keep hearing and reading, in various quarters, that she is a “bimbo.” That is the word I hear about her, rather a lot: “bimbo.” This is a woman, of course, who has been married since her early 20s. She and her husband, Todd, have five children. Sarah is governor of her state; Todd works in the oil fields. From what anyone can tell, they delight in each other, and in their family. They seem almost an advertisement for monogamy: for the married life. And yet people say “bimbo.”
In a nation full of bimbos, Governor Palin is one of the few who aren’t.
It seems to me that the Left has won: utterly and decisively. What I mean is, the Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher mentality has prevailed. They decide what a person’s image is, and those images stick. They are the ones who say that Cheney’s a monster, W.’s stupid, and Palin’s a bimbo. And the country, apparently, follows.
I have a friend who teaches at a prominent university, and she says that, when Palin’s name is mentioned, the people laugh. In the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, an extraordinarily accomplished woman — more accomplished than most of the rest of us will ever be — was turned into a laughingstock.
What are the shaping institutions of American life? The news media. Entertainment television. The movies. Popular music. The schools, K through grad school. In whose hands are those institutions? In what areas do conservatives predominate? Country music, NASCAR, some churches? (Talk radio too, I suppose — no wonder so many on the left want to shut it down.)
I will be talking more about this in the coming weeks, months, and possibly years. Sidney Blumenthal once wrote a book called “The Rise of the Counter-Establishment” (meaning conservative associations and institutions). The counter-establishment needs to be tended, and beefed up.
A country that believes that Cheney’s a monster, W.’s stupid, and Palin’s a bimbo is a country with its head up its . . .
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Revitalize the Counter-Establishment
Jay Nordlinger, writing in National Review Online: