If Barack Obama has been the most remarkable phenomenon of the recent political scene, Sarah Palin must be second. The emotional responses to each-- especially by the media and the intelligentsia -- go beyond anything that can be explained by the usual political differences of opinion on issues of the day.
That liberals would be thrilled by another liberal is not surprising. But there are conservative Republicans who voted for Barack Obama, and other conservatives who may not have voted for him, but who are quick to see in various pragmatic moves of his since taking office an indication that he is not an extremist.
Anyone familiar with history knows that Hitler and Stalin were pragmatic. After years of denouncing each other, they signed the Nazi-Soviet pact under which they became allies for a couple of years before going to war against one another.
Pragmatism tells you nothing about extremism. But the conservative intellectuals who seize upon President Obama's pragmatism to give him the benefit of the doubt are obviously bending over backward for some reason.
With Governor Palin, it is just the opposite. The conservative intelligentsia who react against her have remarkably little to say that will stand up to scrutiny. People who actually dealt with her, before she became a national figure, have expressed how much they were impressed by her intelligence.
Governor Palin's "inexperience" is a talking point that might have some plausibility if it were not for the fact that Barack Obama has far less experience in actually making policies than Sarah Palin has. Joe Biden has had decades of experience in being both consistently wrong and consistently a source of asinine statements.
Governor Palin's candidacy for the vice presidency was what galvanized grass roots Republicans in a way that John McCain never did. But there was something about her that turned even some conservative intellectuals against her and provoked visceral anger and hatred from liberal intellectuals.
Perhaps the best way to try to understand these reactions is to recall what Eleanor Roosevelt said when she first saw Whittaker Chambers, who had accused Alger Hiss of being a spy for the Soviet Union. Upon seeing the slouching, overweight and disheveled Chambers, she said, "He's not one of us."