Monday, December 28, 2009

the palin schwarzenegger smackdown

DailyBeast | Republicans have been stymied about what to do about Sarah Palin—until Arnold Schwarzenegger took a swing at her. Joe Mathews on how the Governator’s strategy could pave the way to GOP victory.

For the Republican Party, Sarah Palin has been a problem with no solution. She is a divisive figure, a culture warrior whose celebrity and command of media attention has allowed her to eclipse or bully party leaders with more appeal to independents. No one within the party has been able to put her in her place.

Until late last week, when Palin got into a media fight with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Their clash—an exchange over climate change—was brief but telling. In both style and substance, Arnold vs. Sarah offered a preview of the coming debate within the party over how the GOP might govern as it bids to return to power next year. And for mainstream Republicans who often seemed cowed by tea-party rejectionists, the contest revealed a method for neutralizing the party’s Palinists.

What made the contest compelling were the similarities of the contestants. Palin is a skilled media manipulator who cleverly trades on personality, physical appearance, and a knack for sharp one-liners. So is Schwarzenegger, who had the crucial advantage of having played this game for 30 years. In taking on the governor of California, Palin foolishly launched a rivalry with a smarter, savvier version of herself.

Palin prompted the exchange by launching an extended attack against climate science (she claims there’s no evidence that humans are responsible for changes) and against efforts to fight global warming (too costly, she maintains). She even called on President Obama to boycott the talks in Copenhagen.

In so doing, she stepped right into the path of Schwarzenegger, who has championed climate legislation and attended the Copenhagen talks. Some response was inevitable, and predictably, a Financial Times reporter asked the California governor about Palin’s comments.

How would Schwarzenegger answer Palin?