Commentary: Republicans should look at extending hand to Palin
SAN DIEGO -- I promised myself that I'd stop defending Sarah Palin. But it's a hard habit to break.
While I found the former Alaska governor refreshing during the 2008 presidential campaign, she has been a disappointment since then. Instead of hitting the books and learning the issues, Palin ditched class, resigned her post and concentrated on making money. As a result, she doesn't seem any more informed now than she was when she exploded on the national scene two years ago. So she tries to get by with a wink and a smile -- and the occasional slab of red meat for the GOP base.
Still, many of the attacks upon Palin are unfair and unwarranted -- not to mention, eerily bipartisan. It's not enough that she has to put up with a steady stream of snarky criticism from liberal Democrats who obviously feel threatened by the rock-star greeting she gets from the throngs of people who turn out just to catch a glimpse of her at a speech, fundraiser, or book signing.
Those fans can see and hear from her this month with the release of her latest book, "America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag" and the launch of her new television series, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," on The Learning Channel.
These days, Palin is also getting an icy reaction from conservatives who likewise feel threatened -- this time, by what seems to be her bid for greater influence with Republicans in Washington. Recently, Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., a nine-term congressman, told members of a Chamber of Commerce in his district: "Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate." With no evidence to back up the claim, Bachus insisted that the tea party candidates endorsed by Palin -- specifically Christine O'Donnell in Delaware -- were so weak that they torpedoed the GOP's chances to reclaim the Senate along with the House.
Really? Bachus may believe that Republicans had a realistic shot at capturing Vice President Joe Biden's old seat if they would have gone with Rep. Mike Castle. But since Castle was defeated by O'Donnell in the primary, we'll never know.
This sounds like just another excuse to bash Palin and the tea party movement, one that continues a thread started just days after the election when Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott caused a stir in GOP circles by telling Politico.com that Republicans had not nominated their best candidates in races that could have been more competitive.
How petty. Before this election, Republicans had become so accustomed to losing that even in victory, they still sound defeated. Instead of being pleased with a strong performance, some GOP lawmakers prefer to see the glass as half empty and portray themselves of victims of an insurgency by the tea party. They never consider the possibility that it was the tea party votes that allowed them to compete in the first place. Nor do they consider the possibility that the GOP establishment might be as much to blame as anyone for not winning control of the Senate.
In any case, what difference does it make why the Senate stayed in Democratic hands? All that matters is that it did. Republicans have to find a way to deal with this reality, and still have a hand in shaping public policy until they can reclaim the White House and/or the Senate in a future election. They should be looking forward and not backward.
Of course, Palin brings much of this criticism upon herself by tweaking her critics. Just recently, she posted on her Facebook page some friendly advice for the incoming Congress.
"Stick to the principles that propelled your campaigns," Palin said. She urged lawmakers to defund "Obamacare." Then, she said, they should cut spending, extend tax breaks, and increase border security. She also told them to "extend a hand to President Obama and Democrats in Congress."
The smart thing for establishment Republicans to do right now is to stop complaining and extend a hand to Sarah Palin. She's not their enemy. And she can actually do them a lot of good by energizing the masses -- the same people they like to think they represent but, in truth, barely recognize.
Ruben Navarrette's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.