Political writer Matt Bai took a condescending late shot at Sarah Palin in his "Political Times" column Thursday, "Emotional or Cerebral: Republicans Face a Choice in How to Oppose." He provided a backhanded compliment to Rep. Paul Ryan, but even that was filtered through a liberal prism, with Bai calling Ryan's ambitious budget plan "radically austere."
In the kind of opposition Ms. Palin represents, issues aren't always meant to be addressed through governance, but rather to be deployed as blunt instruments in pursuit of more electoral gains. For the new Republican-led House, that would mean more questions about the president's birth certificate, more subpoenas flowing down Pennsylvania Avenue, more votes on abortion and flag burning and all of that.
And it might mean passing a bill on gun rights or school prayer that excites the base, knowing full well that the Democratic-controlled Senate will simply let it die anyway.
Mr. Ryan, of Wisconsin, on the other hand, is the author of a radically austere plan to scale back federal spending, and he is about to become chairman of the House Budget Committee. Mr. Ryan, a Washington insider, is heir to the side of the conservative movement that grew out of think tanks and policy journals in the 1960s and '70s.
Near the end Bai took a backhanded shot at Palin for her lack of an "intellectual approach," as opposed to sheer partisanship.
In December, Mr. Obama's debt-reduction panel (of which Mr. Ryan is a member) is supposed to release its findings on the budget, which, assuming the bipartisan panel can't reach a consensus, will most likely encompass several options for reducing spending in the long term.
A Palinesque opposition would probably seize on proposed tax increases or benefit cuts in the plans, accuse Mr. Obama of creating the commission as a gimmick and dismiss the whole exercise as just another waste of the citizens' money. A more intellectual approach would be to embrace the most conservative option offered by the panel and take it up for debate, in hopes of pressuring the White House into some meaningful compromise.