I’m not sending Paul Krugman Champagne.
He won the Nobel prize in economics this week, and while I’m sure that’s delightful for him, it has raised the bar to an impossible height for his fellow columnists at The Times. We used to strive for Pulitzers, or simply regional awards, or even just try to top each other on the paper’s most e-mailed list.
Now we’re supposed to compete for Nobels?
It’s a total disaster. Any minute, Krugman might swagger into the office wearing that big old 24-karat-gold-plated medal around his neck like a World Wrestling championship belt, talking about how beautiful Sweden is.
So I must aim higher. Much higher.
A Nobel in economics is out. I didn’t take economics in college because all the classes started at 8 a.m. Physics, chemistry and medicine are out. Literature? They’ve given up giving it to Americans. So it’s going to have to be the Nobel Peace Prize.
I tried to think of a horrible war going on that needed my mediation skills. And then it hit me: The conservative donnybrook over Sarah Palin, the peppery debate raging about whether she is an embarrassment who should fade away or an impudent but promising wine picked before its time.
Republicans have been slugging it out over whether Palin is dragging John McCain down or whether his campaign is mishandling her. The governor’s favorability rating is now 32 percent, according to the new Times/CBS News poll, plummeting 8 points from earlier this month, and her unfavorable rating soared 9 percentage points to 41 percent.
On Tuesday, Matthew Dowd, the former Bush strategist who offered a famous apologia for helping get W. re-elected, offered a scorching assessment of Palin’s not being ready, saying that McCain “knows that in his gut. And when this race is over, that is something he will have to live with. ... He put somebody unqualified on that ballot, and he put the country at risk.”
Christopher Hitchens endorsed Barack Obama on Slate on Monday, calling Palin’s conduct “a national disgrace” and writing: “Given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party’s right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama’s position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.”
Christopher Buckley endorsed Obama on The Daily Beast, writing of McCain’s embrace of Palin: “What on earth can he have been thinking?” (The endorsement led to Buckley’s resigning from The National Review, founded by his father.)
On “The Colbert Report” on Monday, the conservative columnist Kathleen Parker stuck by her assertion, which she said caused the base to treat her like a traitor, that Palin should have bowed out. She said she’d gotten some secret e-mails from Republicans in the White House agreeing with her.
William Kristol, a Palin fan who thinks she has been horribly managed, wrote in The Times on Monday that McCain should fire his campaign for malpractice. David Brooks, speaking at an Atlantic Magazine event, called Palin “a fatal cancer to the Republican Party,” bemoaning the fact that she did not fit in with the late William Buckley’s desire to have a party that celebrated ideas and learning.
I started my campaign to win a Nobel prize by trying to make peace between the two conservatives at odds on our Op-Ed page.
I called Kristol and asked him if he thought Palin could grow into the next Reagan, reminding him that he was outnumbered by conservatives recoiling from her.
“Conservative eggheads are my friends,” he said, “but politically they’re a contrarian indicator. If they’re down on Palin, things are looking up for her. With all due respect for my fellow eggheads, they are underestimating the importance of a natural political gift or star quality. It matters a lot.”
He suggested that she has a shrewdness and toughness “like Andrew Jackson” beyond what you get with a Yale law degree or Harvard business degree. “That may be hard for my conservative intellectual friends to grasp,” he said.
I didn’t seem to be soothing the waters. I called Brooks, who conceded: “Her political delivery skills are incredible.”
So you agree with Kristol that she might be a star in the party? Could Palin be the nominee in 2012?
“The short answer is no,” Brooks said. “She has reinforced the worst of talk-radio culture. The party will need a leader to strike out in a new direction, a fiscally conservative president more like a high-tech Teddy Roosevelt. Someone with gravitas.”
So much for brokering a peace accord. I’ll have to leave the eggheads boiling.