One Question For Matthew Continetti

The talented Weekly Standard staffer has again written in defense of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Here’s what I’d like to know:

Do you, Matthew Continetti, think that Sarah Palin is qualified to be President of the United States in 2012?


Several commenters want to know what I mean by “qualified,” and what exactly qualifies someone to be president by my lights. That information isn’t actually relevant to my query. I’m curious to know whether or not Mr. Continetti thinks she is qualified to be president based on whatever standard he uses to evaluate presidential candidates. I assume his standard is something more than “he or she meets the minimum constitutional requirements.” Put another way, I doubt he’d affirm the statement, “Mike Tyson, Cindy Sheehan and OJ Simpson are all qualified to be President of the United States.” We can all agree that they’re eligible to hold the office… but that none of us would hire them to run a Burger King franchise let alone the United States government.

Why did I pose this question?

I expected I’d find Mr. Continetti’s account of what qualifies someone to be president reasonable, even if I disagreed with it. And something about Mr. Continetti’s carefully worded defenses of former Governor Palin make me think that he doesn’t actually regard her as qualified to be president. I could be wrong! (Hence the question.) But if I’m right, that would be useful to know, right? Surely there are Americans who’d be interested to know that even one of her staunchest defenders and most informed observers finds that she lacks whatever it is one should have before ascending to the highest office in the land.

Someone commented that asking this question of Mr. Continetti is combative. That assumption is itself telling, right? Why should there be anything awkward about an opinion journalist stating for the record whether or not he thinks someone he’s covered exhaustively and pontificated about at length is qualified to be president? If he thinks she is qualified I don’t see why he’d object to saying so. Now, I’m not naive. I understand very well that in the conservative movement, stating that she is not qualified is professionally awkward, particularly for someone whose favorable book gives him better access to Palin than most; and I wish there were some way to ask what I think is a legitimate question without maybe putting someone whose larger body of work I respect in a tough spot.

But there’s a chance that Sarah Palin is going to seek and win the GOP nomination in 2012. By my lights, that would be a disaster for the country, the prospects for sane conservatism in America, and the Republican Party, an organization I care about only insofar as I want it to run a viable alternative to Barack Obama, a president who doesn’t deserve a second term. Given those stakes, I can’t very well stifle a legitimate question just in case asking it turns out to be uncomfortable for a fellow scribe operating inside conservative journalism. Once one starts bowing to its pathologies all is lost.

So I re-submit my question. If even Matthew Continetti doesn’t think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president, it would be useful to know that, whether you’re a concerned American, a GOP donor deciding where to send your 2012 money, or a fellow writer trying to assess where exactly the Weekly Standard staffer is coming from when he reports on the potential candidate.

Am I wrong?