In today’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan puzzles over Sarah Palin:
But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? For seven weeks I’ve listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite—a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.
But it’s unclear whether she is Bushian or Reaganite. She doesn’t think aloud. She just . . . says things.
This is all true, but it misses the point. Palin is simply a placeholder for the hopes and dreams and resentments of social conservatives, the warm bodies of the Republican coalition. Should we be surprised that we know so little about her actual religious convictions, about how they might affect her conduct in national office? Not really. After eight years, we still know little more about George W. Bush’s religious convictions than what he said at that 1999 Iowa debate: Christ changed his heart. Otherwise, we’ve been reduced to imputing to him notions drawn from speeches such as God’s gift of liberty to all people and from actions like his faith-based initiative. We have gone through nearly three decades of Republican Party politics heavily inflected by religion, in which the most important political representatives of the religion in question limit themselves almost exclusively to sending coded messages to the faithful. It’s politics through a glass darkly.