Jacob Heilbrunn

The Greatness of Sarah Palin

There is something about Sarah Palin that betokens greatness. She has now instructed the American people on her sprawling "One Nation" bus tour that Paul Revere was actually warning the British that they should be on their toes during his famous midnight ride in 1775: "You know what, I didn't mess up about Paul Revere," Palin said. "I know my American history."

Actually, she shouldn't be so defensive. If she didn't make these mistakes, people wouldn't know if it was her or her doppelganger that she produced the other day that was speaking. Palin's genius is that she is so flawed. It's only elites that know that Paul Revere was warning Americans that the British were coming, not the British that the Americans were on the march. Palin also offered an interesting interpretation of the meaning of the Statue of Liberty. It's apparently a warning, so Palin claims, against socialism. From France. Yes, France. The country that invented the slogan "property is theft."

Details, details, details. Palin did have the grace to apologize to Mitt Romney for horning in on his big announcement of his candidacy in New Hampshire: ""I apologize if I stepped on any of that PR that Mitt Romney needed or wanted that day." Wait a second. Is that actually an apology, as the Los Angeles Times states? Not quite. In fact, it sounds rather snippy—as though she herself doesn't perpetually need or want PR.

But it's certainly hard not to think that Palin might end up helping Romney. Her sheer wackiness, along with other members of the GOP field, suggests that he might well benefit from the contrast. When the lunatics are in control of the asylum, or trying to gain control, it can never hurt to pose as the sober voice. Romney's sobriety, his middle-of-the-road qualities, might pay off. If Romney plays his cards right, in other words, the contrast with Palin could redound to his benefit. So far, he's benefitted by refusing to engage with her at all.

The broader question is whether the GOP is willing to accept him as its candidate. The stumbling block for Romney, of course, remains his religion. Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann would probably siphon off votes from him in the primaries and it's hard to see the evangelical base voting for him. Meanwhile, Herman Cain is bashing Rep. Michele Bachmann for offering prayers during her speech last night before the Faith and Family Conference in Washington, DC, calling it the "ultimate pander."

The fireworks have begun. Any worries that this is a lackluster GOP field are absurd. It's going to be one of the most uninhibited brawls that the GOP has experienced in decades.