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Could Margaret Thatcher have changed Sarah Palin’s political fortunes?

Dan has written a few good posts already about Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as both someone who should be viewed as a “feminist icon,” and as a woman who who rose to power “by dint of her own striving,” in the words of Meryl Streep.  In the second post, Dan asked a rhetorical question about the reception of strong, conservative women in politics: “Why is it that certain conservative leaders, particularly women who capture the public imagination, endure this ‘special hatred and ridicule’?”

Dan’s question reminded me of something I saw at the Daily Caller.   On Geraldo Rivera’s radio program yesterday, Ann Coulter claimed that, according to sources allegedly close to Thatcher,  Lady Thatcher wanted to meet with Sarah Palin to give her advice about presenting herself more effectively:

“One thing that I know, because I know people who know her, is when Sarah Palin first burst on the scene, she wanted to have a meeting with Palin, because she saw raw political talent, but wanted to teach Sarah Palin to do what she did,” Coulter said. “I just know it from friends of hers — to teach [Palin] to speak proper English. Sarah Palin did not meet with her. And just a year or two ago, when Sarah Palin was promoting some reality show or something, she went to England and she announced to the press that she was planning on dropping by to see Lady Thatcher. And Lady Thatcher put out the word that she would not be available.”

I have no clue as to the reliability of Coulter’s sources in this instance or the veracity of those reports, but regardless of whether the story is true or whether it is merely apocryphal, it does serve to illustrate some key differences among Thatcher, Palin, and the political environment that exists in the U.S. today as opposed to that that existed in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s.

There should be no doubt that the left in Britain hated Thatcher as much as the left in America hates Palin–and has ever since she lambasted Obama in her convention speech in September 2008.  But despite that similarity and the fact that both Palin and Thatcher are strong, outspoken conservative women, it strikes me as a sort of revisionist history to suggest, as Coulter implicitly does, that Palin’s situation today might have taken a very different course had she met with Thatcher when she “first burst on the scene,” whenever, exactly, that was.

Thatcher rose to prominence in Britain over many years in the British House of Commons, a branch of parliament known for its particularly rowdy and confrontational style of debate and discussion.  Thatcher did well in that environment and successfully managed to become the head of her party there.  Thatcher’s history of rising to power through parliament bears some similarities to the manner in which Palin rose to become governor of Alaska and to take on the entrenched interests of her own party.

But the similarities end there.  The crucial difference is that Thatcher’s rise to power occurred on a broader political stage than Palin’s did, and given the short timeframe in which Palin went from being a governor to being a national figure, it should be evident that she had few opportunities to shape the counter-narrative that the media and the left started putting out about her shortly after she “burst on the scene.”

Short of advising her not to do an interview with Katie Couric, I can’t imagine what Lady Thatcher could have said or done to help Palin navigate the treacherous waters of the 2008 presidential campaign, and that was especially the case as long as Palin’s fate was tied to that of John McCain, one of the most conciliatory candidates I have ever seen run for the presidency.

After the campaign ended, Margaret Thatcher might have been able to help Palin gain a little more polish, perhaps, but I doubt that would have done anything to change the situation in which Palin found herself, with lawsuit after lawsuit filed against her in Alaska, until she ultimately decided to resign as governor in July 2009.  Although the media’s harsh attacks on Palin greatly damaged her image with a large segment of the public at large, I would argue that Palin’s decision to step down as governor had more of an impact on dampening enthusiasm for her as a candidate for the presidency in 2012 among many conservatives.

Palin’s story is still being written.  Whether or not she decides to run for elective office again remains to be seen.  While I have no doubt that Margaret Thatcher could have given her some excellent advice and guidance, it also seems rather like wishful thinking to suggest that Palin’s political fortunes would be dramatically different today had she met with Thatcher many years ago.

Update: Nile Gardner first reported that the Thatcher-Palin story was a hoax when he wrote about it in 2011.  (Hat Tip: Professor Jacobson.)  Of course, as The Right Scoop asks, that makes one wonder what Coulter is trying to accomplish by repeating it.

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32 Comments

  1. Thatcher was able to withstand her attackers, because she was made of sterner stuff. And, oh, yeah, substance, dignity, intelligence, and class.

    But, otherwise, they’re exactly the same person.

    If conservatives want a formidable female candidate for president, they’re going to have to get out of the mindset that Palin and Bachmann even come close to qualifying. Try Rice and you’re getting a little closer.

    Comment by Vince Smetana — April 9, 2013 @ 11:43 pm - April 9, 2013

  2. Thatcher rose on her own political effort over time. Palin was elevated onto a national stage by the election, rapidly.

    To put it in Alaska terms: It was like a salmon getting thrown from salt to fresh water. It does not work that way. A salmon has to move gradually from salt back to fresh water.

    Comment by EBL — April 10, 2013 @ 2:47 am - April 10, 2013

  3. Demonizingrats will viciously attack anyone they fear. Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, etc.

    On the other hand, they will circle the wagons and promote mediocrities like Hillary, Gore, Obambi, Napolitano, Dukakis, etc.

    The Demonizingrats came after Palin like she was a Dan Quayle-type gift to their junk yard dog pack mentality. Frankly, she survived them and continues to get their juices flowing by just staying alive.

    It is clear that Rhinos and weaklings want a candidate the Demonizingrats won’t pick on. Even if the candidate holds her own, as Palin and Bachman did, the Rhinos and weaklings won’t acknowledge it.

    Ronald Reagan is still anathema to the Demonizingrats. He was laze and stupid and a B-grade actor who was no better as President, but pulled it off because he was an amiable dunce.

    Get it? The Demonizingrats picked John McCain for us. The joined with the Rhinos and conspired in open public to promote Yosemite Sam McCain as the easiest target. The young mocha gladiator of hope and change against the crippled lion of war and remembrance. It was Sarah Palin that charged the old man’s with energy and damn near pushed him across the finish line first.

    One other thing. The neopseudosophisticates of the “intellectual” climes of the cities on the coasts have no sensitivity to the culture of little people in fly-over country. They loathe Wal-Mart. Sarah Palin shops at Wal-Mart for that thing she should have aborted. She is just pure unadulterated Wassila trailer trash and will never be anything else.

    As for Condaleeza Rice, I have an anecdote. In case she ran, the Demonizingrats had two stories to dump on her when she came out of the starting gate. One was how Madeline Albright’s professor father had flunked Condeleeza Rice for … and the other was a really, really snarky bunch of stuff about her sexuality. I learned this by listening to influential Ivy League professors in the political consultant business who were smacking their lips over the chance to go for her jugular. These people wake up not nice and look for ways to be full-blown nasty.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 10, 2013 @ 8:30 am - April 10, 2013

  4. Coulter accomplishes buffing up her Establican bona fides.

    Beware the Bill Maher’s dick touchers.

    Comment by guinspen — April 10, 2013 @ 9:34 am - April 10, 2013

  5. Mrs. Clinton is being compared to Thatcher. Are the comparisons designed to infuriate us or are they genuinely that cynical or naive?

    Comment by Ignatius — April 10, 2013 @ 3:17 pm - April 10, 2013

  6. Thatcher’s career experience would not have availed Palin, if only because the systems do not work the same way. The President and Vice President are apart from Congress, whereas the Prime Minister is intimately embedded in Parliament from the time he or she becomes a Member of that Parliament. People watch him or her evolve from a Backbencher to a Minister, and thence to Prime Minister if the situation turns out that way (or from Shadow Minister to Leader of the Opposition and then Prime Minister if their party wins power). So there is that gradual transition “from fresh water to salt” or vice versa, and there is not the profound ignorance (or at least gross unfamiliarity) with the way Federal politics works that Palin seemed to display, whatever her administrative talents at State Governor level, when she was elevated to Vice-Presidential nominee. IMO she really needed to have been a Senator or a Congresswoman for a term or two first.

    Comment by perturbed — April 10, 2013 @ 4:36 pm - April 10, 2013

  7. there is not the profound ignorance (or at least gross unfamiliarity) with the way Federal politics works that Palin seemed to display

    I am curious about this analysis. Certainly, Palin was running from as far outside the beltway as you can get. On the other hand, McCain is so inside the beltway that he whole “maverick” reputation is related to double-crossing lines inside the beltway.

    Palin also was “guilty” of climbing the ladder entirely within Alaska by knowing and working the grass-roots. Her “maverick” reputation was earned by double crossing the power structure status quo erected by professional politicians who preceded her. She did this as a function of fulfilling promises made to the grassroots and the little people in general.

    So, if Sarah Palin is naive in trying to be honest and for not immediately shifting to professional inside-politician hypocrisy, I understand the point. Apparently, she “should have” done a short stint as a Senator and gone full bore into the boiler room of machine politics.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 10, 2013 @ 5:13 pm - April 10, 2013

  8. Bottom line is that only Sarah Palin can save Sarah Palin’s career at this point. She needs to do something before she slips into irrelevancy. She can only ride that VP candidate horse around so long, it’s getting a bit long in the tooth now. Something daring? How about challenging McCain in Arizona for his Senate seat?

    Comment by crosspatch — April 10, 2013 @ 9:39 pm - April 10, 2013

  9. Sarah Palin? She has no career left. Unlike Thatcher, she’s a quitter. Can’t even be mentioned in the same breath.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — April 11, 2013 @ 12:55 am - April 11, 2013

  10. Anyone calling Palin a “quitter” is either a moron, a political hack, or just ignorant of the facts. She really had no choice but to quit.

    Unlike practically every other state in the Union, Alaska had no law to protect a governor from frivolous lawsuits. Any Democrat in Alaska could file the silliest lawsuit. She would have to defend herself at her own expense, the state would not pay for her defense and she was barred from using money donated to a legal defense fund.

    So, one Democrat after another simply started filing lawsuits. They all got thrown out, but each one was expensive. How many Democrats are there in Alaska? If only 1/10 of them filed such a lawsuit, Palin would be on the hook for millions of dollars and the Palins are not millionaires, or weren’t at that time, anyway.

    This is just another example of the unethical behavior of Democrats. Democrats are currently the most corrupt, most unethical, most despicable political organization this nation has seen in over a century.

    Comment by crosspatch — April 11, 2013 @ 2:46 am - April 11, 2013

  11. I don’t think it would have made a different for Sarah Palin, to be honest. All it would have done is stirred up the hornet’s nest about Lady Thatcher’s strokes and diminished capacity.

    Does anyone really think the party of murderers, perjerers and thieves would have given any respect to Lady Thatcher while she was breathing? I think not.

    Comment by The_Livewire — April 11, 2013 @ 7:10 am - April 11, 2013

  12. Both McCain and Romney were conciliatory to the Democrats in the elections. They wanted to be nice guys and not hard hitting. Politics is rough and tumble, and the GOP nominee in 2016 will have to have brass cajones in order to possibly win.

    Comment by davinci — April 11, 2013 @ 9:47 am - April 11, 2013

  13. Anyone calling Palin a “quitter” is either a moron, a political hack, or just ignorant of the facts. She really had no choice but to quit.

    Of course she had a choice!

    While I don’t disagree that the lawsuits were indeed a way to try and ruin her financially, that would have been short lived, and everyone knew it! She was a star! When she resigned, there were only a couple of suits on the docket, and those were not going to cost nearly as much as the main complaint concerning the Wooten affair did, which is the one that ate up the good portion of the $500,000 she had spent. But that one was resolved.

    I do understand the pressure she was under because of all the dumb politically motivated lawsuits, but the opponents were running out of things to sue for.

    Meanwhile, after she left, she did nothing to try and change the flaws in the financial defense laws in Alaska that left her so vulnerable in the first place. That eventually did get changed, but, if I were the victim of that flawed system, I would have been out there in public on day three (two days of rest are acceptable) as the spokesperson to change that. Instead, she went right for the payday of writing the book and becoming a FOX news contributor, paydays that would have been waiting for her and her family if she would have remained in office for the last year of her term.

    I do have some empathy for the position she was put in. yet, I can’t help but think, she wanted to be Vice President! A position that surely would have been much more stressful and demanding than what she had to endure as the Governor of Alaska, even with the lawsuits as a factor.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — April 11, 2013 @ 12:20 pm - April 11, 2013

  14. BTW

    Anyone calling Palin a “quitter” is either a moron, a political hack, or just ignorant of the facts.

    “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”
    ― Margaret Thatcher

    We can agree to disagree, but calling me a “moron or “political hack” weakens the strength of your argument by degrees.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — April 11, 2013 @ 12:55 pm - April 11, 2013

  15. Except of course, sf, that you kicked off that part of the thread by calling Palin “a quitter”.

    We can agree to disagree, but moments of hypocrisy, while they do not weaken one’s argument (the argument stands on its own terms, which is why tu quoque is never enough to refute it), do sort of weaken one’s moral standing.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — April 11, 2013 @ 1:22 pm - April 11, 2013

  16. An interesting speculation if Margaet Hatcher could have changed Sarah Palin´s political fortunes. crosspatch speculates more lawsuits would be filed while sonicfrog apparently has researched and says there were only a couple on the docket, and once adjudicated the rest would have disappeared. I speculate that if she had stayed in office and the TEA partiers and conservatives would have raised the funds for her defense and that would have preserved her political career.

    Unfortunately, in the mind of many people Republicans and independents, she ill always be perceived as a quitter. That baggage will be carried around for the rest of her life like a black cloud, which makes me think of hte little character in the late comic strip Li´l Abner, Joe Bflsztk (can´t remember it exactly) who walked around with a permanet dark cloud and a few raindrops falling. Everywhere he went a disaster followed. Will a Palin endorsement carry weight or will it be the kiss of death?

    Comment by Roberto — April 11, 2013 @ 2:42 pm - April 11, 2013

  17. ILC… Obviously, you don’t see or know the difference of commenting on a quality of the topic / person in question, vs using the “destroying the messenger” fallacy against the person making the comment to score points.

    OK. I’ll take that back. Sarah Palin is not a quitter, and that comment is too harsh.

    That said, the fact remains that she did not have the tenacity to keep going in the face of great resistance and hardship; she did in fact quit of her own volition, whereas Thatcher always found a way to persevere. The two female politicians simply are not comparable.

    One was a great Lady, the other, in my opinion, is not.

    ““I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”
    ― Margaret Thatcher”

    So, once again, I walk away feeling pretty good about now.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — April 11, 2013 @ 3:36 pm - April 11, 2013

  18. “I speculate that if she had stayed in office and the TEA partiers and conservatives would have raised the funds for her defense and that would have preserved her political career.”

    That was tried.

    http://drillingsantafe.blogspot.com/2010/06/palin-defense-fund-ruled-illegal.html

    Comment by crosspatch — April 11, 2013 @ 3:49 pm - April 11, 2013

  19. In fact, judging by some of the comments, I have to wonder how many people were actually paying attention to what was happening at the time and how many are just making stuff up off the top of their heads or parroting something others have said without bothering to check into it. Looks like the political right’s own brand of “low information voters”. It isn’t that they don’t have information, it is just that the information is either incomplete or incorrect.

    Reminds me of what Reagan said about liberals. It isn’t that they are ignorant, they simply know a lot of stuff that isn’t so.

    Comment by crosspatch — April 11, 2013 @ 3:53 pm - April 11, 2013

  20. “Low Information Voters”…

    Yeah… There’s nothing like calling voters ignorant to to help win over the few percentage of votes the GOP needs to win back the Senate and the White House. I can’t stop you from using Rush / Hannity talking points, but maybe a few more election cycle where you keep losing to candidates that you should be able to beat, such as Obama, Reid (and why the hell can no one can beat Boxer is beyond me) maybe that will finally wake you guys up.

    PS. I know the reason for Boxers viral ability to keep infecting the Senate… Hello San Francisco and LA, coupled with the GOP’s unrealistic litmus test that their candidate must be anti-abortion. Fiorena might have had a shot but for that issue. As well as she did in the election, that is a non-starter for too many voters in this state.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — April 11, 2013 @ 5:07 pm - April 11, 2013

  21. ILC… Obviously, you don’t see or know the difference of commenting on a quality of the topic / person in question, vs using the “destroying the messenger” fallacy against the person making the comment to score points.

    OK. I’ll take that back. Sarah Palin is not a quitter, and that comment is too harsh.

    Oh, so *that’s* what it looks like, sf, when you spin fast enough to contradict yourself.

    I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly -incoherent- because I think, well, if they attack -their own arguments-, it means they have not a single political argument left.

    judging by some of the comments, I have to wonder how many people were actually paying attention to what was happening at the time and how many are just making stuff up off the top of their heads or parroting something others have said

    crosspatch: And not for the first time ;-)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — April 11, 2013 @ 5:40 pm - April 11, 2013

  22. Living in El Salvador I don´t receive every groups solicitations as in the case of The Sarah Palin Defense Fund. The only groups who are soliciting me are NAGR, Allen West´s Guardian Fund, and Rand Paul2016. Prior to the elections of 2010, the TEA Party used to ask for contributions for it´s Express. I unsubscribed when I tried to contact them and they never responded.

    Comment by Roberto — April 11, 2013 @ 6:18 pm - April 11, 2013

  23. Heliotrope, what I was getting at was not that she should have allowed herself to be absorbed by the machine and functioned in the way that it does, but four years of seeing how it worked might have made her more savvy in her dealings with it and given her a better understanding of exactly what she was up against.

    Comment by perturbed — April 11, 2013 @ 6:19 pm - April 11, 2013

  24. I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly -incoherent- because I think, well, if they attack -their own arguments-, it means they have not a single political argument left.

    (A) I didn’t attack my own argument. I explained it. I did take the “quitter” label back however, as I do agree it was too harsh. That said, the fact is… She quit. And she wasn’t forced to, as was postulated in another comment. This was not like Nixon, where he either had to quit, or he was probably going to go to jail. Instead of fulfilling the promise she made to the voters when they voted her in as Governor, she chose to leave. She did quit. That action damaged her future political fortunes more than anything the opposition was throwing at her.

    (B) My argument isn’t political. It’s based on fact. I’m not sure why you haven’t the ability to separate the two. Palin quit. Thatcher didn’t.

    I am glad you’re happy though.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — April 11, 2013 @ 8:05 pm - April 11, 2013

  25. Perturbed,

    Understood. In my heart of hearts, I think the demonizing rats have successfully neutralized Palin and that she is probably a non-starter. But, then, I thought the same of Reagan in after 1976.

    On the other hand, I believe that being savvy to the MSM and the beltway crowd makes a candidate cynical and sometimes lures them into being too clever by half. We have so overanalyzed what was “wrong” with Romney that we are in danger of being satisfied with being underdogs.

    Still, I am impressed with how the mention of Palin makes the demonizingrats foam at the mouth. They really do fear her.

    Comment by heliotrope — April 11, 2013 @ 8:14 pm - April 11, 2013

  26. I think this has to be the classic example of how blind hatred makes one say patently stupid things.

    While I don’t disagree that the lawsuits were indeed a way to try and ruin her financially, that would have been short lived, and everyone knew it! She was a star! When she resigned, there were only a couple of suits on the docket, and those were not going to cost nearly as much as the main complaint concerning the Wooten affair did, which is the one that ate up the good portion of the $500,000 she had spent.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — April 11, 2013 @ 12:20 pm – April 11, 2013

    Yes, because, of course, everyone has a spare half-million dollars just sitting around to spend on legal fees, with the likelihood of far more having to be spent in the future as your Barack Obama ordered more and more Obama Party members to file frivolous lawsuits to bankrupt and punish her.

    And then this becomes funny.

    Yeah… There’s nothing like calling voters ignorant to to help win over the few percentage of votes the GOP needs to win back the Senate and the White House.

    LOL.

    Sonic, you and your fellow voters of that sort are sitting here telling us someone being forced to pay half a MILLION dollars by politically-motivated frivolous lawsuits is no big deal.

    You are never going to vote GOP. You are not that intelligent. You and your fellow voters are idiots who believe that Romney is going to ban tampons, that Romney killed a woman, that Republicans are going to put gays in concentration camps, and that you should vote for Obama so you get free phones, free mortgages, free welfare checks, plenty of food stamps, and all these things paid for by “the rich”, who are also the reason you don’t get paid six figures for breathing.

    You cannot threaten to take away what you were never going to give in the first place. We are used to you. You have, over the course of your commenting, like your fellows Cinesnatch and concern-troll mike, demonstrated that there is nothing, repeat NOTHING, that would ever induce you to a) leave the Obama Party and b) vote Republican.

    You are, as Heliotrope aptly puts it, a demonizing-rat. Your blathering is nothing more than a charade to demonstrate that you fully and completely intend to use governmental power to finance your existence at the expense of those of us who work, and thus are willing to make excuses that seem rational to those in your low-information Obama-worshiping universe, but which are howlingly stupid to the rest of us.

    So we feel no need to call you anything other than what you are.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — April 11, 2013 @ 9:08 pm - April 11, 2013

  27. Hi ND30,
    When are you going to be on Match Game next? I love listening to your masculine, forthcoming voice.

    Comment by Vince Smetana — April 11, 2013 @ 9:33 pm - April 11, 2013

  28. You are never going to vote GOP. You are not that intelligent. You and your fellow voters are idiots who believe that Romney is going to ban tampons, that Romney killed a woman, that Republicans are going to put gays in concentration camps, and that you should vote for Obama so you get free phones, free mortgages, free welfare checks, plenty of food stamps, and all these things paid for by “the rich”, who are also the reason you don’t get paid six figures for breathing.

    Yawn.

    I’m walking away very happy at the moment.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — April 12, 2013 @ 12:33 am - April 12, 2013

  29. Yawn.

    I’m walking away very happy at the moment.

    It’s true… ignorance is bliss.

    Comment by The_Livewire — April 12, 2013 @ 7:46 am - April 12, 2013

  30. TL: I like the funny assumption that someone cares.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — April 12, 2013 @ 9:47 am - April 12, 2013

  31. heliotrope

    I think you´re right that Sarah is a nonstarter. She doesn´t have the background that Ronald Reagan had, radio, movies, tv, President of SAG. All that experiencecontributed to his resilience to bounce back. I think what iced it for him was the 1980 New Hampshire debate, ¨I paid for this microphone so turn the damn thing on.¨ Was this a message to the Establishment, don´t mess with me?

    As you noted the mention of Palin cause the demoning rats to foam at the mouth. They really do fear here. I have said before that her role in the Party should be that of a cheer leader to raly the conservative base to work for and elect conservative candidates and get rid of the RINO´s, who keep selling our principles down the river. 16 Republicans voted for Gun Control. I hope they will be toast at the end of their term.

    Comment by Roberto — April 12, 2013 @ 1:49 pm - April 12, 2013

  32. Considering the concern enough to respond, one could make the assumption that one does care. Or else, why bother responding?

    :)

    Comment by Vince Smetana — April 12, 2013 @ 5:32 pm - April 12, 2013

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