It seemed peculiar the other day when Politico’s Ben Smith devoted a post on his widely-read blog to Sarah Palin’s stance on Afghanistan, as delivered through a Facebook message. Palin’s not exactly known for her foreign-policy acumen, after all, and nor is she in any position to actually exert influence on the people who will be making the decision. Still, it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world, and Palin is, after all, blog-bait. (The post has, as of this morning, attracted 193 comments.)
But then Felix Salmon noted yesterday that the august Financial Times, in an above-the-fold, front-page story on criticisms that President Obama is letting the dollar decline, drew its very first quote from… another Facebook post by Sarah Palin.
What the heck? Sure, Palin is an instantly recognizable figure, and sure, she commands support among a significant swathe of the American public. But—in addition to the fact that she’s no more an authority on currency issues than on international affairs—let’s remember that she now holds no public office of any sort, and that just how significant that swathe is remains very much open to question. If, in a few years time, Sarah Palin is seriously competing for the Republican nomination for president, we will all have to pay more attention to her words. But if, as seems at least equally likely, she has become some sort of hybrid between Bill O’Reilly and Oprah Winfrey—a media big-shot whose political influence is actually not that large—all this breathless attention to her latest online scribblings is going to seem awfully foolish.
Update: For evidence of the limits of Palin’s appeal, see today’s Politico story by Jonathan Martin, who reports that the GOP candidates in both of this year’s mid-Atlantic gubernatorial races are keeping their distance, despite her offers of assistance.