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Palin’s Source

by Ben Smith
Politico.com [1]
Thomas Frank noticed in the Jour­nal [2] today that Sarah Palin used an odd source for a quote in her announce­ment speech attrib­uted only to a “writer.”

“We grow good peo­ple in our small towns, with hon­esty and sin­cer­i­ty and dig­ni­ty,” she said, draw­ing from a once-pow­er­ful, now for­got­ten mid-cen­tu­ry con­ser­v­a­tive colum­nist named West­brook Pegler.

It’s an odd source because Pegler, who moved fur­ther right as his career went on, end­ed up very, very far out. Frank notes that he talked hope­ful­ly of the assas­si­na­tion of Franklin Roo­sevelt.

He was also known for what Philip Roth described as his “casu­al dis­taste for Jews,” which had become so evi­dent by the end that he was bounced [3] from the jour­nal of the John Birch Soci­ety in 1964 for alleged anti-semi­tism. Accord­ing to his obit­u­ary [4], he’d advanced the the­o­ry that Amer­i­can Jews of East­ern Euro­pean descent were “instinc­tive­ly sym­pa­thet­ic to Com­mu­nism, how­ev­er out­ward­ly respectable they appeared.”

It’s unlike­ly that Palin wrote the speech or dug up the quote, though it’s pos­si­ble. The line does come from a strand of con­ser­v­a­tive pop­ulism that isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly native to McCain or his usu­al rhetoric: The only oth­er source for that Pegler eas­i­ly avail­able online is a 1990 book [5] by Patrick Buchanan.

In any case, it won’t calm Ed Koch any.