Speed Reads

Time to speak freely?

Is it finally safe for conservatives to criticize Sarah Palin?

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We may have finally reached a tipping point: Conservatives, it seems, are finally safe to criticize Sarah Palin (without fear of being written out of the movement, that is).

As is the case with tipping points, accretion tends to go mostly unnoticed until the dam finally breaks. And it seems to have broken a bit this week, with two coinciding stories. First, there was the Washington Post story by Robert Costa (formerly of the conservative National Review), which labeled Palin "a diminished figure in the Republican Party." That story included a quote from popular conservative blogger and talk radio host Erick Erickson, who conceded, "She has some pull with the base, but it has fallen a little bit." That hardly makes her sound like a powerhouse.

Coincidence, or not, I have noticed an uptick in Palin criticism from the right over the second Palin story this week — her comments to the NRA about how waterboarding is how she'd "baptize terrorists."

Among the conservatives publicly voicing opposition to the baptism comments: The Weekly Standard's Mark Hemingway, the American Conservative's Rod Dreher, our own Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke, David Freddoso of the Conservative Intelligence Briefing, and the Federalist's Mollie Hemingway.

This is not to suggest conservatives are uniformly turning against Palin, but it is to suggest that she can no longer count on conservative opinion leaders being cowed into silent support of her antics, for fear of angering their (and her) base.

As someone who has written both favorably — and unfavorably — about Palin, I can attest to the fact that there has long been a huge disincentive to the latter. Strict conformity was regularly imposed by Palin supporters who surfed the net in search of RINO scalps to claim. Could it be that Costa's report has finally created a sort of permission structure for conservatives to finally voice what they have —for years — been thinking?