Last week, Sarah Palin told Sunday Times reporter Christina Lamb, “I am going to Sudan in July and hope to stop in England on the way. I am just hoping Mrs Thatcher is well enough to see me as I so admire her.” As the Guardian’s chief political correspondent, Nicholas Watt, put it: Palin wants to show the Republican right that she is “the true keeper of the Ronald Reagan flame” by meeting the late president’s closest ally on the world stage, the Iron Lady herself. “A meeting with Thatcher in the centenary year of Reagan’s birth would be the perfect way of launching her bid for the Republican nomination for the 2012 US presidential election.” But according to the British media, it ain’t gonna happen, and Rush Limbaugh — for one – is displeased.
- Thatcher is too ill to receive guests. The Independent’s Andy McSmith first reported that Baroness Thatcher had to stop making public appearances years ago because of ill health and is seldom at home for guests. Even a reception hosted by David Cameron in Downing Street to celebrate her 85th birthday had to go ahead without her.
- It’s more than just ill health. However, according to Nicholas Watt in a Guardian blog on Wednesday, Thatcher’s allies believe that Palin is “a frivolous figure who is unworthy of an audience”. One of Thatcher’s “allies” is reported to have said, “Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin. That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts.” Thatcher will instead show “the level she punches at” when she attends the unveiling of a statue of Ronald Reagan outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square on Independence day.
- Rush Limbaugh calls Guardian story “preposterous”. Rush Limbaugh, the US conservative radio host, was furious when quotes from Watt’s blog reached the US media. He began his show on Wednesday by describing Watt’s story as “preposterous”. And he explained, “Now, personal disclosure here, I happen to know Margaret Thatcher. I happen to know her pretty well. I haven’t talked to her in years, but I’ve known her for years. … I guarantee you Lady Thatcher is probably not aware that the aide is even saying this. That is not the way she speaks.”
- Why Limbaugh is wrong. Watt retorted in the Guardian that Limbaugh appears to have little idea of “the approach of the loving group of friends and staff who are dedicated to ensuring that [Thatcher’s] final years are lived in dignity.” Those protectors believe it would be “beneath the dignity of the Iron Lady to meet such a lightweight figure”. Watt claimed that Limbaugh is particularly annoyed by the story because “the Thatcher circle’s dismissive view undermines at a stroke” Palin’s defence that she is the victim of a witch-hunt by the mainstream media. “If allies of one of her own heroines believe Palin is ‘nuts’ – coupled with the clear signals from Downing Street that David Cameron will be steering well clear of Palin – then that line of defence looks somewhat threadbare.”
- Why would Thatcher ever meet Palin? In the Daily Beast, Alex Massie (who usually writes for the right-of-Guardian, Spectator) described that there is something “loathsome” about this attempt to use a frail 86-year-old stroke victim as fodder to enhance a political agenda: “It is vulgar and it is vainglorious and therefore entirely typical of Palin’s political style.” Massie ultimately asked, “Even if the Iron Lady were not in such rusty health, what would be the point or purpose of any such encounter? What possible interest could she have in meeting a two-bit, half-term governor of Alaska? To ask the question is to make the answer so clear that even Palin’s most deluded admirers might be able to understand it.”