Two quick rejoinders to Brooks’ column. First, while experience is indeed a leading source for the acquisition of prudence, it is not the only source. The reason people from Churchill to (most recently) Charles Murray (in his new book on education) emphasize the close study of history is that such study allows for "pattern recognition." Certainly Truman had little in the way of "experience" in the sense that Brooks recommends, but his prudence was informed by his own self-study of history. (Truman could discourse off the cuff on the history of the Mediterranean from the Peloponnesian War in service of explaining why we needed to come to the aid of Greece and in promulgating the Truman Doctrine.) Ditto Calvin Coolidge, who had little in the way of "experience" before becoming Vice President in 1920, not to mention Lincoln in 1860. Whether Palin has the aptitude toward prudence from reflection on history and what she has seen in her lifetime is an open question, but it is supercilious to suppose that only establishment-style experience suffices as a source of prudence.
A greater defect in Brooks’ column is his suggestion that the Bush Administration represents the same kind of anti-establishmentarianism that I identify in the Palin phenomenon. As has been mentioned, few incoming administrations have had more in the way of "experience" in the conventional sense--that was the argument for Dick Cheney, wasn’t it? Not to mention Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. Despite Bush’s Texas mannerisms, this product of Yale and Harvard Business School (not to mention his whole family) is certainly part of the certified establishment of which I referred. The difficulties of the Bush administration (and I agree with much of Brooks’ critique of their governance) is not because they were anti-establishment outsiders, but because they went against the dominant half (the liberal half) of that establishment.
CLARIFICATION: I’ve had a couple people puzzle over an ambiguity in the last sentence above, which I see on re-reading it. It can be read to suggest that I think Bush should not have gone against the liberal establishment. Here’s what I sent back to one person: "What I mean is that Brooks is wrong to attribute Bush’s difficulties to being a genuine anti-establishment figure; rather, Bush is unpopular in large part because he set himself against the liberal establishment, which has exploited the unpopularity of the Iraq War and the fumbling of Katrina, etc, to drive down his popularity. I do think the Bush White House has made some large mistakes in the way they have governed, but they have nothing to do with experience or a supposed anti-establishment (broadly speaking) mentality. Bush’s many strengths will be appreciated in the fullness of time (starting with Brooks I predict)."