While I am a staunch Republican, and a strong supporter of Governor Palin, I am more than willing to admit the obvious: Sarah Palin has not performed well in the major interviews she has done. Why is this? Is it because she’s stupid? I think not. By all accounts, Palin is a quick study and plenty smart. So what gives? Why is Palin struggling so much in these interviews?
Well, let’s start with the obvious: Governor Palin is simply not familiar with many of the national issues being debated in this presidential campaign. She’s not a foreign-policy expert, and it is unfair to expect her to speak with any degree of expertise on Iraq, Afghanistan, or Darfur (I know no one cares about Darfur, but one can dream, right?). It’s also foolish to expect Palin to speak with any authority about the current financial crisis. These are complicated issues, and it’s going to take time for her to get up to speed on them. She is, after all, the governor of Alaska. Her experience is going to be with the issues facing her state (e.g., those concerning natural resources).
But here’s the deal, folks: We’re not electing a quiz bowl champion or voting for best orator/debater. We’re electing a president and a vice president. There are plenty of Americans who can speak with far greater eloquence/intelligence on the issues of the day than any of the candidates on the Republican and Democratic presidential tickets. What matters to me is not whether a given candidate has memorized talking points from various and sundry special-interest groups or their respective campaign advisers, but whether any of them possess the character to lead this country.
Barack Obama has demonstrated that you can have the finest education in the world, but still be callous and uncaring toward the most vulnerable members of society. Joseph Biden has shown that you can spend a lifetime in the most prestigious and important legislative body in the United States, and still utter some really unbelievable statements. He has also abandoned and blatantly misrepresented the teachings of his own Church for political advancement. If Biden is willing to sell out his own Church, why would anyone believe that he won’t sell out his country for personal gain.
My point is this: Character matters. It matters so much more than clever answers or slick marketing. Which leads me back to Palin. Weak interview skills aside, I still love this woman. The problem, I think, is that the McCain handlers aren’t letting Sarah be Sarah. They’re cramming talking points down Palin’s throat on subjects she is entirely unfamiliar with, and, in turn, she is coming off poorly.
So, what to do? First, she needs to prepare like crazy for her debate with Biden. Expectations for Palin will be next to nothing, so a credible performance will go along way toward restoring her image with the public. Second, in Palin’s next interview she needs to say something along these lines:
It’s been quite the whirlwind for me, and the truth is that I have much to learn about many of the national issues facing our country. Being in the national spotlight has been difficult, and I’ve made matters worse by trying to be something that I am not. I am obviously not a foreign-policy expert, and instead of attempting to answer questions on issues that I am unfamiliar with, I should have just admitted that I am still in the process of being briefed on these matters. I also did this in response to questions about the current economic crisis, and for that I am truly sorry. My intent wasn’t to fool anyone into thinking I was an expert in these areas. I just didn’t want to disappoint Senator McCain or our many supporters, who have so much invested in this campaign.
That having been said, I am not running to be the next Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, or Secretary of the Treasury. I am seeking to be elected as the next vice president of the United States. And here is what I can offer the country in that capacity.
First, I do understand energy policy, and any objective political analyst will admit that developing a sustainable energy policy is one of the greatest challenges we face as a country. I am confident I can help our country attain energy independence.
Second, I am proven reformer. I took on the special-interest groups, corruption, and my own party in Alaska; and in doing so, restored confidence in our state’s government. In this respect, John McCain and I have much in common. We’re both willing to take on our own party and reach across the partisan divide to implement public policies that will benefit all Americans.
Third, I believe it is important for the most vulnerable members of our society to have a champion at the highest level of government. For far too long, families raising special-needs children have been ignored, and their children treated as burdens on society, rather than the miracles and gifts from God they truly are. As I stated at the GOP Convention, I will be their national voice. A society that fails to recognize the inherent dignity of every human being from conception until natural death is not one that is worthy of being referred to as “civilized.”
Finally, I have a great deal of executive experience. I know how to assemble and manage an administration that can work together for the common good of those we represent.
I think all of these attributes will serve the American people well, and I look forward to working on their behalf as the next vice president.
In short, play to Palin’s strengths, not her weaknesses. When Palin is speaking about matters she is passionate about/familiar with, she is a compelling public figure. Let her do just that. Stop trying to establish Palin’s bona fides in foreign policy and national economics. She doesn’t have them. And the truth is, she doesn’t need them. Palin is what she is. She is a remarkable woman of many talents. She is charming, smart, beautiful, and passionate about the issues of greatest concern to her. Let her speak to those issues, and admit that she still has much to learn in other areas. Most fair-minded Americans will appreciate her humility, and understand that a president isn’t going to be an expert in every facet of public life.
Ultimately, what most Americans look for in a president or vice president is character. The problem right now isn’t that Palin doesn’t know the answers to many of the questions being posed, but that she’s trying to act as if she does. That’s what people find so troubling. So, let’s stop the charade and let Palin be Palin. Lord knows things certainly can’t get any worse.