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Desperately Seeking Sarah

September 30th, 2008 · 48 Comments

In the wake of the disastrous Couric interview with Sarah Palin, even the hacks are voicing concerns about their rising star–cum–shooting star.  But since removing her from the ticket, even by the transparent expedient of having her “voluntarily” withdraw to “spend more time with the family,” would be at least as disatrous as keeping her on, many are still casting about for ways to defend the nation’s most prominent hockey mom. One emerging narrative—in the proud tradition of lamentations that “if only the king knew what his wicked advisors were up to…”—is that the McCain campaign needs to “Free Sarah Palin” from the malign influence of handlers who are squelching her precious “authenticity.” Voters love Palin when she can just be herself, the theory goes, and her cringe-inducing performance in interviews is the result of over-coaching that has prompted her to fall back on half-memorized talking points. The “real” Sarah, you see, would have handled herself with articulate aplomb.

It’s a nice enough theory, but where exactly is the evidence for it?  Sure, we can look back and find instances where she’s handled herself more competently, but her gaffes have not been, as some of her apologists seem to want to imply, a matter of getting flustered by her failure to recall the name of the Brazilian finance minister.  Her problem is not mastery of the details: It’s fundamental cluelessness about how the economy works, and a demonstrable inability to conceive of foreign policy in anything but the crudest terms.

Put it this way, one thing I learned from college debate is that a reasonably bright person can generally manage to sound at least competent talking about issues they don’t really understand. I recall one case my partner and I debated where the other team argued against dollarizing the Ecuadorian sucre. We didn’t know a damn thing about the economic or political situation in Ecuador, or a whole lot about monetary policy. I doubt I could have told you the name of Ecuador’s president, let alone the finance minister. But we had some basic econ and game theory down, and I knew a bit about the Mexican peso crisis of the mid-90s, and so we were able to bluff our way through and win the round.  The kind of mess we’ve seen in Palin’s interviews, then, can’t really be ascribed to an ignorance of details that could be remedied with a few more flash-card sessions. As Jeff Goldberg puts it, the problem isn’t so much that she doesn’t have the right answers, it’s that she doesn’t seem to have enough of a grasp on the questions to bluff her way through with something vague but halfway cogent sounding. This suggests that she’s either profoundly ignorant on economic and foreign policy questions, in a deep and architectonic way unlikely to be remedied by a few briefings geared toward filling in the lacunae, or that she’s just not terribly bright.

Sure, Palin is probably personable and appealing when she can just ad-lib to her fans, provided the subject is her disdain for coastal latte-sippers or her fictional rejection of government largesse.  The truly strange thing about this whole narrative, though, is that the high point of Palin-love, the moment the hacks are all wistfully recalling now, is the governor’s appalling alpha-Heather schtick from the RNC. In other words, the time we saw her at her most scripted, and with a script penned by one of those very Bush holdovers who are purportedly keeping True Sarah under wraps.

The simplest inference from the available data points, it would seem, is exactly the opposite of the theory behind the calls to “Free Sarah”: At the end of the day, Palin is still basically a local TV news personality. Give her a prompter loaded with punchy zingers, and she’ll deliver it smoothly and with verve. It’s when she’s forced to get interactive that she runs into trouble.

This is, of course, more or less the line conservative have long been pushing about Obama: He’s great with a prepared text, much more uneven in debates. Obama’s problem in that context, though, seems to be a lingering professorial tendency to want to think through his answer in realtime, covering all the angles as though the exchange were some sort of Socratic inquiry, when a well-packaged talking point would better fit the bill. This, to put it as mildly and kindly as possible, would not appear to be Palin’s problem.

Update: Jesus, the bar keeps getting lower, doesn’t it? From one of K-Lo’s little pen pals at The Corner:

She is over kicking her coverage (in football phrasing) in trying to earnestly answer questions about Senator McCain’s history of reform in Congress (she is not a Congressional historian) or trying to recall past Supreme Court decisions besides Roe v. Wade (she is not a legal scholar).

The “legal scholar” is the one that really kills me.  As though a passing familiarity with important Supreme Court decisions were the exclusive province of academic specialists, rather than, you know, the most minimal sort of prerequisite for considering yourself an educated citizen. But of course, as we’re sure to be reminded, lots of ordinary Americans probably couldn’t name another important Supreme Court case, just as lots of Americans (we were admonished) don’t know what the Bush Doctrine is. I keep waiting for the tongue-clucking op-ed observing that fully half of Americans are of below-average intelligence.

Of course, the vast majority of Americans aren’t remotely qualified to be Vice President either. But it’s apparently embedded in our cultural DNA now that anyone can follow their dreams, achieve any goal… more or less by wishing, regardless of personal merit. Palin is the logical upshot of The Secret, reality TV, and a million goofy Hollywood comedies, all conspiring to tell us that utterly unremarkable folks can wake up to find themselves rich, famous, and successful more or less at random.

You can get away with calling  Harvard golden boy Barack Obama underqualified, because that plays to the politics of ressentiment: “See, he’s not such a hotshot after all.”  But say the same of Sarah—or at any rate, so this rhetorical strategy assumes—and you risk cutting a little too close to home. In my cynical moods, I find myself suspecting that’s precisely why she was chosen.

Tags: Horse Race Politics


       

 

48 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Joe // Sep 30, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Tina Fey popped Palin’s bubble. But the real issue that must not die is how her selection and lack of proper vetting reflects poorly on McCain’s judgment. This, and that postponement of the GOP convention for a day to deal with Ike and the “suspension” of his campaign to parachute into DC and save Congress from itself, and the premature claiming of credit on the bailout all underscore McCain as an impulsive, rash and imprudent politician, precisely what we do NOT need, as we already have one in the White House.

  • 2 maryb // Sep 30, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    McCain likes to say , brag about, his reputation as a “maverick”,, loose cannon comes to my mind. It was highly “unpatriotic” for him to, realizing he might die in office, saddle the american public with someone totally unprepared to lead the nation, let alone be commander in chief. It says “I don’t care what happens to America, just so I get elected. He is a hothead too, we can’t afford that either.

  • 3 Julian Sanchez // Sep 30, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Joe:

    What really kills me is that (1) Palin essentially proved beyond parody; the verbatim quotes in that sketch were as funny as anything produced by the comedy writers, and (2) Fey actually can’t help coming off smarter than her template, even when she’s trying to ditz it up.

  • 4 mds // Sep 30, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Fey actually can’t help coming off smarter than her template

    That’s given me a terrifying idea. What if the idea all along was to choose a Tina Fey lookalike, only to replace her with Tina Fey at just the right moment? Come the VP debate, she’s suddenly able to speak halfway-intelligently in coherent sentences. And they ride that all the way to victory in November. “Live from the Naval Observatory, it’s Saturday Night!”

  • 5 David // Sep 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I think a lot of people neither liberal nor conservative like myself who follow the news realize that people are doing whatever it takes to “get” Palin. Seeking to lows that they would never do if Palin was a man or a Washington insider… like Biden. I don’t have to agree with any of her policies to know that I completely disagree with how Obama and the press think they’re running against the VP candidate in a sleazy fashion.

  • 6 ted // Sep 30, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    David,
    I would disagree that Obama and the press have run against Palin in a sleazy fashion. There has been some ugly stuff in the blogosphere, but that has happened on both sides.

    As to the press, I think that they have been quite restrained, given Palin’s propensity to repeat things that are not true and that they have called her on, and given that she has disrespected them by not holding a press conference.
    I also think that there is resistance/disbelief that McCain would select someone so underqualified for the job. I think that Julian hits the nail on the head when he says

    “she’s either profoundly ignorant on economic and foreign policy questions, in a deep and architectonic way unlikely to be remedied by a few briefings geared toward filling in the lacunae, or that she’s just not terribly bright.”

    This also puts the press in a delicate situation. If they say that, as folks like Cafferty and Zakaria have, it looks like they are beating up on her for cultural reasons. If they hold their tongue, as Howard Kurz suggests they have, they feel like they are engaged in self-censorship.

  • 7 Andrew // Sep 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Is it necessary to have the phrase “cum-shooting” in the first sentence? Yuck.

  • 8 Lois // Sep 30, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    That we have to be “careful” about not “respecting” or “showing enough deference” to our vice president (so that we can’t even question her statements on the bridge to nowhere, the trooper firing, Russia being next door and how it qualifies as foreign policy expertise, her statement that we can’t 2nd guess Israel, how a voter asking a question is now “gotcha journalism” and her ridiculous comments re the bailout and healthcare) is the issue. The press – and Americans – should continue to demand some level of serious answers from McCain about why his selection of this person is really putting Country First. It is saddening that the press is too busy worrying about offending McCain or distressing the delicate Palin that they are unwilling to expose this. Of course, after the election, we will get all of the inside details. But for now, we pretend as if Palin is actually a legitimate candidate and “hope” voters recognize she is not. Very sad, indeed.

  • 9 Gil // Sep 30, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    This may all be right, but I’m not ready to pronounce severe judgments about her abilities on these few examples. I suspect that many smart people could be made to look foolish given the right combination of questions and attempts to follow coached scripts and advice.

    Maybe the debate will help settle the issue.

  • 10 Tia // Sep 30, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Perfectly stated!

    I too am amazed by the “arguments” made by Palin’s defenders in their attempts to justify her disastrous interviews. It is painfully clear that Palin does not have even a remote grasp on national or domestic issues.

    Although I would not characterized Palin as bright, I don’t think she is stupid either. (even though many of her answers were the epitome of vacuity). I believe she is a person of average intellegent that is in way over her head.

    McCain should be ashammed of himself for placing Palin in this perpetual loop of embrassement but, more importantly he should be whipped for insulting the voters intelligence.

  • 11 Joe in Boxborough // Sep 30, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Andrew, I believe that if something crude had been intended, the punctuation would have been “,cum-” rather than “-cum-“. In this case the word is a Latin preposition meaning “with” and is somewhat misused as a conjunction to convey the notion that “shooting star” might be as good a choice as “rising star”.

    Of course I’m only guessing at the author’s intent, and the page source does show hyphens rather than dashes. Still, a debate guy is more likely to prefer Latin to generic vulgarity.

  • 12 ted // Sep 30, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Gil,
    A press conference would solve the issue. The debate might, depending on whether there is the opportunity for follow up. We all know that Gov. Palin can read from a script. We don’t know whether she can think.

  • 13 Chris // Sep 30, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    ted writes “…and given that she has disrespected them by not holding a press conference.”

    The disrespect began on the media’s part, even before Charles Gibson’s arrogant-cum-ignorant “Bush Doctrine” query.

    80% approval rating by those who know her best. Ah, you chortle, “that’s easy to do as governor of AK.” Oh, really?

    Why isn’t anyone, including the McCainiacs, making this obvious argument? We don’t expect VPs (or Ps for that matter) to be experts in everything. The federal gov’t is comprised of every conceivable agency and department under the sun. As for foreign policy, we have State, DoD, CIA, etc, staffed with thousands upon thousands of career professionals whose collective expertise is always and immediately available to the P and VP.

    We don’t need candidates who can wow us with their wonkish *knowledge.* Nixon, Carter, and even Clinton could do that. What we need is character, courage, integrity, and the ability to distinguish between good and bad advisors/advice.

    Sarah Palin has those qualities. And she has proven her ability to grow into the demands of higher office.

    If SP succeeds in embarrassing, not herself, but her enemies and critics with her debate performance, how many of you will have the character to apologize? Not many, I’m sure. We know your type.

  • 14 EarBucket // Sep 30, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Another vote for rephrasing the unforunate (and unintentional, I’m sure) description of Palin as a “cum-shooting star.”

  • 15 Brian // Sep 30, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    I find it completely funny that people still try and defend Gov. Palin. Look at the few interviews she has given since her selection. They are bad folks come on, she makes Bush sound better and that is really bad. I won’t disrespect her by blasting her or anything, I’ll show some respect. I just think she is over her head, and if McCain wanted a female on his ticket there are several other women in the Republican party to choose from. We will see on Wednesday how it goes, I hope the Bush/McCain team has prepared her well.

  • 16 Daggermouth // Sep 30, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    I’m still betting that the MSM ultimately will opt for the safe, don’t-make-waves approach. As in 1984, when Reagan showed up for the second Presidential debate with a rehearsed quip about his age and was declared the winner on the spot by an obviously relieved press corps. Or 2000, when W’s lack of preparation and knowledge were somehow declared off-limits by most mainstream news organizations. As others have already pointed out, the bar for Palin has been set so low for her upcoming debate that almost any indication that she is aware of her surroundings will be enough to secure her a draw or better in the opinion of these official observers. Maybe I’m wrong — perhaps this time the media will be in no mood to split the difference as they have done in every previous campaign. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

  • 17 pedantic // Sep 30, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    “rising star–cum–shooting star” – isn’t it obvious? They thought she was a rising star, but she turned into a shooting star. That is, burned fast, then burned out. The vulgar version is
    spelled ‘come’ anyway.

    Chris says: “What we need is character, courage, integrity, and the ability to distinguish between good and bad advisors/advice.”

    So how about that choice for attorney general in Alaska? Did it show the ability to distinguish?

    Cheers.

  • 18 ted // Sep 30, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Chris,
    You say that the media was disrespectful to Palin. What would be your evidence for this claim?
    I do agree with your assessment of the Gibson question, but Palin’s answer was not particularly inspiring.
    I don’t argue that she did not start off well as governor of Alaska. I would like to see if she actually gets that pipeline built…

    To me, Julian’s point about her lack of a conceptual universe for understanding policy is critical. I think the better title for the posting might have been “Rebel without a Clue”. I think that she responds to a lot of these issues like a high-school senior.

    I also do not have great faith in her ability to pick advisors, given her tendency to put her high school friends into executive offices in Alaska. And as to her integrity, her descriptions of the bridge to nowhere leave me with considerable doubts about her willingness to tell the truth.

  • 19 DH Walker // Sep 30, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    David,

    Quite the contrary. The press has given Obama plenty of opportunities to criticize Palin directly, and he refuses to. His insistence is that voters focus on the top of the ticket (McCain).

    And if you think the press is going after Palin in a manner even marginally similar to their wall-to-wall Jeremiah Wright nonsense, then I really have to question what you base your opinion on, other than the conservative talking points du jour.

  • 20 DH Walker // Sep 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Ted,

    She can lie with a straight face, too. Don’t forget that.

  • 21 DH Walker // Sep 30, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Chris,

    You want character, and are defending an ethically corrupt serial liar? I understand mythology and wishful thinking, but you shouldn’t base your political views on those things.

  • 22 Micha Ghertner // Sep 30, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Andrew // Sep 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Is it necessary to have the phrase “cum-shooting” in the first sentence? Yuck.

    Andrew wins the thread.

  • 23 ppcli // Sep 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Chris: “80% approval rating by those who know her best. Ah, you chortle, “that’s easy to do as governor of AK.” Oh, really?”

    Even George W. Bush managed 80% approval ratings for awhile. Does that make you want him as president again?

    She has been on a honeymoon after her election, at a time when oil prices have been soaring, allowing the government to cut thousand dollar checks to each Alaskan. Under these circumstances, temporarily high approval ratings can be achieved. Nothing makes a new politician seem appealing like big chunks of cash.
    The approval ratings are already dropping – around 60% when last polled, and that is factoring in the “local girl made good” factor. After McCain – Palin are bounced in the election, and the McCain people stop running the Alaska governor’s office, I expect the air to go out of that popularity balloon very quickly.

  • 24 Pacific moderate // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:11 am

    And ppcli, let’s also remind Chris that “those who know her best” are currently investigating her for abuse of power while in office, and have been saying things like “Look at what she’s done to this state. What would she do to the nation?”
    (State Senate President Lyda Green, a Republican).

  • 25 Julian Sanchez // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:32 am

    Let me just second the sentiment that anyone who thinks Palin’s tenure in Alaska exhibited character, integrity, or wisdom in choice of advisers cannot possibly have been paying attention.

  • 26 The Modesto Kid // Oct 1, 2008 at 11:23 am

    New right-wing talking point: misogynistic lieberals describe Sarah Palin as a “cum-shooting star”

    (Excellent post.)

  • 27 caliban // Oct 1, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Just for the record, I would argue that a great majority of Americans could name one case other than Roe: Miranda. One of the reasons Miranda was not overturned is that the SC thought it had permeated our culture so much that it had been accepted.

    I don’t see how anyone who couldn’t name Miranda should be vp. It is such basic knowledge that to not know it is simply inexcusable.

  • 28 Bill // Oct 1, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I asked my 19 year old daughter today to name a Supreme Court decision other than Roe v Wade and she immediately said Brown v the Board of Education. This woman is in no way qualified to be the VP.

  • 29 ppcli // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I do think that she probably could at least allude to several supreme court decisions she disagreed with, but also realized that her understanding of them was so superficial that she’d look like even more of a fool if she tried to discuss them. (“Y’know, that Carmen Miranda decision that got us to read terrorists their rights. We’ve got to shake that one up even if we have to ruffle a few feathers.”)

    The strategy of “look like a moron rather than answer a dangerous question” has kept Alberto Gonzales out of jail (so far) so maybe it can get McCain-Palin into the whitehouse too. Given that more or less a quarter of the people in the country think Bush is a great president, nothing would surprise me anymore.

  • 30 Mozza // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    How true that she’s not a Congressional historian nor a legal scholar! But she’s not a anybody either. She’s John McCain’s running mate for VP. How does that justify that shouldn’t know about McCain’s legislation or two decisions form the Supreme Court?

  • 31 nitpicker // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    A transcript of a few minutes from last evening:

    ME: Son, name a supreme court case.

    13-YEAR-OLD-SON: Roe v. Wade.

    ME: Name another one.

    13-YEAR-OLD-SON: Brown v. Board of Education.

    ME: All right. Did you know Sarah Palin–

    13-YEAR-OLD-SON: We talked about Plessy v. Ferguson in school and, um,…somebody…versus, um, Madison.

    ME: Well, you’re overqualified for the role of Republican VP candidate.

    13-YEAR-OLD-SON: I knew that already.

    Oy.

  • 32 CogDis // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Palin clearly hasn’t thought about any of the issues she will be dealing with every day in the event she becomes President: the economy, foreign affairs, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Supreme Court appointments, etc. She is attempting to be elected for a job and she has apparently shown no interest in the principal functions of that job.

    She could not name a single newspaper or magazine that she regularly reads.

    Please let that sink in.

  • 33 The Pop View // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    What baffles me is trying to keep track of qualifications. Both Clinton and McCain insisted that experience is critical and faulted Obama for his book-learning. Now we are told that Sarah Palin is well-read and a quick learner.

    If that’s the new metric, then I think Obama wins that battle.

    But wait! We are also told that Sarah Palin is from the working class and is a regular Joe Six Pack. She also compared herself as a new & fresh alternative to Biden’s experience.

    Which means dumb & inexperienced is the winning track?

  • 34 Al // Oct 1, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Half of the population isn’t below *average* intelligence. Half the population is below *median* intelligence.

    Gotta love the nit picker!

  • 35 Julian Elson // Oct 1, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    The part that bothers me the most isn’t so much Palin’s ignorance as her… well, her apparent “après McCain, le déluge” attitude.

    Imagine that you are you suddenly find that you are tapped for a position — captain of a ship, police commissioner, corporate CEO, cardiac surgeon, air traffic controller, whatever — in which you will have immense responsibilities and in which your capacity at your job is critical to the well-being or even lives of many people. It doesn’t have to be as many people as the president of the U.S. Maybe it’s only a hundred, or only fifty, but at any rate, if you screw up, this will have a significant adverse effect on the people for whom you are responsible.

    Now imagine that you find that you aren’t qualified for this job. You’re way out of your league. You don’t know the basics of what would be necessary. You aren’t really even aware of what your job involves. Just that many other people depend on you doing it well.

    How would you feel? A bit of vertigo, perhaps? Some existential terror? Perhaps you’d wish that your heart would just take a break from it’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year pumping schedule and switch off for a few minutes so that you could conveniently die rather than have to face your new responsibilities utterly unprepared?

    At any rate, though, suppose you know that there are dozens of other people more qualified than you who are willing — even eager — to take it. Wouldn’t you scramble to attempt to tell everyone that this new job is a big mistake — that someone else, someone qualified, should have it?

    At any rate, that’s how I’d feel. That’s how, I suppose, most people would feel. If someone offered to let me try to perform a cardiac bypass without knowing quite how, and there were qualified surgeons around, I wouldn’t just say, “well, I’ll wing it and see if it turns out alright.” Moreover, I think we’d regard someone who did have such a flippant attitude toward others’ lives as morally monstrous: a sociopath, perhaps. Even if our hypothetical amateur cardiac surgeon did the best job she could, and earnestly tried to do a good job on the surgery, that wouldn’t be enough for her to be anything but completely culpable if anything went wrong.

    So where does that leave Palin? Either she’s so ignorant that she doesn’t even recognize her own ignorance, or she’s chillingly callous. I actually would prefer the former — being oblivious to the gaps in one’s knowledge or the responsibilities one is about to assume is a lot more comforting (somehow) than the idea that she is so utterly amoral that she doesn’t see any problem with assuming a position for which she isn’t qualified but which involves vast, life-and-death responsibilities that affect millions

  • 36 Ming // Oct 1, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    So little is known about Palin, even conservatives should be concerned. Once she’s in the Oval Office, she may govern like an extreme liberal. She has never given a press conference; we simply don’t know anything about her. She may not even bother to take a phone call from the very Republicans who are helping her right now. This is quite a gamble for the country!

  • 37 Ol' McCreedy // Oct 1, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    The problem with Julian Elson’s comment is that being VP is nothing like surgery. For one thing, the VP doesn’t make split second, highly technical decisions that require specialized education to save someone’s life. We have a government of checks and balances so no one would have that responsibility. So it’s obvious why a politician would not just go away. Under the terms as you’ve framed them, no one is ever anywhere near prepared to be president or VP. The VP doesn’t perform “cardiac bypass” on the nation. But it’s scary to frame the debate that way.

  • 38 Ol' McCreedy // Oct 1, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Ming,

    Why should conservatives be afraid of that? They could vote for (1) someone who potentially would govern like a liberal, but it’s highly unlikely that she will since she’s a Republican and has no incentive to; or they could vote for (2) someone they’re convinced would govern as a liberal since he campaigns as a liberal.

    There are reasons to be concerned about Sarah Palin. But that she might govern as a liberal is not one of them.

  • 39 Ol' McCreedy // Oct 1, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Julian,

    Who cares if Tina Fey is smarter than Palin? Since when do we elect the smartest person? Why don’t we have a series of exams that test a wide variety of subjects, and whoever scores the highest is president? That’s ridiculous. The Unabomber might be up near the top. I’m sure he’s smarter than Palin and Biden and Bush and probably just about anyone else who spends his or her life running for public office.

    There are plenty grounds on which to criticize Palin. Tina Fey potentially being smarter than her, based on a prepared performance with no dissent, is an exceedingly weak one.

  • 40 Julian Elson // Oct 1, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    What is the worst possible consequence of an amateur attempting a cardiac bypass?

    I would say that the worst possible consequence (a fairly likely one) is a single fatality.

    Do you really think that our system of checks and balances means that an individual making low quality decisions as president or vice president of the United States never has consequences more severe — and, indeed, always less severe — than a single fatality?

  • 41 Julian Elson // Oct 1, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Look. Presidents make decisions which kill people. Or sometimes they don’t make decisions and their inacton kills people. Okay? Bill Clinton’s decisions and indecisions lead to people being burnt to death in Waco and people being hacked to pieces with machetes in Rwanda. George Bush’s decisions have lead to thousands of people dying in Iraq, drowning in New Orleans, and some being tortured to death in secret camps. I would bet that even the best presidents, presiding in the most placid times, have made errors in judgment that have lead to at least one needless fatality. I believe that Barack Obama will probably make at least one such decision during his term(s) if elected, and I am an Obama supporter.

    If president, Palin will have to make the same kinds of calls that Clinton did while the ATF and FBI besieged the Branch Davidians, or that Bush did when he appointed Michael Brown as head of FEMA. The only way that she won’t have to make those kinds of calls is if she is reduced to some sort of ceremonial role like the Emperor of Japan, and someone else will make those calls instead. If that’s what you’re pinning your hopes on, why not support that someone else for VP?

  • 42 Dan G. // Oct 2, 2008 at 2:41 am

    I think Julian Elson makes some good points, but I don’t think it’s entirely fair to limit the outcomes of his argument to ignoramus’ ignoramus vs. callous monster. To expand on the heart surgery example: imagine you were asked to perform that cardiac bypass, but also imagine that despite your misgivings, an entire organization of qualified surgeons not only rallied to your defense (despite your inexperience, and in some cases, even because of it), but actually went on record that you were particularly well-suited to work on this case; imagine if you weren’t necessarily being asked to lead the surgical team, but directly assist the chief doctor, and perhaps even learn from his accumulated wisdom and experience; imagine that you were told your lack of surgical experience could be overlooked because your particular skill-set added something invaluable to the procedure; and so on… To be sure, we should expect (even demand) of Palin that she approach her decision with honesty and clarity. But her selection is not so much indicative of her personal failings as it is an organizational debacle. Which means maybe we should be asking whether the Republican leadership is stupid or dishonest.

    One last point: imagine if those qualified surgeons made it clear to you that, should the patient die on the table, there would be no shortage of scapegoats, and that you might even come out of this looking like an even more appropriate candidate to be in the operating room the next go-round. Stupid or dishonest or extremely cynical?

  • 43 Joshua // Oct 2, 2008 at 9:56 am

    What made Palin’s answer particularly appalling is that the question was one which her “base” – about the only people left who still think she’s of any value – absolutely salivates over. Ranting about the activist liberal Court is precisely what these people want to hear about.

    She could have gone to town on Kelo v. New London (although that may blunt her ardent “federalist” position). She could have criticized Engel v. Vitale or, even if she didn’t know the case names, said something like “I think, in several cases, the Court has been far too aggressive in preventing students from acknowledging their spiritual beliefs in school.”

    That was not a gotcha question. That was a juicy fat pitch waiting to be clobbered out of the park. Or perhaps we should say an “empty netter” for Palin.

    She blew it. Not just because the “elites” mock her for her utter ignorance and lack of curiosity. But because she couldn’t satisfy even the people who support her. I suppose there are still several people who will back her so long as she’s not busted running a meth lab back in Wasilla. But now there are even “base” supporters who are shaking their head in disbelief.

  • 44 LaFollette Progessive // Oct 2, 2008 at 10:36 am

    “If Palin became president and started making off-the-wall decisions about major matters, her advisors and the leaders of the GOP would do something about it. “

    You know, I might have taken this argument seriously in January, 2001. But coming from anyone who has lived in the United States of America for the past eight years, I would consider this statement to be evidence that the speaker has received an amateur lobotomy.

  • 45 Julian Sanchez // Oct 2, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Yes, since you asked, we all got our daily enciphered marching orders from Koch Central (couriered, as usual, in a black envelope by a man who, according to official records, does not exist) a few months back. Once we’ve ushered Obama into the White House thanks to our combined media might, we’ll flash him the Queen of Diamonds and instruct him to implement the highly classified Protocols of the Elders of the Chicago School.

  • 46 bayesian // Oct 2, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Dan G., good point. Plus add the religious aspect, the belief that in some fashion Ghod has told you to do this and/or chosen you for it, and it’s more understandable.

    Further, when your life experience has taught you that you can charm/BS/joe sixpack your way through each challenge, why not see this as another chance to up your game? Not moral monstrosity, just fairly typical humanity.

    For all the Palin-defenders out there, remember particularly Tyler and A. Johnson.

  • 47 Eunomia » The Clueless Leading The Uninformed // Feb 5, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    [...] The Clueless Leading The Uninformed Posted on September 30th, 2008 by Daniel Larison Digg  Stumble Upon  Newsvine  Slashdot  Mixx  Diigo  Google  Delicious  Reddit  Facebook   It’s fundamental cluelessness about how the economy works, and a demonstrable inability to conceive of foreign policy in anything but the crudest terms. ~Julian Sanchez [...]

  • 48 ゴヤール // Jan 20, 2012 at 2:27 am

    hen your life experience has taught you that you can charm/BS/joe sixpack your way through each challenge, why not see this as another chance to up y

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