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I see where a few of my friends on the right are calling for the McCain campaign to “unleash” Palin and just let her be herself. This is delusional bordering on willful self deception. With Palin, what you see is what you get. There is no hidden genius. There is no glib, down to earth Will Rogers-like cornpone philosopher just waiting to be freed from the McCain campaign’s efforts to prep her for the media.
The Sarah Palin we have seen in interviews – minus the deliberate cutting and pasting done by the CBS partisans – is the Palin we got: Unsure of herself, light on facts, and clearly (at the present) over her head on the national political stage.
The good news is that all of this can be overcome with a little experience. It’s no accident that Presidential candidate Barack Obama held press “avails” on average once every 8 days during the first 9 months of his campaign. Even after that he made himself available to the press only twice a week. (Every other candidate had daily avails – sometimes twice a day). One might recall the famous Obama avail held in early March where, for the first time, Chicago reporters covering the Rezko mess got to ask the messiah some questions. His response? “C’mon guys. I’ve answered like 8 questions already.”
Never again were the Trib and Sun Times reporters covering the Obama scandals allowed to ask any questions off the cuff. Only Obama “beat” reporters from those publications who were following the campaign were granted access to the candidate. (Obama sat down with editorial staffs of both papers a few weeks later – after massive preparation, of course – and managed to evade the tough questions about Rezko and his real estate dealings with the convicted felon.)
The stumbling, bumbling manner in which Obama answered those questions at the March avail revealed a candidate not ready for high office – which is the obvious reason Obama was protected and hidden by his campaign from the press during those first months.
Palin did not have the luxury of being protected from the press for months as Obama clearly was. No doubt a year from now – if she is elected – her performance in these kinds of interviews as well as press conferences will be adequate if not spectacular. She is not stupid nor does she lack quick wits. Her problem is unfamiliarity and a lack of depth when it comes to knowledge – ignorance if you will – of national issues and her performance reveals that fact painfully.
Of course, the left has jumped all over her with their tried and true personal attack, calling Palin ignorant” and “stupid.” If I had a dollar every time a liberal called a Republican candidate “stupid” I would be wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. Eisenhower (dumb, incoherent), Goldwater (crazy and stupid), Ford (dumb jock and a stumblebum), Reagan (dumb actor), Quayle (can’t spell potato), Jack Kemp (dumb jock), George Bush (dumb playboy). The harsh truth is, the personal attack works when you have the press and other media (think Saturday Night Live riffing off liberal talking points for Ford, Reagan, Quayle, Kemp, and Bush 43), buttressing and playing to that exact same argument. It is a potent combination and only the basic good sense of the American voter has saved the GOP from being shut out entirely over the last 50 years.
Lost in all of this (and the Obama campaign is breathing a sigh of relief for that) is the continuing adventures of the gaffe master himself Joe Biden. The large number of ignorant, incorrect, stupid, incredibly wrong statements by Biden over the last fortnight have been obscured by Palin’s problems. So expect the debate between the two – one ignorant of national issues the other unable to not say the first thing that comes into his head even if it is spectacularly wrong – to be a gaffe fest that will have both campaigns scrambling in the days following to correct the record or trying to undo the damage done by these two.
Biden’s gaffes reveal a shallow, unkempt mind – disorganized, arrogant, and stubbornly resistant to facts. If Palin is “stupid,” what does that make Biden? And, if liberals were honest with themselves (an admittedly forlorn hope), how much more “qualified” is Biden for the presidency than Palin given the extraordinary lack of depth of his character and intellect?
All this begs the question; is Palin qualified to be President if necessary? Right now, if she were forced to take over the top of the ticket I would have to say no. A year from now? I believe she will be as ready as anyone. A year at the center of power would give her all the experience and knowledge anyone would need to become president.
No one believes McCain chose her because she was qualified to become president “from day one.” Few are. She was a political choice as all Vice Presidential selections are. But this idea that there is a hidden Sarah Palin just waiting to be “unleashed” is kooky. She isn’t going to suddenly start speaking in complete sentences or stop repeating herself, or give anything save a thumbnail’s sketch of understanding when it comes to the issues. Perhaps she will be more relaxed during the debate and do a slightly better job of projecting herself. But that’s the best Palin supporters can hope for – for now.
Expectations for Palin are once again lower than dirt for the debate which means if she shows up, stays awake, gives us some charming one liners, and doesn’t make too many egregious mistakes, she wins hands down. I think Biden will not be able to help himself and will, when he is unaware the camera is on him, smile that condescending smile he is known for and set off the women of America on a tirade against him. He is far too arrogant and has too much belief in his own superiority not to treat Palin as he would some dumb hick from Wasilla. That’ll play great with most women in America, trust me Joe.
With Palin, it’s what you see is what you get. Imagining her as something she isn’t is only deluding yourself.