Former Governor Palin & Her Palm Notes

Former Governor Sarah Palin has become an object of criticism and ridicule for writing notes on the palm of her hand while giving a speech and interview in connection with the Tea Party convention. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC went into paroxysms of laughter and hubris-filled disgust that made one question his authenticity and soundness of judgment more than Mrs. Palin’s. Who cares where she wrote down her notes? Why does this matter at all?

There was plenty that former Governor Palin actually said to the Tea Party convention that was disturbing, no one needs to focus on the sideshow of her palm notes. Palin has a knack for making the hokey comment that drives her opponents wild, in this case asking "how that hopey-changey thing is working out for ya?" Of course, at one level, this is merely a cute attempt to mock the President’s sloganeering during the campaign, although it should be noted that all candidates sloganeer during campaigns. Remember "Read my lips: No new taxes!"? At a deeper level, and among one group of Americans that did not appear to be well represented at the Tea Party convention, President Obama’s election represented a hope and a change that was both historic and deeply personal: For African-Americans, Obama’s election represents the same kind of hope and change that John F. Kennedy’s election represented for Catholics, and Palin is wrong to fail to understand that.


Of course, Palin is not unique in this failure. During the pile-on of Obama before his commencement address at Notre Dame, I kept wondering what the critics, especially the venomous ones, would have to say if they were called upon to preach at St. Augustine Church here in Washington, a historically black Catholic congregation that is somewhat conservative but was also deeply aware of the ground-shifting significance of Obama’s election. Being the first black President is not a free pass on any issue including abortion. But, the inability of some white Americans to see how their words fail to grasp this elemental experience their black fellow Americans have just celebrated shows a lack of human and moral imagination, whether that lack is found in former Governor Palin or in a Catholic bishop.

So, liberals need to start leaving Palin alone on the kind of personal quirks that do not matter and recognize her for what she is: One of the most interesting and compelling voices among conservative Americans, with a bubbly personality that is attractive to many, and a willingness to engage in politics. No matter what you or I may think of her views, hats off to anyone who has the courage to run for office. And, Palin and other critics of the President need to remember that they must differentiate criticism of his policies from criticism of the man. For many Americans, he represents more than a congeries of policies. Catholics around the world kept pictures of JFK on their mantles, whether they voted for him or not and black Americans wince when people demean the hope they feel when they see a black man sitting in the Oval Office and feel included in the American dream in a way they were not before.

Michael Sean Winters

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Helena Loflin
8 years 1 month ago
Palin.  Bubbly personality.  Ignorance is bliss.
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 1 month ago
I'm convinced that much of the emotional energy that Palin taps into is racist.
In the course of my day, catering to the very wealthy, I hear quite a few criticisms of Obama, and 99% of them have nothing to do with his policies.  The one going around yesterday had to do with the African Lions at the Washington zoo.
I appreciate your giving Palin the benefit of the doubt in you column, and, yes, Keith Olberman is obnoxious.
Kenny Jacobson
8 years 1 month ago
Look you wouldn't believe this, but I have read about every Sarah Palin story about this palm thing and they pretty much say the same thing. But you wouldn't believe this article and I thought FOX was bad
Bill Collier
8 years 1 month ago
I have a hard time taking Sarah Palin seriously as a politician (perhaps I'll be proven wrong about that), but her palm-of-the-hand crib notes didn't bother me that much. She's not the first politician to do it, I'll bet, and at most she unintentionally demonstrated that she was being fed a pre-screened question. She's certainly not the first politician to get tossed pre-screened questions, either. 
And I agree that Keith Olbermann can be obnoxious. As slanted as Fox News is to the right, MSNBC often draws the same acute angle to the left. That's why I rarely watch either and prefer instead PBS and some coverage on CNN.
Paul Connors
8 years 1 month ago
You were much more charitable than I would have been. I applaud the Christian manner in which you spoke. 
Mary Sweeney
8 years 1 month ago
The problem with Sarah Palin's notes on her palm is that she thinks it is fine for her but she belittles President Obama for using a teleprompter when giving a formal speech. She maintains that the President cannot function without a teleprompter. Personally I think he did pretty well in the unscripted dialogue that he had with elected Republicans. I have not seen them looking for more similar encounters. Maybe Sarah missed it.
I do agree with Beth that there is a racist root to much of the criticism of President Obama. I also think that many Catholics would be truly shocked to see the similarities between the President's statements on the economy and ''Caritas in Veritate'', Benedict XVI's encyclical, as well as other Church Social Justice teaching. That wouldn't be a surprise. I haven't heard Vatican II mentioned in a US Catholic parish since I returned to the USA in 1990. How would parishioners know? Do you ever see a quote from a Council document on a parish website? Have a look... Very sad.
Carol McKinley
8 years 1 month ago
What a lively discussion!
There's a difference between having such command of the subject matter that you a few prompts and having to read everything you do from a teleprompter. 
The former has some substance.  The latter, not so much.
James Lindsay
8 years 1 month ago
Bill Clinton once delivered an entire State of the Union from memory when his teleprompter died. Anyone feeling nostalgic?

I am more troubled by how Gov. Palin needed advanced help in preparing for her run for office (as reported in the recent book Game Change) than I am by her crib notes. Having handlers is one thing. Having them think for you is quite something else. While the Presidency may be a kind of public role, that is not all it is. You really need to know your stuff to serve and be somewhat interested in the world beyond your ideology. She has not shown herself to be more than her accumulated talking points. I hope that as a nation, we have more sense than to elect a sock puppet as President of the United States.
Carol McKinley
8 years 1 month ago
"Having handlers is one thing. Having them think for you is quite something else. While the Presidency may be a kind of public role, that is not all it is."
But that doesn't bode very well for a President who needed to add 32 czars to what every other President in history was able to make do with, does it.
Helena Loflin
8 years 1 month ago
FYI...George W. Bush had many more "czars" than any president including Obama.  Visit PolitiFact or FactCheck for accurately documented information that debunks a host of such partisan distortions, lies and "manufactroversies."
Carol McKinley
8 years 1 month ago
I'll have to check that out.
Is that the same sight that lists how many servants Michelle Obama assigned for her own personal use?  Something like 30 isn't it?
I don't often agree with Winters, but he's right on this one.   It's a bit of a farce to compare jotting down a few words to remind yourself of the points you want to make and having to read from a teleprompter every time you get in front of a camera.
8 years 1 month ago
"I'm convinced that much of the emotional energy that Palin taps into is racist."
This is absolute nonsense.  I live in the deep south; I lunched today at old time diner here, there was a picture of Pres. Obama on the wall.  Sure, there are some racists out there, but to reduce the entire Tea Party movement to racism is simple-minded and the typical sort of Liberal arrogance that drove me crazy in school.  As a Republican, I'm not fan of Palin, but the vehemence of the media attacks on her only serves to reinforce her positions and actually makes her a VERY sympathetic figure.  Unlike someone like Elizabeth Edwards who, it turns out, is a complete nasty mean-spirited jerk of a person (see GameChange for details), but who gets a free pass because her politics conform.
And as for mocking Obama's teleprompter-itis.  The reason its good fodder is that it reinforces the idea that he's aloof and can't communicate outside highly-staged events.  The notes on the hand HELP Palin's narrative, since I think most ordinary people don't give a bleep about it.  But keep attacking, and I guarantee you, she'll come close to winning a major office.
8 years 1 month ago
Jeff, I do not think anyone suggests  that everyone in the Tea Party movement is racist or even that those with some racist attitudes are not also motivated.  But to ignore that there is some proportion of racial resentment is to ignore American history.  America allowed slavery long before we were a country, and even the inspirational words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution did not put an end to slavery.  And if that sounds too long ago, in my lifetime Blacks were beaten, imprisoned, and murdered for the temerity of wanting to vote or gain a seat at diners.  Blacks have gotten heavier sentences for crack cocaine than whites for regular cocaine, and suffer disproportionately greater rates of poverty.  Doubtless racists are a minority of the Tea Party, but there are signs and slogans that scarcely seem innocent, and America's long history of racial hatred makes those indications hard to ignore.
 And speaking as someone who is a whole lot more liberal than Obama on most issues, I'd just note that the conservative movement really deserves a leader/spokeswoman who is a whole lot smarter and better informed than Governor Palin appears to be.  The ability to express the resentments of a large group of people is not the same as having something positive to contirbute to our national discourse.  Left, right, and center all need serious discussions of the issues-not just angry slogans and sound bites (and please do note the inclusive criticism of the previous phrase).
James Lindsay
8 years 1 month ago
I spoke with independent political activist Carey Campbell today. He contacted quite a few Tea Party organizations and has connections who are members. It is mainly a Republican front organization with paid activists. Scratch a Tea Party member and you will find a GOP precinct captain.


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