Sarah Palin & The GOP's Future

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession. I really like Sarah Palin.

Palin has been the focus of many post-mortems, most of it unfair. The only time the GOP was excited, or McCain led in the polls, was in the immediate aftermath of her selection as Veep and her debut speech at the Republican National Convention. She was spunky, attractive, could connect with the base and, even more importantly, she could caress the camera. Her convention speech was electrifying. And, the sight of a mother with five children, especially her "perfect" infant with Down’s Syndrome, was heart-warming to all but the nastiest of snobs.

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Now, it turns out, Palin didn’t know Africa was a continent. And her experience as a governor was not only brief but exceptional: Alaska is not a typical state. When other governors have to balance budgets carefully, weighing the effects of a reduction in services versus a rise in taxes, Palin gets to decide how much of the state’s oil revenue should be distributed back to the citizens. The state has no income tax, no sales tax and no property tax. Palin has had little exposure to a broad swath of national policy issues because of Alaska’s differentness, but a stint as head of the Republican Governor’s Association would fill-in that deficit.

Palin’s performance in her first interview with Charlie Gibson was tenuous at best. Her follow-up with Katie Couric was a disaster. I do blame her handlers for most of this. Instead of trying to pretend that the physical proximity of Alaska to Russia was of any analytical value, or that her status as commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard provided her with a grounding in national security issues, her staff should have assured her that there is nothing wrong with saying, "Hey, I am a governor. We leave the foreign policy issues to the national government. And, I will be learning about those issues at the hands of a master, John McCain." Instead, she came across as unintelligible and unintelligent, the perfect foil for a Saturday Night Live skit.

Still, those stumbles will be long forgotten in four years and will be easily attributed to her novice status. Her ability to connect with a crowd or a camera and her skill at delivering a stem-winder of a speech will remain.

Palin will also have something four years hence that she lacks today: chits. The day after the election, every state party chairperson faces the same immediate task of replenishing the coffers. And, if you are the state party chair in Ohio or Connecticut or Oregon, and you are thinking that for your big fundraising banquet next year, you want to charge $250 rather than $150 but are worried about whether or not you will be able to fill the room, call Palin. If you book her as your speaker, you will fill that room easily. The base of the party loves her and will open their checkbooks. This time next year, Palin will have acquired a lot of chits and will have the fundraising contacts that are the first step in any presidential bid.

As the GOP regroups from its devastating loss on Tuesday, and the Washington leadership of the party looks tired and out of ideas, Palin remains the one piece of exciting GOP news this year. Keep your eye on her. I would put money on the proposition that she will be their nominee in 2012.

 

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9 years ago
We'll see. I agree that it looks like she was over-managed by the campaign but Biden was managed (as is every VP candidate) and he handled it well enough. At the end of the day I can't help but think she needed the handling because she was not even close to being able to do it on her own. It could be that she could not handle the content of her handling because she simply didn't know enough to start with. So I have to say that I don't think Ms. Palin has what we need. I am not part of the base of the Republican party so maybe I am missing something, but I just don't believe Gov. Palin is suited for National office. If it is true that she did not know that Africa is a continent (one of the traditional 7 as I learned in grade school) after six years in college--I guess she never reads newspapers--I cannot imagine her in charge of our National interests, ever. The Re4buplican should be able to do better one would think.
9 years ago
I'm glad you like her. If you were an Alaskan woman who has just been raped, you might feel otherwise. One question: How can you be Catholic and Republican at the same time?
9 years ago
The GOP has got to start nominating intelligent candidates for president and vice president. After eight destructive years of Bush/Cheney ideology-driven systemic failure, the American people deserve far better than what the GOP offered in 2008. The most PC description of Palin by a conservative was that she is "intellectually incurious." That's a very nice way of saying dumb as a stump. "Cocky whacko" and "Wasilla hillbilly" are closer to the mark. McCain graduated 894/899 in his class from the Naval Academy, a school he enjoyed admission to thanks solely to legacy affirmative action. His lack of intellectual discipline and mental capacity were pitifully evident throughout his run for the presidency. Maybe the ideology-based anti-intellectualism embraced by the GOP has gone a bit too far. The party needs to review and raise its standards, and stop cattering to the lowest common denominator. This dumbing down business needs to go the way of all failed Rovean policies and tactics. Remember "cocky whacko."
9 years ago
Oh, I like 'er too. She seems like a lot of fun. And if she is indeed able to spend the next four years undoing what appears to have been forty-four years of incuriosity to make herself into an engaged, informed member of political society, while at the same time keeping up with what she tells us is the monumental task of running Alaska, I'll be duly impressed. But as it stands now, if she's the best the GOP's got -- bring it on.
9 years ago
Thank you Michael for a very positive article about Sarah Palin. Your statements are not only fair but also insightful. It's hard for me to understand why so many people find it easy to throw darts at women politicians, be they liberal, like Hillary Clinton, or conservative, like Sarah Palin!
9 years ago
In reading the comments, I have by one response to Claire Bangasser's comment: How can you be Catholic and Democrat at the same time? The Democrat party is the party of abortion.
9 years ago
The office of VP is no place for a novice. Had Sarah Palin a clue about the scope of the demands of this office, she would have flatly declined. Justice demands far better leadership abilities than she has.
9 years ago
IT'S FUNNY, NOT ONE WORD ABPUT PRESIDENT ELECT BARACK OBAMA. SHAME ON YOU.., I AM A CATHOLIC AND I VOTED FOR HIM...
9 years ago
Thank you for a wonderful comment about Governor Palin. She was badly treated and, obviously, a threat to the media, liberals, and so-called "feminist" women from the 1960's who still believe feminism is all about the abortion issue. Palin's strong character and refusal to be afraid to be herself, in spite of the odds, are truly "feminist" qualities, and will be something to look forward to in the future. If, in fact, she is the Republican nominee in 2012, I will be there in line to vote for her.
9 years ago
With parenting comes responsibility. It is not a crime to put your career on hold to raise your children. As a woman, I find it appalling that she would put aside her down-syndrome child, her pregnant child, or a son who was forced to choose between jail time or heading over to Iraq, for politics. And as a woman, I find it disconcerting that she would cut funding on education, not support rape victims, try to ban books from the library, and push creationism in schools. But then again, this is the woman who said that humans and dinosaurs walked the earth 6,000 years ago. Our country is in a mess. Today we got more bad news on our economy. We cannot afford more pettiness. Let's unite behind our new administration and provide a brighter future to our children.
9 years ago
The most refreshing thing about the election of 2008 was the fact that the candidates for both parties, Obama and McCain, seem to be men of intelligence, honor and charisma. They both are statesmen. Sarah Palin, though I had high hopes after her speech at the GOP national convention, seems to lack knowledge, honor, and depth. As a vice-presidential candidate, she was a person simply out of her league. Look to Palin as the GOP candidate for 2012? I think not. A person who does not realize Africa is a continent, has miles to go before ever being considered for that honor.As the old saying goes,''Beauty is but skin deep.''
9 years ago
Unless Obama completely messes up and becomes the second coming of Jimmy Carter (odds are against this happening), Sarah Palin has 8 years to overcome the mudslinging snobs who think you can't have a brain unless you are an Ivy League graduate. So, maybe Senator from Alaska for 8 years, keynote speaker at 2012 convention, 52 years old in 2016, no incumbent to run against.... Her biggest obstacle will be overcoming the media and left wing interest groups enraged that she dares to call herself a woman because she bore children instead of aborting them.... Let's face it, if Joe Biden can be taken seriously, Sarah Palin passes any fair test...
9 years ago
Yeah, Sarah is cute, but the only prime time she's ready for is a reality show. It is shocking that someone with the experience and seriousness of John McCain would choose her as his running mate. The GOP will be doing some serious soul-searching. The thinkers in the party, I think, have already realized that they will have to reach a broader constituency if they want to be viable on the national scene. Since when has ignorance been something to celebrate? Playing on the naivete of their fundamentalist Christian base is not going to work anymore. They are phony populists.
9 years ago
"Spunky, attractive and connect with the base" does not matter once you are sitting at the desk in the oval office after the election. Those "spunky" attributes will not assist you in making informed decisions regarding the economy, health care, social security, taxes, trade agreements and national security. Certainly every president depends on expert advice from the very best in all of these fields, but he/she also needs to understand what these men and women are talking about. That requires a higher level of thinking skills than Sara Pallin has so far displayed.
9 years ago
Mike, she's not dumb. She managed to put herself in the right place at the right time on enough separate occasions to land the highest political office in her state. We all know a Sarah Palin. A pretty girl with a decent brain who just didn't care much but can charm her way to whatever she wants. What I find striking about her is her critical lack of self-awareness. It was obvious to everyone but her that she was completely unprepared for the campaign or the job, and when people pointed that out, she and the McCain campaign tried to deflect by painting the very suggestion as evidence of snobbery, elitism, and jealousy. As we all know now, a certain constituency in the GOP was head-over-heels in love with her and it's not hard to see why. Her closest political counterpart in history is, indeed, Ronald Reagan. The problem, as McCain's advisors soon discovered, is that Reagan leveraged his skill as a trained actor to cover for his knowledge deficiencies -- not to mention that running California and running Alaska are monumentally different tasks. I think McCain's advisors really believed that Palin was the functional equivalent of a brand new GOP laptop. She came preconfigured with some essentials ("executive experience," pro-life cred, and a lovely package) and they assumed they could just load in the rest. But her operating system was predictably full of glitches. So instead of providing reasonable answers to relatively simple questions, she was all too often a blue screen of death. It seems to me that the evangelical wing of the GOP is banking on her ability to rebuild from the ground up; but the unlikelihood of that scenario is only compounded by the fact that almost every one of her system failures was recorded in live color and high definition. Those clips will haunt her for the rest of her political life. But, of course, if she can swing it, more power to her.
9 years ago
I'm sorry I took the time to read this article. As an independent voter, I was insulted by her selection. McCain clearly displayed incredibly poor judgment in choosing this utterly unqualified nonentity as his running mate. Maybe I should feel relieved, in that I can't believe she actually helped the ticket.
9 years ago
I am glad that you like her, I personally can think of a dozen other more capable, God loving women that would have filled the Position of VP better than Sarah Palin. She does not know the Constitution of the United States, became pretty apparent from the start. It's nice that she considers herself Pro Life, but she is Pro War... she is divisive, not a Uniter. So I am very very happy she didn't make it to VP. Thank You
9 years ago
I think it is very cool that the only six people in the world who ACTUALLY BELIEVE that Sarah Palin doesn't know that Africa is a continent have posted on this blog! I hate to be the one who has to break this to you, but just because you hear an absurd, anonymously-sourced, politically-motivated smear about a pro-life religious conservative on the TV news doesn't necessarily mean that it is true. In fact - and I am somewhat embarrassed that I have to tell this to self-described ''curious intellectuals'' - it is really quite common for political operatives to use the media to spread false rumors about their opponents. Of course, you are perfectly free to believe that a successful state governor is ignorant of the most basic facts of grade-school geography, but I am afraid that says much more about your own gullibility than Sarah Palin's intellect.
9 years ago
"Those stumbles will be long forgotten in four years and will be easily attributed to her novice status. Her ability to connect with a crowd or a camera and her skill at delivering a stem-winder of a speech will remain." God help us if the voting public's fickle memory and desire for inane colloquialisms packaged in a telegenic candidate is as powerful as you argue.
9 years ago
Mike Landry - If you are going to be slamming Palin & McCain, in a national publication's blog, by calling them ''dumb'' it would be good if you wouldn't have misspelled the word ''catering''. It appears that you are ''the pot calling the kettle, black''.
9 years ago
If I wanted to fill the room for a fundraiser, I might indeed call Palin. I might also call Hannah Montana. Doesn't mean I want either one of them as VP.
9 years ago
You're kidding right? Sarah Palin is an embarassment to educated women everywhere, Catholic and otherwise. It's telling that you mentioned her looks several times in these few paragraphs. That's about all she's got working for her.
9 years ago
Debra Sanders, do I appreciate your pointing out that I misspelled "catering"? You betcha! And, Natalie Burgess, every woman I know agrees with you that Sarah Palin is an embarrassment to all educated women.
9 years ago
My name is Kay Cashman. I am from Anchorage, Alaska, and the executive editor/publisher of the weekly newspaper Petroleum News (www.petroleumnews.com). I am also co-author of ‘Sarah takes on Big Oil,’ a book about Gov. Sarah Palin’s stormy relationship with Alaska’s big three oil producers. The book, like our newspaper, is factual and does not take sides. Americans had nine weeks to get to know Sarah Palin in the 2008 election. In her next two years in office, she will play a pivotal role in getting a gas pipeline built from the North Slope to Lower 48 markets. She will also play a major role in encouraging more oil and gas production from federal and state leases onshore and offshore Alaska. By the end of 2010 Americans will know what Sarah Palin can accomplish as the chief executive of one of the largest oil-producing states in the union. I am not saying Palin can make progress on either the gas line or pumping up Alaska's petroleum production because weakening oil and natural gas prices will play a part. Plus, the production tax hike pushed through by the Palin administration in 2007 is viewed by many of the oil companies doing business in Alaska as a deterrent to investment. BUT Palin understands the industry and has some industry savvy people working for her, so I will not be surprised if she is able to advance the gas line project, BUT I will be astonished if she can get the oil companies in Alaska to 'drill baby, drill.' Only time will tell. I am trying to reach people who purchased 'Sarah takes on Big Oil’ because the company I work for is offering purchasers a free, two-year, online subscription to Petroleum News. This will give them a chance to keep on top of Gov. Sarah Palin’s performance on critical energy issues, so that in the next national election more Americans will have the facts to assess her competency for office. Please send your receipt to [email protected] to claim your two-year subscription.

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