Sarah Palin, Reality Is No Rehearsal.

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[Election 2008]

Governor Sarah Palin did very well in the Vice Presidential debate. 

She was well handled, well rehearsed, and well prepared. For a ninety minute tightly structured quasi-debate she was able to hold her own. 

She demonstrated a cursory understanding of some very general issues effecting America today. The problem is the real world is unrehearsed; life is live. This was not as her handlers have stated, Sarah Palin “unplugged” or “unfiltered”.  It was just the opposite.  In the few instances where Governor Palin has been “unplugged” and allowed to respond in an unrehearsed fashion she has failed miserably.

Many conservative American’s fell in love with Governor Palin after she delivered a well-written and well rehearsed speech at the Republican National Convention.  Based upon that performance, a floundering McCain campaign became buoyant and gained the support from the Republican conservative base that it had been seeking since he clinched his party’s nomination.

Eight days after her speech at the Republican convention Governor Palin sat down for an un scri pted and unrehearsed television interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson. She demonstrated to America that she has very little if any insight into or understanding of the salient issues that are impacting America today. 

When asked about the Bush Doctrine, Governor Palin had absolutely no clue what Charlie Gibson was referencing. This doctrine is a standing six year old policy of military intervention. One would expect that the person seeking the second highest office in the land would understand a failed doctrine that totally disrupted the world order and nearly bankrupted this nation.

She believes that the war in Iraq is a part of God's plan. Her religious justifications for the invasion in Iraq sound very similar to the Muslim fundamentalists that attacked America; according to them, they were carrying out the will of Allah. This is why religious fundamentalism has no place in foreign or domestic policy. 

When asked if America has the right to make cross-border attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, Governor Palin’s answer was so incoherent that Charlie Gibson had to restate the question by saying “And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there.”

From ABC and Charlie Gibson Governor Palin went to CBS with Katie Couric. Again, this was an un scri pted and unrehearsed television interview. This time she demonstrated that she does not really understand the voting record of her own running mate. When asked to give examples of Senator McCain leading the charge for increased oversight of the financial industry, Governor Palin went into the standard “maverick” line and then said, “I’ll try to find ya’ some and I’ll bring em’ to ya’.”

When asked by Katie Couric in another interview about the newspapers and magazines that she reads that impact her world view, Governor Palin responds, “I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.” When pressed for specifics she responds, “Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.”  She never names one newspaper or magazine. Not even a paper from Alaska like the Anchorage Daily News or the Wasilla Frontiersman.

When asked a question about partisanship in an interview with Sean Hannity, Governor Palin said, “Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.”  What?  “…surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed…” Can you imagine a Vice President Palin on the world stage representing America with mindless dribble such as this?  Has not President George W. Bush been embarrassing enough? 

After these interviews Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric were attacked for being too tough on Governor Palin and engaging in “gotcha” journalism.  As responsible journalists, it was not their fault for asking direct and relevant questions.  It was Governor Palin’s fault for not being able to answer them.

As an informed electorate we should want to hear from and clearly understand the candidate’s views on the economy, health care, international trade, etc.  What’s the basis of Governor Palin’s world view?  Effective foreign policy is based upon a clear understanding of culture, history, economics, and other geopolitical dynamics that motivate people to act and interact.  It is difficult to develop a clear world view when you have not traveled the world.  It is troubling to learn that Gov. Palin received her first passport in 2007 and had only traveled to Canada and Mexico before her trip to Iraq.

As American voters assess and analyze Governor Palin’s performance during the quasi-debate, it is important to understand what they were watching.  They were watching a person who was well handled and rehearsed. This was not Sarah Palin “unplugged”. She was able to manage fairly simple issues for a ninety minute period in front of a live audience.  She did that well. The problem is the real world is unrehearsed; life is live.

Where she fails America terribly is in her obvious lack of command of the subject matter.  Where’s the gravitas? 
What is evidenced through her unrehearsed exchanges with the Gibson’s, Couric’s, and Hannity’s of the world is a person who has not thought much about world events, their causes and effects.  When asked about Iraq, she said, "I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."  Really?  Where have you been since March 20, 2003?

Kathleen Parker, conservative writer for the National Review wrote after the interviews referenced above, “…circumstances have changed since Palin was introduced as just a hockey mom with lipstick — what a difference a financial crisis makes — and a more complicated picture has emerged…As we’ve seen and heard more from John McCain’s running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem...Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.”

If, as President Reagan said, “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere," we must raise the bar not lower it.  After almost eight years of George Bush 43, we can see very clearly the problems that ignorance can cause.  If America is going to be a beacon, the lights must at least be on.  Unfortunately, with what I see from Governor Palin, that light keeps getting dimmer, and dimmer, and dimmer…

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “On With Leon,” a regular guest on CNN’s Lou Dobb’s Tonight, and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Go to or email:
© 2008 InfoWave Communications, LLC.

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