Palin on Thin Ice
September 24, 2008
With today’s kerfuffle over the media being kept away from Sarah Palin’s meetings with foreign leaders — like there was a risk she’d answer their shouted questions? — I’ve been mulling over Colby’s post about the Hannity-Palin “100 percent pure infomercial” interview. I watched both nights, then read the transcripts, and I think the interview hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserved. While I agree with Colby’s assessment that the audience was “treated to a political advertisement aimed at serving the interests of the Republican presidential ticket,” I think the Hannity love-fest offered a valuable look at Palin, perhaps more revealing because she was on such friendly territory. For all the softballs Hannity tossed her way, Palin did not come off very well, in my view. If this was a political commercial, I wasn’t buying the product.
The way she answers questions brings to mind — I have Alaska on the brain, admittedly — the image of a polar bear, jumping from rhetorical ice floe to ice floe, drifting some but eventually managing to get safely to dry land. No flubs, but you get the sense that she could plunge into the icy water at any moment. Palin has an odd tendency to use the same word twice in a sentence, as in, “The people of American realize that inherently all political power is inherent in the people,” or, about John McCain, “He can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.” Or, combining word repetition with another Palin verbal tic, word dropping, this about the economic meltdown: “Well, you know, first Fannie and Freddie, different because quasi-government agencies there where government had to step in because the adverse impact all across our nation, especially with homeowners, is just too impacting.”
Ok, not everyone is Daniel Webster. Palin isn’t the first politician to dwell in the land of anodyne clichés such as, “We sort of have a do-nothing Senate right now where nobody is really wanting to pick up the ball and run with it.” Yet I always got the sense listening to George W. Bush tying himself up in rhetorical knots that his problem was more in the nature of getting the words to come out of his mouth correctly, not so much that he didn’t know what to say. Palin — I’m not so sure.
An Alaska friend tells me that Palin has always benefited from being underestimated. Maybe I’m doing that. Maybe I’ve been around polished politicians too long to appreciate the unvarnished authenticity that obviously appeals to many voters. But there’s no Palin interview I’ve listened to, before or after her selection, that gave me the sense that she had anything but a millimeter-thin understanding of the issues facing the country she hopes to help lead.
Consider this exchange.
Hannity: What is our role as a country as it relates to national security?
Palin: Yes. That’s a great question, and being an optimist I see our role in the world as one of being a force for good, and one of being the leader of the world when it comes to the values that — it seems that just human kind embraces the values that — encompass life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that’s just — not just in America, that is in our world.
And America is in a position because we care for so many people to be able to lead and to be able to have a strong diplomacy and a strong military also at the same time to defend not only our freedoms, but to help these rising smaller democratic countries that are just — you know, they’re putting themselves on the map right now, and they’re going to be looking to America as that leader.
We being used as a force for good is how I see our country.
Whew. Made it to the other side of that one.
Can’t wait for the debate. I bet it will be impacting.