Friday, October 3, 2008

Send Palin Packing

Last night was painful. Just, awful.

I’m sure conservatives who love Sarah Palin will continue to love Sarah Palin. She didn’t drool into her microphone (though the way her bangs moved every time she blinked her eyes was incredibly distracting), so count the evening a success for the governor of Alaska. With expectations that low, it would have been hard for anyone not to surpass them.

But she was clearly out of her league, overly coached and so unsure of her facts that she was forced to stick to pre-scripted talking points whether the question called for it or not. The one and only time Palin seemed confident and sure of herself was when talking about energy. The rest of the time she either lobbed GOP talking points, which Joe Biden effectively swatted down, or donned a folksy “golly gee willikers” persona that struck me as bizarre considering the gravitas of the job she's seeking.

For God’s sake, she winked at the camera. Twice. Three times.

At the vice presidential debate!

Is she running for vice president of the PTA or vice president of the nation? It was panic, pure and simple. Amy Poehler as Katie Couric put it beautifully on SNL when she said: "Forgive me, Mrs. Palin, but it seems to me when cornered you become increasingly adorable. Is that fair to say?"

Yes, that's it exactly. It's all a phony act. When unsure of herself her default is to fall back on this “I'm just regular folks” schtick. It’s such an obvious ploy--one we should all be familiar with, since President Bush has pulled that trick for eight years. It probably worked well for Palin in Wasilla, but it simply doesn’t play on the national stage. It makes her appear to lack substance.

OK, she does lack substance, which means her only selling point is the “outsider” cannard. Her argument seems to be: "Yeah I’m not as polished as someone who’s been in Congress for 20 years but that just proves I’m an outsider who is not entrenched in the ways of Washington. For example, I'm going to talk about whatever I want at a debate, regardless of what the questions may actually be."

Well, there are two problems with that argument. For one thing, her running mate has been in Congress for over 20 years. But more importantly, there’s a difference between being an outsider and being unqualified. She is simply unprepared for this job. We really don’t need another vice president who thinks Article I of the Constitution allows them to pick and choose which legislative branch they belong to depending on the subpoenas they’re facing.

Make no mistake, Sarah Palin is not stupid. But there’s a cold, calculating core to this woman that unnerves me. We’ve seen it in her habit of firing employees who disagree with her and surrounding herself with sycophants. She can try to cover it up with a folksy demeanor all she wants, but anyone who hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid can see it.’s Joan Walsh picked up on something that I noticed, too:
The symbolic moment Palin flubbed was subjective, of course. But I instant-messaged a friend that she lost the debate when Biden choked up over losing his wife and child in a car accident in which his sons were critically injured -- and she went straight back into "John McCain is a maverick." I truly expected her to express human sympathy with Biden, and her failure to do so showed me something deeply wrong with her. But maybe that's just me.

No, Joan, it’s not you. I noticed it, too.

For all her “I’m just an ordinary American!” sales pitch, I don’t get the sense that Sarah Palin is running for the good of the country or to serve the American people. The concept of holding public office as a form of public service seems alien to her. What I do see is a woman who sees an opportunity to achieve career ambitions greater than she ever dared imagine. She’s in it for herself. This is her launching pad; regardless of what happens in November, the 2012 campaign is already underway.

Perish the thought.