Thursday, September 18, 2008


I watched Sarah Palin's interview with Sean Hannity last night (transcript here; video clips from Fox here or at YouTube here).

I really tried to watch her the way an undecided voter might. And I'll admit it: maybe I can't actually do that. Maybe I can't put myself in a heartland swing voter's shoes.

But I think Palin, trying to come off as a potential national and global leader, seemed instead like the HR representative who's summoned America into the conference room to do a presentation on the bosses' new, crappy, drastically diminished health-care plan.

You can't tell whether she actually understands what she's telling you because she's determined to stick to the script of the PowerPoint presentation -- and when you ask her a pointed question about how this is going to affect your ability to get treatment for your chronically ill seven-year-old, she just reverts to a variation on a bullet point in that script, or she launches into banal generalities and folksy homilies, along with the occasional cheery verbal punch to the shoulder ("Well, I'll tell ya"). Does she simply not know the answer you want? Or is it her strategy to offer nothing but the script and some happy talk because that's the way she's going to keep you mollified?

When you encounter a person like Palin in real life, you don't think, This person is in charge. You think, The people in charge installed this person as a big, perky roadblock so I can't possibly get to them. She's a human phone tree.

She loses every bit of the vigorous pugnacity that made some people think, after seeing her convention speech, that she could be a world-beater and a champion of ordinary citizens. She might still have that pugnacity in stump speeches, and it may well come back in the Biden debate, but when she's not taking on an enemy, she seems toothless. She's a functionary, a bureaucrat.

So I hope she does a lot of very polite sit-down interviews. They reduce her to almost nothing.


Here's Palin talking to Hannity and really drilling down to the specifics of the financial crisis:

... we've got to get a more coordinated and a much more stringent oversight regime.

Not that government is going to be solely looked to for the answers in all of the problems in Wall Street, but government can play a very, very appropriate role in the oversight as people are trusting these companies with their life savings, with their investments, with their insurance policies and construction bonds and everything else.

When we see the collapse that we're seeing today, you know that something is broke and John McCain has a great plan to get in there and fix it.

In other words: Something is wrong and we're going to do something.

That's the kind of answer she gives Hannity throughout -- just like the much-mocked answer she gave at a Michigan rally yesterday when she (gasp!) took questions from the crowd and was asked to list "specific skills" she has in foreign policy:

Well, I think because I'm a Washington outsider that opponents are going to be looking for a whole lot of things that they can criticize and they can kind of try to beat the candidates here, who chose me as his partner, to kind of tear down the ticket. But as for foreign policy, you know, I think that I am prepared and I know that on January 20th, if we are so blessed as to be sworn into office as your president and vice president, certainly we’ll be ready. I’ll be ready. I have that confidence. I have that readiness.

And if you want specifics with specific policy or countries, go ahead and you can ask me. You can even play stump the candidate if you want to. But we are ready to serve.

Translation: You asked me what my specific foreign policy skills are, and my answer is that I have them, and you're free to ask me about them -- anytime!

And here's another one from the same campaign rally -- it's getting less attention, but it's just as shamelessly evasive. Palin is asked by a former Hillary Clinton supporter to provide "some details and examples of your strategies and plan for economic empowerment for women." After talking about being a Title IX beneficiary as a high school basketball player, she says this:

Now if we have to still keep going down that road to create more legislation, to get with it in the 21st century, to make sure that women do have equality especially in the work place, then we're there because we understand that in this age we have all got to be working together. I respect you so much that you are a Democrat recognizing that John McCain and me as a team of mavericks understand where you're coming from, and we can work together on these issues. But yup, equality for women, for all, that’s going to be part of the agenda and I thank you for that question.

Wow. Her "strategies and plan" are: I don't know if we'll need more legislation, but if we do, then, yup, let's have some!

She doesn't even seem to be answering the questions. I think even low-information voters want more than this -- you can avoid giving specifics, but if so I think you have to provide some kind of point of view, or rally voters around a real or imagined culprit, or something. Palin identified plenty of culprits in her convention speech -- but now she's just mouthing platitudes.

She's not going to fire voters up that way. Which is why I hope she never stops taking this kind of question, and never stops giving this kind of answer.


(Last link via American Street.)

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