So … the election is just days away and some people have still not made up their minds. So I’ll throw this out there for the undecideds (my attempt, lame though it might be, to get some of them to vote for my guy).
In my opinion, such as it is, Sarah Palin isn’t ready to be president. She’s not a bad human being, but she’s not presidential material. (She certainly may be in eight years or twelve, but she’s not ready now.
Palin is definitely a smart, savvy, shrewd politician. She also makes no bones about her ambition. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. Many politicians and other ambitious people take care to mask their ambition. But many successful and ambitious people choose the opposite tack: They steamroller others with their self-confidence and sheer will to power.
Again, no problem. My problem with Palin is twofold: First, she has no grasp of the nature of the American federal system. She’s apparently never read the constitution, and does not understand, or even seem aware of, that that system has three separate branches.
In my opinion, knowledge of the constitution is a bare minimum requirement for holding office in the United States. Bare minimum.
Second: I’m guessing that her ignorance about the basics of the American system of government stems from a complete lack of intellectual curiosity. I don’t mean that she ought to spend her time contemplating Plato or quantum physics or the meaning of life. But I do think that people who seek power should be able to their agendas and ideas, and when questioned, be able to defend the positions and ideas they express on the campaign trail.
Palin does not appear to have any ideas, other than her own animal, instinctive will to power. When she’s asked a question, what comes out of her mouth is — mush. It’s as if she’s memorized a bunch of talking points, none of which contain any content or substance, and when she’s questioned about one of them, she rummages through her mental file drawer, chooses the appropriate file and dumps it out of her mouth.
For example (you knew there was an example coming, right?): Palin has criticized Obama for his willingness to talk to the world’s leaders. According to her, he plans to, ya know, plop down on the sofa and start chatting, without an “preconditions.”
I’m pretty sure Obama meant and means that he wants to engage in substantive, formal discussions with world leaders, and those discussions that will be preceded by a series of diplomatic negotiations.
Okay. Fine. But if Palin is going to challenge Obama on this point, she needs to have some substantive alternative to her (imagined) notion that he’s going to talk without preconditions. Right? If you’re going to criticize someone, then you need to have something better to offer.
So this week during an interview, Brian Williams of NBC asked Palin a legitimate question.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Gov. Palin, yesterday, you tied this notion of an early test to the president with this notion of preconditions, that you both have been hammering the Obama campaign on. First of all what in your mind is a pre-condition?
PALIN: You have to have some diplomatic strategy going into a meeting with someone like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il, or one of these dictators that would seek to destroy America or our allies. It is so naive and so dangerous for a presidential candidate to just proclaim that they would be willing to sit down with a leader like Ahmadinejad, and just talk about the problems, the issues that are facing them, that’s some ill-preparedness right there.
Palin concedes that Obama needs a “diplomatic strategy,” a point on which Obama agrees.
But the rest of her comment? Blah blah blah blah blah. There’s nothing concise, nothing specific. Palin hasn’t given two seconds worth of though to what she means by “preconditions.” For her, it’s just a talking point for big campaign rallies.
There’s no substance, no — nothing. Again, that’s fine. But if she’s willing to throw the words and attacks around, seems to me that she needs to be able to explain what she means by those words and attacks, AND to offer a specific example of what she would do differently.
Another example: Palin rails against “elites,” claiming that they’re out to “get” her and that they don’t understand “real” (presumably “pro”) America. So Brian Williams asked a logical question:
WILLIAMS: Who is a member of the elite?
PALIN: Oh, I guess just people who think that they’re better than anyone else. And– John McCain and I are so committed to serving every American. Hard-working, middle-class Americans who are so desiring of this economy getting put back on the right track. And winning these wars. And America’s starting to reach her potential. And that is opportunity and hope provided everyone equally. So anyone who thinks that they are– I guess– better than anyone else, that’s– that’s my definition of elitism.
WILLIAMS: So it’s not education? It’s not income-based? It’s–
PALIN: Anyone who thinks that they’re better than someone else.
WILLIAMS: –a state of mind? It’s not geography?
PALIN: ‘Course not.
That’s the best she can do? She uses the word “elite” in every third sentence at her rallies — and yet, she’s clearly not thought about what she MEANS by that word.
If you watch the interview (easy enough to do online) she sighed loudly when Williams asked the question, and paused for a moment, and looked irritated and flustered, probably because here was another member of the elite asking another “gotcha” question.
But if she had THOUGHT about what “elite” means; if she’d articulated a stance on this issue that she brings up so often, well, she’d have had a ready response. But she doesn’t THINK about the meaning of her words. To her, as near as I can tell, words are just tools that she uses to pave her path to power. Palin’s “sound and fury” do, indeed, “[signify] nothing.” (*1)
Right now we Americans have a lot of problems to tackle. Lots of them. We need leaders who have thought about those problems long enough and hard enough to have thought of specific, substantive solutions to them.
Sarah Palin is not one of those leaders.
*1: “Macbeth,” Act V, Scene V.