Saturday, October 18, 2008
Is Sarah Palin ready to be president? I haven't seen enough of the GOP vice presidential candidate to get a handle on the answer to that question. I know that she wants to finish the job in Iraq. I know that she cut spending in her own state. I also know the woman whom GOP candidate John McCain chose as his running mate is a genuine maverick who stood up to the GOP power boys in Alaska.
I know that the rookie governor who debated rival Joe Biden can perform under immense pressure. I also know that the media are appalled that Palin quipped about Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama "palling around with terrorists." They believe that in so doing, Palin implied that Obama is a terrorist, when in fact, Obama held a political coffee and worked on an education project with one William Ayers, a founder of the radical Weather Underground that bombed the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.
I know what it is like to be angry at unfair attacks -- say, when a Democrat accuses President Bush of, say, going to war in Iraq "to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression."
That would be Obama in 2002. I surmise that McCampaign does not seem confident in Palin's ability to handle the press -- and that does not speak well for her. McCampaign carefully doles out sit-down interviews with select network and radio biggies, friendly and unfriendly -- but the interviews are so infrequent that Palin appears uncomfortable and scripted.
I do not understand why the campaign does not hold daily press conferences with the traveling press corps. For one thing, no group asks more predictable questions than the traveling press corps. And they often look worse than the meat they're grilling.
Palin did falter when television news anchor Katie Couric asked about Supreme Court decisions, other than Roe vs. Wade, with which Palin disagreed. Palin simply did not appear fluent in the ways of the Big Bench, when she needs to convince undecided voters that she cares about the courts, and that she has thought about the stripe of judges she would want to nominate.
I also want to see how she thinks about the rest of the world as events unfold. She can only do that by getting out there and mixing it up. Palin should borrow a page from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who always looked as if she was relishing the give-and-take.
And press conferences would give Palin the opportunity to ask the press why they've spent more time in the last month examining Joe the plumber's license than Joe the senator's voting record.
It is clear that Palin has energized the conservative base, but to win, the McCain/Palin ticket needs to reach out to independent voters who don't quite know what to make of her. On her stump speeches, Palin rarely speaks to the uninitiated and invites them into the tent. That's not how you govern.
Palin's readiness is vital, pundits say, because they must be hard-edged and realistic about the chances of the 72-year-old McCain living through a four-year term. Thus they relentlessly poke Palin yet barely muss Biden's hair.
OK. Let's be uncompromisingly realistic. McCain's 96-year-old mother is ticking and lucid. Obama's mother died of cancer at age 52. Obama, 47, smoked for years and admits to sneaking the occasional cigarette.
So maybe it should have been a bigger story when Biden told Couric, "When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television and didn't just talk about the, you know, princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'" Wrong president, no TV in 1929 -- and Team Obama calls McCain "erratic."
In the debate with Palin, Biden was trying to show what a regular guy he is when he said, "Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie's restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years." One problem: Katie's closed in the 1980s.
Biden's biggest debate gaffe came when he tried to explain that he voted to authorize the war in Iraq -- the one Obama believes was started to distract voters from a bad economy -- because he thought he was voting to help Bush keep the United Nations in line. I don't know about you, but I do not think Americans want a man so easily duped one heartbeat away from the Oval Office.
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