Maybe Not in 2008, But 2012 is Just Around the Corner

Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate was a surprise for me.  Based on last week’s interviews with Katie Couric and the earlier interviews with Charles Gibson, I truly expected Sarah Palin to implode as the questions got more difficult.  To her credit, and that of her coaches, she didn’t. She came a long way from the woman who didn’t understand the Bush Doctrine and couldn’t name even one national newsmagazine when asked what she read.

To some degree her recovery is a testament to her ability as a quick study.  For someone who may be a step away from the presidency, that’s a good thing.  But I have to wonder why she was apparently so ill informed at the beginning about national and international affairs.

Despite her redemption in last Thursday’s debate, Sarah Palin shouldn’t have been John McCain’s pick for Vice-President.  I say that partly because I truly don’t think that she’s qualified at this time and partly because she didn’t and doesn’t have the ability to give McCain the boost that he needs to win the election.  But mostly I say that because her nomination hampers her ability to be the leader that she may have the talent to be.

I see this same mistake happen time and time again in my work.  Companies will hire a young person and start them on an entry-level job.  If the youngster shows drive, initiative and just a little bit of talent, someone will decide that they are magically ready to operate a sophisticated machine with little or no instruction.  We call it being “thrown into the deep end of the pool”.  Once in a while the kid can swim and survives by innate talent.  Often, they make a few basic mistakes, someone makes the comment that they weren’t as good as they looked and they end up leaving or demoted.   Occasionally they struggle through and survive by self-teaching themselves questionable but semi-effective ways to run the equipment.  We lose a lot of people like that.  People who, with a little time and proper training, could have been good employees.

Sarah Palin is an intelligent woman and a capable politician.  By thrusting her into the national spotlight before she had the proper background and experience, McCain has thrown a giant hurdle slap in the middle of her political future.  First impressions are important and you only get one shot at it.  Sarah Palin’s has been a disaster and it will be very difficult for her to put that behind if she chooses to pursue a spot in national politics.  She started out by flailing in the pool.  Now she’s shown that she can tread water.  Before her next try at a national office, she needs to show the world that she can swim the length of the pool.

Assuming that there are no miracles and the McCain/Palin ticket loses the election, Sarah Plain will have to decide what her next steps should be.  Based on the path she followed during the debate, it seems apparent that she still has aspirations towards national politics.  She did much more to rehabilitate her “first” impression than to further the cause of the McCain campaign.   Maybe that was by direction of the campaign in an effort to remove a distraction from the race, but I have a feeling that she’s already looking towards 2012.  As for her next steps, certainly, she should return to Alaska and continue the reforms that she started.  Beyond that, she needs to begin educating herself in the areas that she has struggled with over the past few weeks.  Finally she needs to keep herself in the national eye and continue to work on correcting the perception that she is ignorant of international and economic issues.

But there’s a more basic perception she should dispel; that being that she is inexorably entrenched with my demographic, main street, middle class America.   Having that connection is vitally important but, if she has presidential plans, she can’t get elected without also connecting with and convincing the rest of the electorate that she understands them too.  Educating herself on issues and solutions will help, but she also has to moderate her habit of using folksy speech in public.

Dropping the “g” on words and talking about “Joe six-pack” in private and during casual appearances is fine, as is mentioning it once or twice in the national arena.  Doing it consistently with a national audience opens the door to being permanently alienated from an important part of the population. Despite the circuitous route she took, Ms. Palin does have a degree in journalism.  Somewhere in that process she had to have taken classes in English grammar and public speaking.  She should review those texts.

Unless McCain’s Hail Mary pass with character assassination works, This election is Obama’s to lose.  Governor Palin must be privately thinking about what comes next and 2012 will be high on her list.  If she does her homework and makes the right moves then she has a shot at the Republican nomination.  Despite comparisons by conservative pundits and academics, she’s not a new-age Ronald Reagan.  She’s a here and now Sarah Palin.  Whether that’s a choice that the American public is willing to embrace is a fact not in evidence.  Check back in 2013.

If she does succeed, then I just hope that she gets that “come hither” wink under control.  If she cuts loose with one of those when she’s sittin’ across the table from the Russian President or the Chinese Premier, things could get interesting.

See Ya,

TD

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