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Time for Sarah to Grapple

Palin must confront her fundamental weakness: conveying to the public that she comprehends and can handle presidential-level problems.

by
Bill Siegel

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December 8, 2009 - 12:10 am
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Sarah Palin’s current book tour has afforded her overwhelming media exposure, including numerous high-profile television interviews. The full array of her strengths and weaknesses was on display, and she would be well advised to examine both in depth.

Palin has many allies and supporters. She has won their hearts by, in most cases, showing she is like them. She is, however, still despised (read, alternatively, feared) by her opponents, particularly the coastal “elites” who simply refuse to see her as intellectually competent to handle high office.

While her book and media blitz give plenty of evidence to the contrary, this resistance can be confronted in part with a few minor but consequential tweaks of her style. These adjustments can all be learned and must be practiced. If absorbed into a natural manner, they will make a major difference in how her opponents are able to object to her. Whether or not she ever runs for office, her impact upon both fans and foes is too formidable for her to leave this matter unattended.

Simply put: Palin must learn how to convey to her audience that she comprehends and can grapple with the depth and nature of presidential-level problems. This is the fundamental weakness to which most other criticisms of her are tethered.

In an attempt to demonstrate her proficiency, she often rushes to show she has an answer to issues — on health care reform, Afghanistan, the economy, energy security, Iran, and so forth. She also likes to show that she can somewhat succinctly summarize a solution or strategy and then pretends to be comfortable with her simplicity.

This is, however, fodder for her opponents, who like to think of themselves as intellectually superior not only to Palin but to the rest of us as well. They argue, not without reason, that Palin simply does not understand the complexity of our problems. Consequently, to them she appears little different from high school or college students foolishly believing they are experts on a subject to which they have just been exposed.

In contrast, (and while arguably much less “qualified” for executive office than Palin) President Barack Obama has mastered this game. Palin should study Obama’s effective style and utilize some of his most rudimentary techniques.

Obama will frequently appear to answer a question by articulating something worthy from each side of the debate. He will use the disjunctive form, saying “on the one hand …” and then pointing out “however, we must be mindful of. …” This is precisely the skill of the law student and lecturer that he was. Law school training is steeped in “issue spotting” or expressing the understanding of each side’s arguments. Obama is a Jedi at this talent.

It should be made clear, however, that Obama simply uses this as one of his many sleight of mouth tools. He frequently talks of bipartisanship and “bringing folks together” and creates the sense that his recognition of both sides will engender an open and deliberate struggle to get to the truth. In fact, Obama actually does none of this and resolves issues with the typical far-left bias he brought to the table. And often, he seats no one from the other side at the table at all.

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