AMERICA'S LEADING LADY--LIKE HER OR NOT
By Andy Weddington
Friday, 04 December 2009
Sarah Palin must be doing something right--fan and foe is abuzz about her. And you can't turn on a TV or computer or pick up a newspaper or magazine without seeing her face and name. Not all coverage has been flattering--an understatement--but anyone wanting the public's eye knows any publicity is good publicity--just spell the name right. And as every good ad man knows, details fade but names and faces tend to stick.
You think maybe Palin haters are seething with envy? You better believe it. So are rivals. And she is just getting started. To add to their ire, she'll soon top the N. Y. Times Best Sellers List. Folks in the Big Easy yell, "You go girl!" to recognize that kind of success.
For fifteen months I've listened to the unwarranted and downright vile attacks on Palin. Hateful. And it's incredible so-called "professionals"--politicians, analysts, journalists, comedians, and the mouthy famous to name only a handful are behind the nonsense. Their conduct has been worse than that of bratty, mean-spirited grade school children relentlessly teasing and bullying a misfit classmate or neighborhood kid. Only the adult variety is crueler. Most children know better but can't help it--they lack the maturity to refrain from the shenanigans. What's the big people's excuse?
What an example! Anyone else wondering if the adults assaulting Palin are simultaneously teaching civility and sportsmanship to the young people in their lives? And wonder how the internal conflict between doing one thing and teaching the opposite is working out? Or if the irony has even struck them? Likely not.
Teams of "archeologists" have been on a Palin digging expedition since last August--no skeletons yet. Nor any bone fragments or juicy relics to speak of either. Were there anything damaging it would have been on the street long ago. But lack of substance is not slowing down the effort to destroy Palin. Since talk (and clever Photoshop work) is cheap, her foes take the petty and irrelevant and fabricate--twisting, turning, exaggerating, and downright lying to shape story or photograph into an eye-catching and demeaning tabloid headline.
To the shameless nothing is off limits nor beyond doable. Throw it on the airways and see what sticks. As expected the dopey, incapable of independent thought, eat it up then regurgitate.
I posted a Commentary titled, "SARAH BARRACUDA" on Friday, 07 November 2008. Excerpted from the post are the two following paragraphs. I wrote,
"...Outside the campaign, Palin haters mocked her education, belittled or completely discounted her many accomplishments, smeared her family, and laughed at her qualifications—which they could not find one—to be vice president. The attacks left a wound or two but only superficial ones and not before the feisty Barracuda damn near interrupted all their plans to put their savior, Obama, in the White House to right America—to the left. Never mind our president-elect was and is less experienced in the executive arena. As is his running mate. All proof that Palin was one hell of a threat. I thought long and hard about Sarah Palin when McCain tapped her to be his running mate. As she was for most of America, she was unknown to me. Objectively I listened, I watched, I researched, I read, and I watched some more as she skillfully side-stepped the tripwires and traps of politics in the public arena. I came to the conclusion she was a class act. She detested and attacked corruption; spoke sensibly, in plain language, and with confidence; was a quick study; and demonstrated she knew how to get things done. She made it clear she was indeed a public servant--not new found royalty entitled to wasteful perks and privileges. And I liked her for one of the principle reasons I decided to vote for McCain—Sarah Palin has character. For me, this is the most important trait for an American president—from character, all else flows. Had McCain been elected and unable, for whatever reason, to fulfill his Oval Office duties, Palin could have handled them—no question. Or so I believe.
McCain chose Palin. His big, very big mistake was not letting Sarah be Sarah. She did not rise to win the governorship of Alaska by being stupid. She has character, stick-to-itiveness, and great instinct; all of which has served her well—no matter what she has tackled in life. McCain should have loosened the restraints and let her make decisions about public appearances; when, where, and with who in the press to meet for interviews; what clothes to wear; etc. provided her engagement was in complete synch with the boss. It would have been. She had nothing to hide. Now it’s obvious that McCain did not direct such and he and his “lions” clearly did not get that Sarah being Sarah was their biggest asset—an average American who intimately understands the challenges and hardships of everyday Americans because she, and her family, has and continues to live them. She connected—she is the real deal and people recognized it immediately. That is why she drew huge crowds everywhere—you can’t fool that many people. The effort to present her as something she was not surely caused her personal discomfort and disrupted her rhythm—as it would anyone—and, in turn, her imbalance threw the campaign into an irrecoverable yaw. The crash was inevitable. Lesson learned—Sarah Palin will not let that happen to her again..."
Those paragraphs are as relevant today as when penned and proving a bit prophetic.
In her new book, "Going Rogue--An American Life," Palin speaks. She sets the record straight--to include the behind-the-scenes chaos of the presidential campaign bungled--to the point of being humorous and painful to watch--by Senator McCain. The senior statesman from Arizona was maverick and smart enough to pick her as his running mate but not cunning enough to exploit her homey appeal and star power. He, and his inept advisors, smothered the only fire the ticket had going for it. Perplexing. Dumb.
Thinking about Palin for some time now, it occurred to me that since she's a hunter she's also adept with a knife. She has to be--every hunter knows how to field dress their game. It's a "must know" part of hunting.
And it also occurred to me that, in some ways, politics is analogous to a knife fight. Drop your guard, even for an instant, and--figuratively speaking, of course--you can get cut, gutted, sliced and diced, maybe filleted and who knows what else before you realize what's happened. Sometimes it's "bloody"--sometimes nary a drop spilled.
Remember the knife fight scene from 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'--where Butch's leadership of his Hole-in-the-Wall gang was challenged?
As ol' Butch (Paul Newman) approached his giant opponent he casually and cleverly disarmed him with a comment about 'first establishing the rules'--to which his challenger dropped his guard and dumbfoundingly asked, 'Rules? In a knife fight?' And then, without warning, Butch delivered an incapacitating kick to the groin. "Knife fight" over. An example of no blood drawn. Lesson learned: There ain't no rules in a knife fight.
I guess Senator McCain missed Butch's dust-up as he opted to levy "knife fight" rules on his own ticket. Funny, you'd think a seasoned statesman and real life warrior, even if not seeing the flick, would have known there ain't no rules in a "knife fight." Predictably, the head-scratching blunder cost him a figurative kick in the groin and the presidency. Who knows--had Palin, ready to fight, been permitted to wield her blade, or even kick, the election may have turned out differently. We'll never know.
Nonetheless, Senator McCain has his place in the books as a decent man and American war hero. But as far as a another run for the presidency goes--nope. Not a chance. He doesn't have the kick.
On the other hand, Sarah Palin, a "knife fighter" in the political arena, has a future; a wide-open one. The small town girl from Wasilla, Alaska, is living the dream every child in this country hears from an early age: "You can do and become anything you want in America. You can even be the president." She's done pretty darn well for herself so far.
I know all I need to know about Sarah Palin. She...
has common sense.
has character--the God-fearing kind.
is morally and ethically grounded.
is a leader--and a tough one.
lives in the real world.
knows what it's like to work for a living.
has challenging family issues like everyone else.
is thick-skinned--a necessity in politics.
served in elected office--councilwoman, mayor, governor--for 12 1/2 years.
confronted and defeated corruption in Alaska's Republican Party.
is not an elitist or extremist--what true "representative" government is all about.
knows the public is to whom she serves and reports.
has brought a refreshing flavor to distasteful politics.
knows how to use a gun and a knife.
And that list is the beginning and only the sound bites.
During a recent TV interview Palin was asked if she was "smart" enough to be president. A fair question? It struck me as shallow and stupid and, frankly, insulting. And though the interviewer, a respected journalist, did not come across as condescending the question sure sounded like it; intended or not. Palin was more gracious answering than I would have been.
Has any candidate for president--especially ones that have governed--ever been asked if they were smart enough to be president? I don't think so.
Of course she's smart enough.
The same interviewer, questioning Obama before the election, did not ask if he was smart enough. Why not? Just because he's billed as smart does not mean he is. And it matters not what school he graduated from, that he earned a law degree, taught law, or wrote a couple of books. Schools? Grades? Relevant--perhaps--but by no means pivotal. Pardon my big shoulder shrug, even bigger yawn, and indifferent, "So what." None of those things qualify him as smart.
Let's talk about solid, wholesome character, inner strength and moral courage, sound judgment, and decisiveness carrying out the nation's business--domestic and foreign--in accordance with the letter and spirit of our Constitution as critical factors defining one as a smart leader.
Reflecting on the president's overall performance to date, "smart" does not come to mind. Furthermore, there is a huge difference between being in a leadership position and being a leader. And, assuming "smart" and "leader" are not mutually exclusive is a mistake.
Look no further than the president's address to the country Tuesday evening. Aside from the fact some former high-ranking officials are challenging the accuracy of content, there's no argument he eloquently delivered another polished academic speech. His mastery of volume, inflections, accents, pauses, and body language the envy of every sweaty, ranting, pulpit-pounding Sunday morning preacher--to include his mentor, Jeremiah Wright. But an essential element for his rallying speech was missing--emotion. There was no emotion--no passion.
The backdrop at West Point was perfect. The setting only almost perfect--missing was a soft hand-clapping, humming (no singing during sermons) and body-swaying choir, and discreetly placed cue-card holders to prompt the congregation into a "Hallelujah," "Amen," or "Hooah"--a familiar battlecry to most in attendance--every now and then to awaken those nodding off and energize the preacherman.
A "smart" speech? No. For delivery: B- (A had there been passion, choir, and cue-cards). For content as to national strategy and security: F
Why an F? There was no unwavering, compelling commitment to victory. In short, the president reminded the world of the bad, bad, enemy (al Qaeda) operating in Afghanistan--the ones that attacked our homeland on 9/11, still probing our borders, we need to destroy. He served notice more forces are on the way and we're determined and committed--sort of. Then the bombshell (pun intended) caveat--he told the enemy we're pulling out in 18 months. Huh? Not smart even if not true.
Personality and logic says Palin, were she president, would have handled the Afghanistan war differently--beginning months ago with a short Oval Office memo to General McChrystal: "Requested forces inbound ASAP. Kick ass! Advise if other requirements. Report to me when mission complete. SP" Then, after victory, address the nation to extend platitudes to the military and gratitude to the American people for their support and sacrifices. Now that would have been "smart" and "leadership."
Anyway, the correct query from an interviewer, anyone for that matter, to someone aspiring to be president is, "Do you have the character required of a United States president?" Followed by, "What is your record of public service while in elected office as to judgment and effective decision-making when handling complex issues under pressure?" And, "What other traits and accomplishments do you believe are relevant for the public to know about you?" And, finally, "Tell the people why they should vote for you."
Maybe we'll see that kind of serious, responsible journalism covering candidates leading up to the 2012 election. We should. Is not the republic, not the media, to elect the president?
Of course substance was not on the minds of those casting a vote for the winner of the Oval Office last fall. How could it be? As Bernie Goldberg calls them, "lamestream media" presented a grossly misleading picture of the junior senator from Illinois. Consequently, thirteen months later, some flock members--realizing they were hoodwinked--are admitting buyer's remorse. They're bailing and citing sundry maladies, to include "recovering liberal," to excuse themselves.
A "recovering liberal" label is too self-serving--it does not sound enough like a sickness. Typical for the ill trying to self-diagnose while describing their symptoms. The more accurate label is "Dunce."
Like alcoholics with a genetic predisposition for the taste of distilled spirits, "Dunces," too, suffer from a genetic predisposition--toward stupidity. The condition is not curable but treatable. The prescription: Engage with conservatives--3X daily--take with milk not Kool-Aid. And, live the mottos "Easy Does It" and "One Day at a Time." Whether alcoholic or "Dunce" good guidance for leading a sober or sane life.
As Thomas Jefferson said, "We in America do not have the government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate." "Dunces" won the day last November. Recent Republican victories in New Jersey and Virginia hint the participants may be changing. Was Palin a factor? Maybe. The president's "talk without walk"? Certainly. The elections in 2010 will help clarify the mood and intent of the nation. A shift back to conservatism? We shall see. Palin has a lot of time to spread her message--a healthy dose of anti-dunce. Stand by.
There's no denying Sarah Palin is the Republican Party's shining star. No one, at least for the time being, enjoys her popularity and crowd-drawing ability. With charisma, charm, big-time sex appeal, and common sense plain-speak Palin connects with people. It is that simple. Her support base is growing.
The elephant leadership would be smart to paint their mascot's toe nails red--cherry red, a color favored by George Washington, slap on some matching lipstick, close ranks, and embrace her--then expect to "Capitolize" on the ride. If they offhandedly discount, deliberately alienate, repeat the mistake of McCain, or force her to go independent then the GOP continues to flail and will fail. You don't have to be too smart to figure that out.
I was reared on the values honor, courage, and commitment--and others. It just so happens those three standards of conduct are also the U. S. Marine Corps Core Values--demanded of me for nearly 27 years, and expected for life. Neither old-fashioned nor outdated--those values instill good order and discipline and are as relevant to society-at-large as to the military. Sarah Palin embodies those values.
Who knows if Palin will run for president in 2012 or 2016 or later. But, if she so chooses, as an American citizen willing to take on such grave responsibilities, she deserves civil and respectful treatment and should expect tough and fair questioning--as should anyone vying for the high office. Whether you and I like her or not has nothing to do with it. It just so happens I like Sarah Palin. And, were I a politician, I'd want her on my side in a "knife fight." "You go girl!"