I have read reports that Sarah Palin did not do well in her interview with Katie Couric tonight. I haven't seen it, and don't plan to, but there were apparently several long pauses. Pauses seem worse on TV and radio than they do in real life, and politicians learn to cover glibly, learning that even a bad, vacuous answer looks less bad than nothing at all. Looking at the transcript, I am more struck with how political she sounds. That is probably what she is being coached to do - to foul off bad pitches as I said in my baseball analogy - but I confess some disappointment. The conservative fantasy is that she will speak her mind, even if that offends or even is clumsy at times.
But let's assume that it's true, and more than true - that Governor Palin did not merely appear flustered, but actually was flustered. Would that be a disqualifier for the vice-presidency?
It might, but that's a touch hasty. Communication of goals and plans is part of an administration's job. It was not merely because he was an affable and engaging speaker that Reagan called the Great Communicator. There were ideas he wanted to get across, and he studied that art and became good at it. Not having that gift would be a mark against Palin. It's not everything about the job, but it's part of the job. I am looking for one of two things: Preferably, that the ideas get across, even if she doesn't sound inspiring. This can only happen if she does actually understand the subject matter fully herself. Alternatively - and this is more likely, seeing that she is being trained for Washington-speak - that she can be facile, even glib, in any situation. While that choice would be a disappointment to me, I recognise that only in the movies do those speak-their-mind Daniel Boone in Congress types win over many people. Americans think they want that from their politicians, but clearly, we don't.
So, she can show either, but she must show one or the other, not just for appearances sake, but because it is a mark of her ability to learn quickly. A lot of comment has been made about Palin's need to learn quickly for this election, but presidents need to learn quickly throughout their terms, not just for elections. New situations and new information arise at any time, and there are no do-overs.
If, by the way, Palin actually did interview well and the criticisms are only from those who were already convinced she is stupid, my point still holds. Communication is important, but learning and adapting are more important.