Wednesday, September 24, 2008


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.


Anonymous said...

I watched some of the clips online at CBS and other places. The first thing that struck me was that the answers were heavily edited like the Charlie Gibson interviews. The second was that Couric read every question from a script with hardly any follow up questions.

Paland looked much more composed and sounded much more articulate than Obama did in his interview with Bill O'reilly. There were *short* pauses in Palin's responses, but no "uh, uh, uhs" like Obama is prone to make.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

If she was half as bad, it will seem twice as bad, because of the narrative each of them goes into an interview with. Not fair, but reality.

I haven't watched any of the Obama interview videos either. I consider it irrelevant information and try to avoid it. As a people, we like the reality TV aspect of seeing people squirm, believing that it tells us something big. It does tell us something, as our social radar for things like lying, frustration, and fear are pretty good. But momentary gaffes - even confusion - aren't that important in leadership. While I have been gratified for electoral reasons to see how many times Obama and Biden slip, it doesn't really mean much. I'm not worried what Democrats do when they slip and aren't thinking; I'm worried what they do when they are thinking.

Hey. That's my next post.

Anonymous said...

She was inept, bumbling and ill-prepared, as if her robotic answers and scripted soundbites were spat out regardless of the questions asked. She could not form a coherent answer without beginning the sentence with "I've been told," as in "I have not F**ng clue, but this is what they tell me to say."

She has no understanding of the McCain-Fannie Mae relationship, the economy and the Paulson plan, or the purported war on terror. She is a trainwreck.

cold pizza said...

I bet anon spent his entire lunch break composing that witty and germane reply.

I'm so glad we've got such smooth talkers like Joe Biden and Barack Obama, who always know the right things to say to whoever they're talking to. Not like they've ever repeated "scripted soundbites." -cp

Anonymous said...

Since you guys are fans, what does it mean to you when you hear the person you would like to see as vice president of the United States talk about Putin rearing his head and flying over Alaska? Within the context of a question about forgein policy, what can that possibly mean?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Matt, I worry very little about mixed metaphors in print, and not at all in speech. Speech is often formulaic by phrase, and people make that sort of mistake often. In fact, intelligent people make such errors more often. Joe Biden seems to be making a misstatement a day, but 80% of them are of no significance. Most of Obama's missteps are trivial as well. We care only when people seem to reveal something they wished to hide (and even then we should be cautious).

What does concern me is rephrasing the declarations of one's political opponents to make them sound worse than they are. While this is common, it is also deceitful, verging into the commandment about bearing false witness.

As for anonymous, let me tell you about my wife. In a specific set of circumstances, relaying a particular type of narrative, she is quite inarticulate. Yet she has an MLS, a measured IQ over 150, and we believe was the record holder on the Miller Analogies Test in the 1970's. As all of us know people like that, I can only conclude that you are a prize ass.

Babel In Brunswick said...

As far as I am concerned, Sarah Palin kicked Katie Couric's ass. She was sharp with her answers and they were her views. Couric tried to take it to Palin and ended up looking like an idiot.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Huh. First time I've heard that. I hope you're right, but it's not a key point to me either way.

Anonymous said...

I wonder all GOP fans are even readint his article.. get a life.. Palin was a disaster.

Anonymous said...

whomever you support, just make sure you look at both sides and listen.
just listen.
and make an intelligent decision.
please, someone make an intelligent decision.

and ask yourself, what's best for me, my children, and for future generations?

Anonymous said...

I suggest you read a transcript of the interview rather than ignore this problem. Here are some excerpts:

Couric: I’m just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in [McCain's] 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you.

And on Alaska's proximity to Russia and its relevance to foreign policy experience:

"It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is — from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to ... to our state."

These responses are rambling, unspecific, and show a deep lack of understanding of basic issues. It's not folksy; it's frightening.

Anonymous said...

Village idiot = Palin
Assistant = you

Anonymous said...

Well OK, so she's not a smooth talker. But focus on the content. The remarks about Russia are gibberish, especially as this topic is not new and she should either have had a more prepared answer by now or else found another out. Don't her handlers prepare her for this stuff? It was a poor showing, and the rest of the interview really did not come across to inspire confidence.

Anonymous said...

This is an empty argument...those of us who like the McCain Palin ticket are going to think it was not a bad interview. Those who don't like the ticket will pounce on anything they can to support their view.

Let's look at this for a second....did Katie ask Bidden where Obama sponsored or co-sponsored reform of the GSE's? And if so, was Bidden able to tout a list of them off the top of his head? I seriously doubt it, first because Obaman has spent most of his senatorial career NOT in Washington; he's been out preparing to run for President for the majority of his time in the Senate.

Katie was going for the mis-step. She wanted us to think that Palin should be able to recite all legislation...without she was using for her interview. But, without prep I doubt any one could answer that question.

And Dem's? Do us all a favor and stop assuming we are voting for the McCain Palin ticket for reasons other then the issue. It is your side that votes mostly with its uterus (or desire for one!)...sorry couldn't resist.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh...

Having seen all of her interviews, and having read about everything about her that has been published in the past month, I am left with one unescapable conclusion. Sarah Palin is absolutely out of her league. I don't want to say bad things about her. From everything I have seen, she seems like a nice person. She is just not ready to be Vice President - or President. I am literally frightened that Palin could end up being President. I truly believe most people, no matter their political affiliation, are VERY uncomfortable with Palin's qualifications. Of course, most Republicans will go to the mat defending her because they think they have no choice. But I am convinced that deep down, most Republicans feel there were certainly better choices available for a running mate. I believe Obama will win this election. What scares me though is that Palin has benefited from dumb luck throughout her poitical career, and that dumb luck could continue. The Republicans have stolen the last two Presidential elections. There is no reason to think they can't do it again. Whether you like Palin or not, you all should be scared that she may some day stumble into the Presidency.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the point (the other) anonymous is making. I really don't see how anyone could watch the Couric interview and be reassured. She seems like a nice person and is probably a pretty good ("beginning") governor; if she were to spend a term or two in office she may develop a worldview and a gravitas that would prepare her for the (vice-)presidency. But she clearly isn't there yet.

Anonymous said...

US politics are scary!

Palin is a dunderhead and McCain is impulsive. That he could pick such a person as a running mate is indicative of bad judgement as is his grandstanding yesterday.

It is truly frightening to read all these blogs where supporters argue that Palin is not being treated fairly. Just listen to her! She is narrow minded and myopic in her world view and ......she can't string a coherent sentence together.

Your country is in the toilet becuase you elected another idiot the last time around. Why are some of you so anxious to put another one in the White House?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand Lori's points. Couric simply asked for some examples of any relevant legislation. Any examples, not a list of exact titles. Palin couldn't name one. That's a big deal.

It's not about whether or not you or I could do better - we're not running, and it's not our job to be experts on the issues. It IS Palin's job, however, and we owe it to ourselves to expect potential world leaders to be able to support their arguments with some facts on the spot.

And to those who think I'm just some liberal idiot, a similar poor interview performance occurred with Sean Hannity as well. Check out this article from the National Review:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I cannot keep the anonymice straight, but I have to consider that your problem, not mine.

Most of you have not commented on my post, but have come over from somewhere and just repeated the talking points I can get on any general or left-leaning site. I resent that. You come into my house for a conversation, you should talk to me or the other guests, not get up on a chair and make speeches. I offer a topic for discussion and give my position to start things off. Dig?

To your general point: I was also, as recorded, not impressed with Palin's interview. I am discussing what the significance of that is in the larger scheme. The standard McCain supporter's response to the Palin-is-not-qualified argument is that Obama is less qualified. While that can be used as a distraction from the issue here, it is also a perfectly good question. I am suspicious of anyone who does not at least attempt (or pretend) to take that into consideration. I would add that Biden also speaks gibberish at times, and less often, so does Obama. Even the appearance of taking both sides into account is a step forward in civil discourse.

Stand and deliver. If you would enter the discussion, then enter it. If you just want to make speeches, I will suggest that the other guests simply ignore you.

As to having read everything about Palin in the last month, that is impossible. You have read a selected subset of the opinions about her, as have all of us. To claim otherwise is to put on a t-shirt that says "Hey! I'm a blowhard!"

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think that's fair to bring up -- there is that free-floating assertion that Palin is as or more qualified than Obama and if someone here can articulate it to me in a way that makes sense to me I'd appreciate it. Palin was mayor of a very small town for 4 years, and then governor for two; Obama was state senator for 8 years, US Senator for 2. Right there I'd say he clearly had more experience. And then there's the weird fashion of deriding his time as a community organizer, as though that weren't any kind of accomplishment. As well as his time as a constitutional law professor -- isn't it helpful, as a president, to have a complex understanding of the law and of legislation, and of the laws our nation was developed under?

Obama does have experience -- I'd be happier if he had a bit more, but he does have real experience -- but what's also important to me is that he's clearly someone who has spent years and years and years thinking about how our nation functions, on a micro level as well as a macro one. Those questions interest him.

I won't pretend to be objective -- I wouldn't want Sarah Palin to be president in any case; I'm a democrat; I just don't support her views. But what we saw on Katie Couric was more than someone fumbling under a spotlight -- which anyone can do especially if they're trying to put a lot of thoughts together at once; she didn't look like she was trying to put thoughts together, it looked like she just didn't have so many on those topics -- she really came across as someone who isn't used to thinking about large national or international issues, not just someone who is unprepared for all the detail she suddenly has to master. She's clearly not stupid, but at the same time she clearly doesn't have an appetite for thinking that way. She looked like a pawn, thrust on the stage by political forces much larger than herself.

Anonymous said...

Wait wait. Sorry. My bad: Congressman. But the point still holds.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

We would disagree on the experience. I don't think time as a state senator is worth much of anything, except in training to be a US Senator. Being a mayor is much more varied and difficult. However, the smallness of Wasilla is a negative factor. The Garrison Keillor image of small-town politics is more idyllic than accurate.

Community organizer is a different experience, but limited. Palin's job of raising children has a similar plus-minus. Yes, you can learn a lot from those jobs, but lots of people do them without learning anything.

I agree that if McCain is elected he'd better live at least a year, or I'd be nervous. A Vice-President doesn't actually have a lot of duties, but a year's understudying should be better preparation than any other job. Additionally, premature President Palin would have an advantage in that she would not have to fill positions immediately, as an incoming president would have to do.

Anonymous said...

She is the Harriet Myers of Vice Presidential nominations. Sure she has some good qualities, but at the end of the day, there just isn't enough there.

Unknown said...

After having seen the interview, I was underwhelmed. She certainly did not impress; however, I think that many Obama supporters have been overly critical about trivial things about her. Now, I'm an Obama supporter, but the fact that she's not the most eloquent is not really a major factor in whether she's qualified.
The thing that truly dumbfounded me was that she could not name a single instance over a period of twenty-six years where her running mate had put into practice one of the things he's so heavily proclaiming: that he is NOT 100 % anti-regulatory (which is not as fraudulent as some claim). You would think she would know at least ONE example (even if not in explicit detail) of one of their campaign's major points.
As far as the Russia thing, yes, it was a little dumb, but it's not AS rediculous as some claim. We already know she has zero foreign policy experience, so she was a poor VP choice, but honestly I would be more worried if a governor HAD been conducting foreign policy =P

Anonymous said...

It's outrageous to be honest. Seriously, think about it for a bit. Did any of the questions she answered (or failed to answer) make any sense? The Russia question, I can understand if it wasn't coherent because the answer in the Gibson interview was retarded so of course the follow up on that question is going to be equally if not more retarded. I just want to yell "STOP DIGGING." It's like she has been briefed on talking points, yet she can't expound on those talking points. It would be like me saying "WE SHOULD BAN CELLPHONES." When asked my opinion on current communication technologies. Then when questioned on it me giving an answer of "we just should, they are dangerous." The statement is not logical and because of that, it puts people off and seems awkward. The opposite is true about Obama. He has the ability to communcate logically. Look at the O'Reilly interview. Bill asks him a question , he gives his response and expounds and bit on his response and then Bill interrupts him as Fox News pundits tend to do, then corrects Bill and makes sure he gets the point across that he was trying to make. It's suppose to be an interview not an interrogation. That isn't Katie's fault either. Compare Obama's interview with O'Reilly to her interview. Tell me what you notice? Katie wasn't nearly as hostile as Bill. Katie actually gave her a chance to finish her blurbs, although she failed terribly she was still given a chance to complete her points. Bill simply gave interjection after interjection, which if you have ever had someone do that to you, you know its very frustrating. I truly don't understand. Obama exemplifies all the qualities of excellent leader. And atleast what he says that he wants he actually promotes in some way, shape or form. He says he wants change and he actually presents issues that are changes. He puts forward some serious thought towards alternative energy. Which is would be a monumental change. Mccain, his energy policy change is simply drilling somewhere else. While mentioning alternative energy in a 'matter of fact' and 'whatever' kind of way. Obama says he will be diplomatic with his foreign policy. Which is a change from the 'shoot now, ask questions later' approach of the Bush Admin. Mccain, he presents this 'maverick' persona, which reminds me of Bush. Im pretty sure that Bush has the 'fuck you I do what a want' persona. Obama basically represents this facade of the American Dream that we are presented with. He made his way to his current position through hard work and that very same work was against the odds. Call me bullshit if you will but being black (half black) isn't exactly the most helpful thing in politics. He might have stood out more, but due to preconceived notions in an environment not dominated by people of similar appearance as you does have its downsides. Even with the lack of his executive experience, he still shines through. He beat out candidates that had more name recognition, more connects in Washington(and the world),and also had more financial donors (extremely prominent ones at that.) I'd say if you look simply at his campaign he has shown he can manage something fairly well. Now contrast that to the Mccain campaign. That shit is a train wreck. In fact if you look at him personally, he displays more of the conservative values than the conservative candidates themselves. He has a strong central family (it appears)no divorces etc. I'm sorry but you are a motherfucking moron if you don't vote for him. I mean you can tell by the choices that these two make, who is more qualified. Obama picks Biden who he feels would be better for him in the terms of experience. Mccain, picks some dumb bitch because hes trying to get the votes that Obama left in the air by not picking Hillary, oh yea and horny, retarded males that enjoy looking at retards with titties. I mean honestly, the lady just had a child with special needs and one of her other children (a minor) is pregnant as well. I mean honestly was that the best choice that Mccain could have made. Anyways, I have some more points but this is just long winded. When you goto vote please vote logically, and someone who represents that change that you want to see in the world. Don't fuck us again. Please?

Anonymous said...

Palin is an idiot! Amyone that cannot see that is blind. She is out of her league. I was excited that a woman was named to be a Vice Presidential Candidate, however, now I am simply embarrassed. She has set women back years. God save us if McCain is elected, and God save us if he dies and she becomes President

Assistant Village Idiot said...

And, may I say, anonymous presents the usual amount of evidence.

Anonymous said...

Almost everyone here is respectfully responding to the topic at hand: Palin's interview, and the relative merits or problems surrounding her level of readiness. Evidence has been lacking on both sides. It's a public blog, so unless that changes, everyone has the right to respectfully speak their minds.

As for the the "experience" issue, I think it's absurd to equate community organizing on the South Side of Chicago with raising kids. This is NOT to suggest that heading a family is not difficult or important work; it's just not comparable. For example, Obama's own description of a community organizer is someone responsible for:

"...bringing together churches, block clubs, parent groups and any other institutions in a given community to pay dues, hire organizers, conduct research, develop leadership, hold rallies and education cam paigns, and begin drawing up plans on a whole range of issues — jobs, education, crime, etc. Once such a vehicle is formed, it holds the power to make politicians, agencies and corporations more responsive to community needs. Equally important, it enables people to break their crippling isolation from each other, to reshape their mutual values and expectations and rediscover the possibilities of acting collaboratively..."


The strangest claim people have made, in my mind, is that Obama lacks experience because he is "only" a Senator. In that case, how is McCain qualified? I think we need to put this issue to rest -- both Obama and McCain are qualified to be President, in different ways (see CNN's poll:

Finally, I think a leader's ability to communicate is vastly more important than their "learning and adapting" skills. There will always be a certain amount of on-the-job training for presidents and VPs, but these are not positions one should go into with limited understanding of foreign policy and other key issues. Deep knowledge of issues and the ability to communicate one's ideas and positions clearly and effectively is essential. Obama has these skills; Palin does not.

This is my opinion, supported with as much evidence as I consider reasonable for an informal blog post.