Apparently some members of the McCain campaign believe that Sarah Palin has become a “rogue” candidate, refusing to follow campaign instructions in favor of saying what she chooses, when she chooses. Her reason for such behavior, some staffers opine, is that she knows the McCain ship is sinking and she is positioning herself for her own run in 2012.
I say, go for it. Maybe she thinks she can portray herself in a more appealing light than she did under the campaign’s restrictions and tutelage, but I’m doubtful. Why? Because Sarah Palin is not that smart. Canny? Yes. Cunning? You betcha. Savvy? Getting there. But what a president truly needs, she is lacking in spades. She can make snotty comments about Katie Couric’s interview all she wants – about how she guesses she let her annoyance show when she thought the questions she was asked were stupid or irrelevant – but it’s only a diversion tactic. Her interview with Ms. Couric, as well as her earlier one with Charles Gibson, didn’t show her to be annoyed. It showed her to be ill-prepared, not particularly smart, decidedly “unready” for the role of vice president, and generally somewhat unlikable to all but the most devotedly knee-jerk Republican. You know, the ones who come to rallies either:
1. with their hair straight out of the blender, muttering about how Obama is a Muslim and a Socialist;
2. with their hair smoothed into a shiny helmet, vapid smiles hiding years of suppressed fury with their rich husbands who have treated them monstrously in exchange for allowing them to spend their overblown salaries;
3. with the bright light of Jesus in their eyes, looking fervent and slightly insane and confident their strict morality is the best thing for and about America; or
4. with their shirts off, beer guts hanging over their jeans as they proclaim how “hot” the vice-presidential candidate is.
So, you know, an illustrious group, and one made up of individuals I’m so pleased have the right to vote.
At Sarah Palin’s rally on Sunday, she was joined by the most exhausting and whiny Elizabeth Hasselbeck from the View. Ms. Palin and Ms. Hasselbeck, against the wishes of the McCain campaign, spent several minutes prattling on about how it was so very uninteresting that the Republican Party had spent $150,000 on clothes for Ms. Palin, and how it was a sexist double standard and nobody would waste a moment on the news that a man had spent that kind of money at Brooks Brothers. Ms. Palin asserted that she had returned most of the clothes and that she was back to her consignment duds from Wasilla, and indeed she was wearing a pink jacket that had seen better days. Ms. Hasselbeck, on the other hand, was wearing a lime green coat that was clearly a very expensive, designer garment. If the desired effect was to paint Governor Palin as her own woman, it failed. Instead, she spent far too much time on what was, just as she said, a trivial and petty issue. Worse, she undermined her own attempt to reassert her “commonness” by backing herself up with the insubstantial fashion plate Ms. Hasselbeck as her cheerleader.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the McCain campaign, Ms. Palin returned quickly to her themes of her empathy for “Tito the Builder,” “Joe the Plumber” and “Cindy the Citizen,” and to her mantra of “I’m not saying Obama’s a socialist, but it sure looks like it, doesn’t it?” But if Governor Palin really wants to distance herself from this campaign and position herself as a more appealing candidate in 2012, then she needs to recognize the obvious: this campaign has been a lesson for the history books in how not listening to what the people want can lose an election for you. In this case, the people wanted candidates to reject the divisive, nasty, partisan rhetoric that plagued the last several elections. McCain and Palin rather gleefully rejected that wish, and with luck that will prove fatal to their campaign.
To win over an electorate that by and large thinks she is woefully unqualified to hold a national office, Ms. Palin needs to spend the next four years refashioning herself as someone who wants to bridge divides rather than simply impose her harsh version of reality, prettied up as it is in a syrupy, home-spun cocoon of folksiness, on the world. And reading a few books on American history and politics wouldn’t hurt, either. She needs to at least school herself adequately to bluff her way through a few puff-piece interviews.