Sunday, October 5, 2008

Being Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal wrote these words of Sarah Palin's "debate" performance:

"She killed. She had him at 'Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?' She was the star. He was the second male lead, the good-natured best friend of the leading man. She was not petrified but peppy.

The whole debate was about Sarah Palin. She is not a person of thought but of action. Interviews are about thinking, about reflecting, marshaling data and integrating it into an answer. Debates are more active, more propelled—they are thrust and parry. They are for campaigners. She is a campaigner. Her syntax did not hold, but her magnetism did. At one point she literally winked at the nation.

As far as Mrs. Palin was concerned, Gwen Ifill was not there, and Joe Biden was not there. Sarah and the camera were there. This was classic "talk over the heads of the media straight to the people," and it is a long time since I've seen it done so well, though so transparently. There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics. But it was an effective infomercial."

Can someone please pass the pipe that Peggy Noonan is smoking? No, not really. But this foolishness has to stop! Is Palin in line for the presidency or the position of a salesperson selling lipstick for that proverbial pig? I had decided not to even respond to Sarah Palin's disastrous debate performance. That's right! DISASTROUS! Every time Palin will step out as president or vice president, she will be essentially both debating policy and being interviewed, nationally and internationally.

Palin's performance was disastrous considering the office she aspires and many others too. Imagine her going in for an interview or having a discussion with senior management and saying, "I will not answer the question in the way you want them. I will instead answer in the way I have rehearsed them?" Would you hire someone like that? Would you also hire someone who was not a thinker? Would you keep someone like that? What is Noonan implying here? Is good judgment not essential for the highest office in the land? In good judgment rational thought precedes action. Otherwise, actions are erratic, non-consequential and detrimental.

Palin is not impressive merely because she did better than expected from a purely syntactical standpoint. (Most feared she could not even put a coherent sentence together out of the sight of a teleprompter.) When I heard Ms. Noonan on Meet the Press today talking about the brilliance of Palin's performance during the debate, I wanted to barf! I became sick all over again. "At one point she literally winked at the nation." WHAT IS NOONAN TALKING ABOUT? If being coy, obstinate, misinformed, egotistical, cutesy and sly ("Hey, can I call you Joe?" set up to the "say it ain't so, Joe?") is brilliance, do pass that pipe I turned down before. In fact, we're all gonna need it. If this was a fix, we're all gonna need a whole lot of fixing. The real problem is by this VP selection it appears that it is believed that we are already fixed, completely out of it, whacked!

How does Peggy Noonan even write such words, let alone repeat them on live TV? The very words themselves seem so incredibly sexist. Imagine the same words written of a man. He would be the laughing stock of all of Washington and the world. Is there a double standard here? Are women such as Noonan perpetuating such standards? Why does Ms. Noonan find such words to be flattery? They are most embarrassing. Coming from a veteran female journalist these words are shameful stuff, especially considering that Sarah Palin could be the President of the United States come January should John McCain be elected and unable to fulfill his duty.

We do not care about Palin's personality, her likability, her teenage daughter's pregnancy (though, I dare to say that if Palin were a woman of color the spin might be different), her looks, her appeal by and large to Joe-six pack, etc. Has anybody thought of the ridiculousness of the Joe six-pack image being associated with the most unlikely Joe-six pack woman imaginable? (Palin is to the right of the religious right which forbids the consumption of alcohol.) The only connection here with Joe six-pack must be the feeling which has less to do with his cerebral head, but more with his sensational one. With all the winking, she was more akin to a "peppy" pinup.

What we care about is whether Palin is prepared to step into the shoes of the President of the United States should she be required to do so. What does she know about the economy, foreign policy, the diverse people and varied ideologies of our country (it's obvious she doesn't read periodicals), the Constitution, or the role of the vice-president? It was clear she did not know much beyond her Cliff Notes. (Remember cramming in college and how fast you forgot that stuff over the next few days?) In this regard, the debate, which wasn't a debate at all, but a press conference without the press, was a complete DISASATER on Palin's part.

Peggy Noonan knows this.


John O'Leary said...

In case anyone missed it, here's Saturday Night Live's version of the Palin interview with Katie Couric.

judith ellis said...

I laughed so hard! In the Saturday Night Live version of the debate I laughed too. It was good to see Queen Latifa as Gwen Ifill too! Some have wondered if Ifill's tongue was tied with the cries of unfairness before the debate. Some have wondered if this caused Ifill to go to Biden for the first question more, giving Palin time to study her cheat sheet. Did you notice how often her eyes were looking down? Usually, debaters are writing. It was apparent she was reading.

mark jf said...

I have only seen a few highlights here in the UK and from what I can see, I think Joe Biden's the strongest of the 4 people in the spotlight right now but...

Is it actually the mark of quite a canny and astute operator that they can take a line and then manipulate the discussion so that they peddle that line and peddle it very effectively? Of course it's the way sellers of snake oil and such like make a living but it's also how leaders of big organisations can be effective: they use every opportunity to connect with their audience and they reiterate 1 or 2 key messages again and again. We can argue about the rules and protocols of debate but Mrs. Palin has clearly recognised the big picture: it's not about debating, it's about getting elected.

Also, I think at the moment people are looking for certainty. With economic troubles, Iraq and anything else you can think of, I wonder if electors will prefer someone with plain and clear views over someone who is intelligent and prepared to debate and prepared to concede or win points, but in doing so seems to lack the clarity or certainty of the plain and clear view? The intelligent debater might appeal to us in the chattering classes but Joe Sixpack is probably looking for something a bit more straightforward right now.

I wonder if that's Mrs. Palin's strategy. And before you all say she doesn't have one or isn't bright enough to formulate one, maybe she's done something else good leaders do: surrounded herself with good advisers and taken it.

judith ellis said...

I understand your points, Mark. They are well taken. But the reality is that Mrs. Palin's star has been severely eclipsed by the financial crisis. You are right. Stability is what we yearn in times of such turbulence. But what has come forth from John McCain and his surrogates is instability.

The reason Barack Obama has shot up in the polls is not because of Senator Biden's years in the White House or because of his expertise in foreign affairs (he was stellar on this issue during the debate as well as giving due honor to the top of the ticket) but because of the leadership that Barack Obama has given throughout this campaign, how he was run such a multimillion dollar campaign and the way he has kept a steady head and tone during these very turbulent times. He is bright and masterful. The Clintons had to learn this too and learn they did.

I listen to both sides regularly and I can't seem to remember one line that is repeated by a presumed "smooth operator." Their hand that should not be seen is so very obvious. In fact, Palin and other surrogates have spoken such things aloud. "I know you want me to answer these questions this way, but I'm going to speak directly to the American people! This is a debate!) The reality is John McCain has been flailing around in the wind for some time now, in the way Hillary Clinton was during the last days of her campaign against Barack. McCain's erratic demeanor shows a man clearly off message, grasping for every straw, ranting, and even defenseless rope a dope tactics such "I'm suspending my campaign and going to Washington to fix the financial crisis" after saying merely two days before that the fundamentals of our economy were strong.

McCain's surrogate, Mrs. Palin, has sunk dramatically in the polls since her speech at the Republican convention. She has not even been able to rally her base effectively or to sway Independents. Had she been able to do so all the swing states which are now turning Blue that Bush won would be turning Red. In order for the snake oil to take affect, the environment has to be right. Sex sells. But it doesn't sell en masse over issues such as a diminishing IRA or 401K.

The shots here regarding Sarah Palin have not been cheaply made. They do however, address major concerns regarding her readiness and the parading around of here on the pageantry stage, being "kept" by men. She's on a major presidential ticket!

All of those supposed "good advisers" have in fact mishandled her. But being so supremely unprepared for such a stage, I see why. So, the consideration of a leader becoming great because of the genius to surround himself with great people is well taken. The only problem here is that such greatness is clearly not evident.

As I pointed out, Mr. McCain's campaign has completely lost its voice and has resorted mainly to smear. This attack in such an environment and with a very successfully ran campaign and brilliant leader will not work. The McCain surrogates, including Sarah Palin, have been largely ineffective for some time now. The novelty of Sarah Palin has waned. Reality bites.

- A - C - said...

John, I just saw the interview.... I laughed almost to tears! thanks for sharing. (I even saved the video)

@ judith: sorry, this is off topic. I tried today to look for you on linkedin and I didn't find you. Somehow it surprised me....
being on linkedin?? :-)

judith ellis said...

-a-c-, Funny! I am not linkedin and in this regard I may be locked out. I have checked it out before but just never got around to adding my info. Do these mass networking tools really work? And what are their benefits? I guess it most certainly would not hurt. Perhaps you'll find me there later and then I might consider a post "Being Linkedin." :-)