When a bar is set so low that even a tapeworm couldn’t limbo under it, stepping over it doesn’t necessarily constitute a victory. But such is the sorry state of political discourse in this country that Republicans feel the need to claim victory in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate essentially because their lightweight candidate, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, didn’t publicly soil herself.
Putting aside the ego-stroking need to claim victory over such a small matter when the rest of the house is burning down around them, what exactly did Palin accomplish on Thursday night anyway? If the goal was to up the cuteness quotient, mission accomplished. If it was to show that she has the gravitas to take on the role of vice presidency, then she’s going to need a little more dynamite, Butch, because there’s still a lot of boulders to move.
Palin was indeed cute in a way that the average high school cheerleader is cute. She also showed a decent capacity to memorize a few key concepts. But what she didn’t show and what she couldn’t show is that she has the underlying intellect to appreciate the depth of the issues she so casually tossed around like Frisbees being thrown in the commons on the campus of the University of Alaska-Anchorage (let’s give a shout-out to the Seawolves).
Perhaps gravitas and serious-mindedness is out of style these days. Certainly Washington, D.C. is filled with all manner of serious-minded individuals who lack either the political will or the common sense to accomplish much of anything, so holding them up as an example to live up to doesn’t get one very far. But the antidote isn’t Palin’s wackiness disguised as populism. The antidote is people with the intellectual capacity to appreciate the intricacies of the issues and the ability to implement workable solutions. Maybe Palin can get there someday, but that is not this day and it is not soon.
The issues with Palin go beyond just a lack of Washington-style experience. She lacks a certain worldliness in her views that can only be gained through life experiences. However noble her ability to juggle an expanding family with the legislative requirements of a state whose population is less than the city of Columbus, Ohio, it hardly substitutes for the kind of real-world experience that gets drawn on in moments of true crisis and not the kind of crisis over whether or not to fire the guy who won’t fire your ex-brother-in-law.