By Manifesto Joe
The Sarah Palin crib-note controversy is just one more silly gaffe on Palin's part, but the big picture that emerges is that politics is simply not a business for amateurs. Palin merely joins a large list of people who have tried to become big-time politicians overnight, and found themselves in over their heads. And from what I've seen of Palin over the past year and a half, the sludge doesn't have to get too deep to submerge her.
Here's Stephen Colbert on this and related matters. This includes video of the crib-palm-note incident.
The Republican Party seems desperate for effective leadership if they are actually giving the likes of Palin her 15 minutes. I don't sell her too, too short -- she may be able to marshal enough of a foolish following to take her a pretty long way in that party. But, expect many more gaffes and missteps. She's a bush-leaguer trying to play in the majors. (As opposed to a George W. Bush-leaguer. He finally left office with a 22% approval rating, but that family name and connections got him plenty of trips to the plate.)
Palin has much company among unseasoned rookies who thought being in the public arena was going to be easy. Here's just a short list:
Jesse Ventura. I give Jesse credit for having more native intelligence than Palin, but a pro wrestling career and the mayorship of a small town didn't nearly prepare him to be governor of a midsize state. He's not quite a fool, but he took enough of a pummeling over four years to persuade him to leave this particular arena while he was still standing.
Jimmy Carter. Oh, he's been a model for ex-presidents. But his experience as a sort of citizen politician at the state level didn't get him in shape for Washington. He spent four long years growing into the job of president, and didn't show enough growth, early enough, to sell him for a second term. He was a workaholic chief operating officer in the job, never quite understanding what it takes to be able to delegate responsibility, get along with Congress, and see the forest as well as the trees. It's a shame, because by some accounts this was one of the brightest people ever to hold the office.
Kinky Friedman. "Why the hell not. ... How hard can it be?" The songwriter-humorist-novelist is certainly no dummy. But he found out, the hard way, exactly how hard it can be, and is, without the right background in public affairs and high-level debate. Because of his regional fame, he started a very promising independent candidacy for Texas governor in 2006, then got his ass thoroughly kicked over a campaign trail that culminated with his embarrassing performance in the general-election debate. He got 12.6% of the vote. He dropped out of the running for the Democratic nomination for governor this time, wisely. Not so wisely, he's running for the party's nomination for agriculture commissioner. Something tells me that even if he could get elected, we in Texas wouldn't quite have an updated version of Jim Hightower.
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Again, this is no dummy, at least not in any classic sense. But he had absolutely no business thinking that he was qualified to lead the nation's largest and now probably most troubled state. To illustrate how daunting this job is and how few people, even with the right experience, want it, California's attorney general and ex-Gov. Jerry Brown has been talked up as a good prospect for one last go at it. Well, at least Jerry's a veteran pro.
Debra Medina. For those unfamiliar, this is the third GOP hopeful, trailing incumbent idiot Gov. Rick "Goodhair" Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination in Texas. When a would-be politician goes on the Glenn Beck show on Fox and makes herself look kooky and foolish in comparison to Glenn, you know there's an enormous problem.
Bobby Jindal. After an upset win to be elected Louisiana governor and some initial promise, he's struck out and fallen flat every time the Republican high-rollers have invited him to the major-league plate. It's clear that he simply lacks the experience to become what the big dogs had hoped for.
Is it a coincidence that so many of these rank amateurs are Republicans? I'd say it just shows how desperate the GOP is for effective standard-bearers, for people who could follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan, or even Il Doofus, for that matter.
So, as per the question, how did Reagan, and Bush II, both Johnny-come-latelys to high office themselves, fare so well? Reagan was intensively schooled in politics before becoming a candidate for California governor in 1966, and his thespian and PR skills were well-honed before then. Il Doofus, in addition to benefiting from family connections, surrounded himself with seasoned political rogues like Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, which got him through many a difficult time. Some of the folks in the aforementioned list were smarter than these two in the purest sense of intelligence, but clearly not as "cunning."
And so, back to Sarah Palin. Like Ventura, she was mayor of a small town, and then served a rather short tenure as a state governor -- but not even of a midsize state. I have a hard time understanding what John McCain was thinking when he picked her, among all the prospects he had, as a VP running mate. I suppose he was shooting dice, hoping to energize a presidential campaign that was already floundering at convention time.
Palin's exposure on the national scene has given her a certain following, but she's got many long miles to go. One poll shows that 70% of the American people don't think she's qualified for the presidency. Wow -- ya think? The shocking news there was that 28% actually believe that she is.
Politics is a business for pros, Sarah. Bank your royalty money, and stay on Fox "News." You've got enough credibility to stay on the air there, since their standards are low. The American people, as dumbed-down as they seem by American Idol and video games, apparently aren't buying it, at least not yet.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.