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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Couric Interviews Palin -- "Better Answers in Novice Extemp"

My wife watched Katie Couric's CBS interview with Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin last night (YouTube, transcript). My wife's assessment: "I've heard better answers judging a novice extemp round."

Novice extemp: a speech contest event in which ninth- and tenth-graders in often askew neckties have thirty minutes to prepare 4–6-minute speeches in response to randomly drawn domestic and foreign policy questions.

Why was Sarah Palin's performance so painful to watch? Palin repeats the same line, almost word for word, about Rick Davis "recusing himself from the dealings." Palin says things that don't make sense, like "I'm all about the position that America is in and that we have to look at a $700 billion bailout unless this nearly trillion dollar bailout is what it may end up to be, unless there are amendments in Paulson's proposal, really I don't believe that Americans are going to support this1." When asked why she would say Americans are waiting to see what McCain will do on the bailout and not Obama, Palin recites what she likes and what she hopes Americans believe about John McCain, not evidence of expressed public opinion. Palin can't articulate a single policy detail she would recommend for the mortgage bailout, although she's sure it needs to be a "multifaceted" and "comprehensive, long-term solution." Asked for examples of McCain's calling for stricter financial sector regulations aside from his 2006 call for more regs on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Palin dodges three times before her pathetic promise to "try to find ya some" and "bring 'em to ya."

It's not even funny anymore. It's not accurate to refer to the "McCain-Palin" ticket; it's nothing but McCain. Sarah Palin brings nothing substantive to the McCain campaign. She offers no clear policy vision. Even after four weeks, she can't elaborate on a single answer beyond her assigned and drilled talking points. Her understanding of world affairs sounds no deeper than a summary of the conservative talk radio commentary she perhaps hears on the radio in her motorcade on the way through Manhattan to the studio. She doesn't even understand her running mate's legislative history. She brings nothing but looks and fundagelicals to the McCain campaign.

Is that sexist? Anti-religionist? Just partisan? Believe what you want. But this isn't a beauty pageant (that was the '80s, Sarah): you're applying to be second-in-command of the free world. I expect a vice-president to be able to offer intelligent, direct answers with occasional factual support and policy detail. Evasive, uninformed answers like what Palin gave Couric wouldn't get her hired at McDonalds.

I seem to recall Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau regularly drawing George H.W. Bush as nothing, a blank spot in the cartoon panel with word bubbles popping out of thin air.

Word bubbles out of thin air—I can offer no more apt description of all Sarah Palin brings to the McCain campaign.

Update 11:07 CDT: But let's balance the partisan hackery of the Madville Times with a more sensible voice from the right, reporter Philip Klein of the conservative magazine American Spectator:

On second thought, maybe it's a good thing that the McCain campaign is shielding Palin from the media. Her interview with Katie Couric was absolutely painful to watch. She clearly stumbled twice -- when asked how McCain has fought to reform Wall Street and about Rick Davis's ties to Freddie Mac. Her answer that not supporting a bailout could mean a Great Depression was off message and irresponsible. For the rest of the interview, it was just lots of tired cliches, and random jargon that made it seem as if she was reading off of mental index cards. I know a lot of conservatives like Sarah Palin and always rush to her defense. But it's absolutely not meant as an insult to say that she simply is not ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency [emphasis mine; Philip Klein, "Palin's Silence," American Spectator blog, 2008.09.25].

Count on the Madville Times for more of the best of the
conservative media....

1. Update 2008.09.26 07:17: As some readers point out, Palin sounds like she says "ill," not "all." Whenever possible, I take quotes from written transcripts rather than audio/video. CBS's own transcript continues to list the word as
all. I guess I should watch more TV....


  1. pennypincher9/25/2008 11:04 AM

    Unfortunately Corey, I have to agree with you on this one. It was painful to watch and I felt she wasn't very prepared.

    On the other side, all of the other candidates have been in the public eye, A LOT, and are probably more comfortable with being in front of the camera for millions to see. Sure, I am confident in speaking in small groups, but turn a TV camera on and I turn into a blubbering idot that can't complete a sentence. I think since this was her first interview we should cut her some slack. Everyone deserves a learning curve. I just hope she picks up the pace really quickly.

  2. Well said Cory, and while appreciating PPs honesty, none of us yocals have agreed to be on the ticket. It's simply too important to excuse. If we say Obama and Palin have comparable experience, he differs by showing readiness. You can prepare for a sociology test, not a job requiring broad experience.

  3. pennypincher9/25/2008 12:16 PM

    But the thing is anon, Palin isn't the one running for President, OBAMA is. That's what's important. Obama doesn't have the experience either, but he wants the leader job. Big difference to me.

  4. it's frightening to think what could happen, isn't it.

  5. Are you kidding me pennypincher?

    She is running for VP and will most likely inheret the presidency when McCain passes on in office. Of all the people in the USA, she is the most qualified?

    Honestly, after watching this interview I am sincerely worried. These were not little mistakes, she just doesn't have any clue about any policy.

    We as an intelligent electorate should feel insulted by the choice of Palin for the VP. She wasn't picked for her capacity to act as the VP.

  6. Bring on yet another version of the shadow government if/when McCain passes on. What is Dan Quale doing these days couldn't they have resurected him to help out. She has her merits not sure what those are besides being called the hottest governor from the coldest state (really don't see that one?) and she can gut a wooly mammoth like no one else. If she takes over the presidency and she has to deal with foreign leaders wow they will be like sharks in the water at least George W. had the cranky old man backing him up and they knew all he had to do was invite them to go hunting with Dick Cheney.

  7. The only reason she is the 'hottest' governor is because Thune is stuck in congress.

  8. She was picked because McCain's staff threw a fit that if he picked Lieberman he would loose. That was the end of the straight talk express.

  9. pennypincher9/25/2008 7:55 PM

    Wasn't Regan older than McCain when he ran for office? I didn't hear anyone complaining about that, and he was even an Actor! How much foreign policy did he have?

  10. pp, I hate to tell you this, but a week or two ago,Sarah Palin did an interview with Charles Gibson. She sounded just as dumb then as she did with Katie Couric. She also should moderate her voice so that she doesn't sound so shrill. Her voice gets really annoying.

  11. I think she said "I'm ill about..." and not "I'm all about..."

  12. She didn't say, "I'm all about the position America is in". She said, "I'm ILL about the position America is in."

  13. pennypincher9/26/2008 6:43 AM

    Trust me anon.. I was cringing just watching it. All that I am saying is cut her some slack. It's her first time being in this big of a public eye. If it hadn't been for Clinton trying to obtain the Dem Nomination, I don't believe Palin would be as scrutinized as she is. I will admit, she needs to practice and do ALOT of homework before her debate.

  14. There should be no excuses for Palin. You can bet the McCain campaign took every effort to prepare her for the Couric interview. Her strength is everyday people like us identify with her family. But be careful not to over-identify to the point of sympathy and not hold her to a reasonable standard for the job she thinks she can do. If the situation were reversed, would she be nice and cut you slack?

  15. In all fairness, she wasn't very good. But how much does it really matter? I still say vote for substance over show. Probably the best public speaker in modern politics was Bill Clinton, and look where all of his polished, used car salesman speech got us: turn on the news, this is his mess. (the price you pay for making home ownership available to everyone). There is more to being a good politician than just being able to tell a good lie. When the used car salesman sells you a lemon, you don't look back and say "I know it doesn't work, but that's okay, because he was such a slick talker". Look beyond her allowing the great fluff-headed Couric to rattle her cage, and see what she is about. That's what I am doing... because I have looked into Obama's beliefs, and he scares me. And as for your making fun of the Christians... shame on you... AND, there are more of us than there are of you.

  16. I am voting for substance over show, Anon. Sarah Palin has no substance.

    And "making fun of Christians"? I'm not making fun of Palin because she's a Christian. I'm making fun of a woman who has demonstrated on national television a complete lack of the intelligence, experience, and even verbal ability necessary to competently lead the United States of America. The fact that she happens to be Christian is no reason not to criticize her demonstrated lack of ability for the job.

    America is too great a country to put an idiot in charge. If she can be rattled by the "fluff-headed" Couric, Putin will eat her alive.

  17. How nice of you to point out Palin's mistakes to us "cause all us dum fieldhands caint thank for owerselves" where was your biting criticism while Biden was talking out of his rear-end? Let me share a little truth with you:
    "When the stock market crashed (in 1929), Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened' " Joe Biden. It was a great sound bite except for two things: Herbert Hoover, not Roosevelt, was president at the time, and commercial television didn't exist.
    And how about his complaint that the party-approved ad against McCain that made fun of his not being able to use a computer was "terrible" (by the way, he also can't use a typewriter... old war injuries and all)
    BUT the best, the coups de grace is: the video that shows him telling an environmentalist in Ohio that "there will be no coal plants here in America under Obama" then telling the people gathered how he would save their jobs and thus their town. Why is that so great? because it demonstrates the lies and doubletalk that have become the mainstay of the Democratic party. Here's a tip for Biden: You can't bluff if your cards are showing.

  18. McCain too old? One Name for you Senator Robert Byrd, almost 20 years older.
    And if you have no problems with electing Tim Johnson I'm sure McCain's in better health!

  19. If 'being Christian is no reason not to criticize her' why don't you criticize her policies? With Palin it has never been policies. Family, looks or "what-if's" but never policies.
    Here's what you want to do, say 'Palin doesn't support Pro-choice views because she doesn't abort her kids even when they are a burden. I don't support that!'
    Now, you can't use that one because I already thought of it. But THAT'S how you criticize.

  20. Mr. Conrad, get your words out of my mouth; I have no idea where they've been.

    Once again, you try to make up the weak arguments you wish your opponents would make rather than what they are actually saying about Palin's actual lack of qualifications for the job.

    Criticize Palin's policies? Golly, if she could articulate one clearly, I'd take a swing at it. Maybe she can find a specific policy or two to talk about while she's looking for those examples for Couric.


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