Richard Reeves

The Five Weeks of Sarah Palin

LOS ANGELES -- I would like to pay due deference to the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States. I am happy for her that she was not asked a question during last Thursday night's "debate" that she could not robo-answer with memorized talking points.

I admire her grit and guts and could get used to her manner. She gave fair warning at the beginning that she did not intend to answer questions from moderators or opponents, but intended to just talk straight to the American people. She kept her word, more or less.

Watching her at what many said was her best, I was embarrassed. As a candidate for national office, Sarah Palin is an embarrassment to the nation. She is an embarrassment to the Republican Party and to the man who chose her, Sen. John McCain.

She had her moments, though they added up to less than the 15 minutes Andy Warhol predicted would be granted to each of us in this brave new media world. Truth be told, she is not even up to using her 15 minutes because, in case you haven't noticed, she has been hiding from "the filter," as she likes to call the press -- or as she says, "the mainstream media." She has not held a press conference and has pretty much screwed up in her two appearances on network television.

With good reason, I think. She does not know what she's doing. Even at her best she is capable of saying, within two minutes, that the government must provide the "massive oversight that Americans are expecting and deserving" and get tough on regulating the financial wheeler-dealers on Wall Street, and then follow it with a Reaganesque mantra, "Government should get out of the way."

Well, which one is it?

It is not only that Gov. Palin, local leader of the federal preserve called Alaska, is too inexperienced to be a heartbeat away from leading the greatest nation on Earth. It is that she trumpets her inexperience, sees her lack of knowledge as a virtue. She is doggone proud of her own ignorance and thinks the rest of us should be, too.

I found her tactic of dismissing history as irrelevant both pathetic and dangerous. I don't think she knows how we got here, got into the messes in Washington, Baghdad and Kabul. Each time she was asked about recent administrations and events, causes and effects, she bristled and came back with know-nothing pride, some of which was comprehensible, some not:

"I don't want to argue about the causes."

"When we talk about the Bush administration, there's a time, too, when Americans are going to say, 'Enough is enough with your ticket,' on constantly looking backwards, and pointing fingers, and doing the blame game.

"There have been huge blunders in the war. There have been huge blunders throughout this administration, as there are with every administration.

"But for a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into the future, there's just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever make us believe that that's where you're going."

"There you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future."

The one thing in the past she seemed to know about was expressed this way:

"But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain. That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here."

Reagan did say that, quite beautifully, but he was quoting John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who said it in 1630 and was quoting from the Sermon on the Mount, as reported in the Gospel of Matthew.

Unapologetic about her own ignorance, she certainly was. But then she had an excuse, which I am taking slightly out of context: "How long have I been at this, like five weeks?"

I doubt the next five weeks will make a difference. Then it's back to the Arctic for a while before she returns to the lower 48 as a United States senator.

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