A few more thoughts on Palin’s underperformance so far in media interviews. Yes, I think the McCain team has pursued a bad strategy for her, relying mostly on the broadcast networks, with an incomprehensible leaning toward the last-place network, CBS. But there is also the problem of Palin’s underperformance.
I say underperformance because I’m working on a piece for the magazine about Palin’s governing style in Alaska. Guess what? She does what governors do. In her time in office, she has been deeply involved in not just the gas pipeline and other energy issues but the entire range of state government matters. There is education, health and social services, public safety, transportation, ethics — the whole spectrum. Palin has been more engaged in some issues than in others, but she has had a pretty wide experience in her relatively short time in office (read, for example, her 2008 State of the State address) and is conversant in all of them.
So why has she done so badly in her two broadcast interviews? One reason is her failure to draw on her own experience. For example, when ABC’s Charles Gibson brought up cost controls for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, she appeared to know little about the issue. Yet everyone knows, to take one example, that governors have been complaining long and loud about the burdens imposed on states by the federal government’s reimbursement policies on Medicaid. Palin has had to deal with that in Alaska — I talked with her budget director about it yesterday. And yet Palin said nothing about her own experience. The same was true for education and a bunch of other issues. Oddly, the area in which she did bring up her Alaska experience was in foreign affairs — Alaskans can see Russia — when it wasn’t at all relevant to the question at hand.
What do governors do when they run for president? They talk about what they’ve done in Texas, or what they’ve done in Arkansas, or what they’ve done in California. It’s the way they make the case to voters that they not only have executive experience but experience dealing with some — certainly not all — of the issues they will face as president. Governor Palin could cite her own experience much more. Why she hasn’t, at least so far, is a mystery.