The Campaign Spot

If You’ve Lost Kathleen Parker, Who’s Left? Well, Lots of Folks, But

Today on NRO, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who’s been one of the biggest fans of Palin since she debuted, writes a column that is jaw-dropping…

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

This is not too far away from Eugene Robinson turning on Obama, Paul Krugman turning on Hillary, or Hugh Hewitt turning on Mitt Romney.
I’m sure Parker’s e-mailbox is filling up with cheerful recommendations of how to reevaluate her postion, but let’s see if we can separate the wheat from the chaff on this argument.
You don’t have to inject me with sodium pentathol to get me to say I wish Sarah Palin were a second-term governor; it would be reassuring to know that her promising but brief run as governor could hold up over the long haul.
And Parker puts her finger on Palin’s real problem in these interviews. It’s not a lack of smarts or analytical ability. It’s that her past jobs as mayor, chair of the state’s oil and gas commission and governor have not required her to know about a slew of fields of knowledge that are pretty much required for a president or vice president. Until a few weeks ago, Sarah Palin didn’t need to formulate policy responses to how to track al-Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan, or think about  the benefits and drawbacks of the health care reform proposal Mitt Romney put forth in Massachusetts, or determine where to draw the line in interrogation of captured terrorists, or assess how the nation as a whole should respond to a globalized economy or come up with how to deal with a Wall Street meltdown. What she did need to know – energy policy, tax policy, some social policy areas – she knows fine and can articulate her views at length.
The question is, how fast can Palin build on that knowledge base? What’s her learning curve? If, God forbid, she had to take office in February 2009, there would be understandable concern. A year later, she’d have a much broader range of policy knowledge. Two years later, it would be even broader, and by 2012, she would be as versed in national policy as almost anybody in Washington.
(And even in the worst-case scenario, a suddenly-promoted President Palin could/would go out and get her own “Biden” or “Cheney,” some longtime Washington statesman with broad areas of policy expertise to serve as her vice president. Lest any Democrat howl that this setup makes for a poor administration, note that this is precisely the setup they’re offering this year – promising rookie with crusty old vet looking over the shoulder.)
I’d conclude by noting a contrast. Most political observers could name the policy specialties of three of the figures in this race easily. Palin’s policy “specialties” are energy and cutting wasteful spending. We know McCain’s, national security and reform/pork-busting. We know Joe Biden’s, foreign policy and the judiciary.
What areas of policy does Barack Obama know best? I think if you asked ten Obama supporters you would get ten different answers, with perhaps something related to the judicial system near the top. His backers will say this is because he’s well–rounded; others may put it that he’s a jack of all trades and master of none and his critics may assess, with some credibility, that Obama’s fields of expertise are ‘hope,’ pledges of ‘change,’ race, and himself, the subject of his first two books.

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