Thursday, October 09, 2008

Letter to Ms Kathleen Parker, Washington Post

October 4, 2008
Ms. Kathleen Parker
C/O Washington Post Writers Group
1150 15th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20071-9200

Dear Ms. Parker,
When I read your article a short time ago regarding Sarah Palin’s lack of qualifications, I was relieved and impressed that a biased columnist of either side (Right/Left) had the courage to cross the line and speak honestly. Saturday morning, I read with disappointment your post-debate article in which you sing the praises of Ms. Palin’s debating skills and end by somewhat questioning her capabilities as President. In the same stream of though, you also question whether or not Barack Obama is qualified, as if the two are currently on par.

Let’s start with one basic premise. Debating is part skill, part show, and in this case it’s all about getting votes. No more, no less. A Presidential or Vice Presidential debate is an artificial environment that in no way can predict how a person will govern, or even if that person is capable of doing so. For a true picture, one has to look at the track record, unscripted situations, and important characteristics of a leader. In that regard you were right in your original article and the debate should not have changed your mind. In fact, Sarah Palin’s avoidance of questions she did not want to answer, and her insistence on talking about things she wanted to talk about, should reinforce the notion that she is grossly unqualified for the job. In an interview on Fox, she said she was annoyed by Katie Couric in that Ms. Couric did not allow her to talk about what she wanted to address (namely, anti-Obama talking points), instead insisting on “gotcha” questions. Curiously, these are the very same questions that were asked of Joe Biden.

There are many list of what it takes to be a good leader, but I’ll point out a couple of items that I think are important.

Competence. This embodies many things, including experience, knowledge, judgment. Focusing on knowledge, it is obvious that Governor Palin has little depth in any of the key areas important to the top two positions in the country. She knows nothing about the Supreme Court. She felt that Dick Cheney’s worst offense was shooting a fellow hunter. She has yet to put together a cohesive sentence on the current economic crisis. She honestly believes that living close to Russia somehow qualifies her as a foreign policy expert. Is it too much to ask that a Vice President actually know something about the job? Even more so than the lack of specific knowledge, Governor Palin has shown no interest in actually acquiring that knowledge. She could not cite a single newspaper or magazine from which she gains information. In fact, she dismisses in depth understanding of government as a failing of “Washington Insiders”. Can name one other profession in which understanding of the job is a liability?

Seriousness. In this regard I’m not talking about lack of humor, I’m talking about recognizing that we have serious problems and we need serious, real solutions. When Governor Palin plays to the audience in a debate, shouting out to third-graders and Joe six-pack, she relinquishes all claims to seriousness and as a result all claims to credibility. Again, we’re seeing the difference between debating to gain votes and demonstrating a true capability to lead the nation. Can you imagine a VP Palin visiting the Prime Minister of Iraq or the President of Russia and engaging in a real conversation of joint or conflicting interests. Those situations call for credibility, they call for focus, they call for presence, and nothing about her appeal to Joe six-pack plays to those needs. In fact, were she to act with them as she did in the debate, there’s no possibility they would take her seriously.

Context. In order to affect real change it’s critical to understand the current situation, it’s obvious points and the nuances. Governor Palin has shown little if any interest in understanding anything about how Washington works. In fact, she mocks the system and shows contempt for virtually everyone who operate within it. The “I’m not from Washington” line works well with some voters, but will have quite the opposite impact in real life. Would you hire a writer who not only has no “big league” writing experience and who considers that experience a handicap? If you were CEO of a major company, would you hire someone who knows nothing about how your company works, doesn’t care to know, dismisses all that work there, but says she is going to fix things?

Ms. Parker, our country is heading in the wrong direction. A recent poll indicates that only 9% of Americans are satisfied with how things are going. In one of my favorite movies “An American President”, the incumbent says “We have serious problems, and we need serious people”. Sarah Palin is not one of those people. She may be qualified as president of the debate team, but not as President or Vice President of the United States. You recognized that early on and as an intelligent person I would imagine you still recognize it. You did yourself and your readers a disservice by backtracking on your earlier evaluation. There was not, and there still is not, any question regarding Governor Palin’s qualifications, and even asking the question, as you did in your latest article, has no place in today’s discourse.


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