by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Both sides need to take Sarah Palin out of the box.

The Democrats and certain media members began packaging this woman the moment she hit the national stage. They labeled her a hunting mama. Bill Maher called her “a stewardess.” Maureen Dowd likened her to Eliza Doolittle of “My Fair Lady.”

All of that is unfair and, for her critics, self-defeating. Nobody fits so easily into a box. Yes, Palin knows how to shoot a gun. But suggesting she’ll skin a moose on the White House lawn only makes you look stupid.

Yes, she’s inexperienced. But suggesting she’s out of “My Fair Lady” denies the fact she got elected governor of one of America’s 50 states, hardly a simple thing to do. Clearly she has more savvy than a cockney flower girl learning to say “the rain in Spain …”

Boxing Palin is quick and easy, but it is not going to get her critics what they want. The view from the other side

Same goes for her Republican supporters. No sooner had Palin been chosen than they boxed her up with easy, attractive labels. A Woman of the People. A Hockey Mom.

First of all, what is a Hockey Mom? If driving someone to a rink is a category, then Steve Yzerman’s mother and Sergei Fedorov’s mother are the same person.

It’s such a useless term – one Palin uses herself. Does Hockey Mom mean she yells at refs? She carpools? And what does any of that have to do with being vice president?

Calling her a Woman of the People is equally foolish. Which people?

This business of packaging is what you do to win “American Idol,” not the White House. And unless we want as vapid an administration as a reality show cast, what you, the voter, ought to be paying attention to is not the labels, but what Palin says and does.

To that end, the Charles Gibson interview on ABC this past week was telling.

When Palin had no clue what the Bush Doctrine was, she squirmed and replied with a stern, “In what respect, Charlie?”- like a high school debater trying to buy time.

When asked three different times if it was OK to invade Pakistan, an ally, she finally said, “I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying America and our allies”- which shows no insight into Pakistan, but sounds like a sentence you can hear from any caller on a radio talk show.

Asked if she had met a foreign leader, she said “I have not” and then declared if you looked historically at other vice presidents, you’d find many hadn’t either. But according to ABC, she’d be the first in 32 years not to.

You can learn something from that. And it’s not in a box. It’s from her mouth and on her résumé. Interest figures to fade soon

Speaking of résumé, you can learn something when she dismissed politicians with a “big, fat résumé.” Having a big, fat résumé doesn’t make you bad or good. But all things being equal, fat beats thin, doesn’t it?

You can learn when Gibson asked what insight she had into Russia’s recent frightening activities, and her response was “you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”

You can learn when she said of herself: “You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission … you can’t blink.”

That tells you a lot. Personally, I think blinking is OK. Rubbing your temples is OK. Thinking is OK. Taking pause to be sure your monumental decisions are right is OK.

Our president is known as a guy who doesn’t blink; he just acts on his gut. He has one of the lowest approval ratings in history.

So ask yourself: Have we really become a country where thin résumés are better than thick ones, gut instinct is better than study and labels more important than the content?

My take on Palin is that interest in her will wane, as interest always does in America, and by next month, we’ll feel silly about the frenzied fuss that was made in her early days.

This bodes badly for Republicans who think they’ve captured lightning in a bottle, and for Democrats who think they’ve found the Holy Grail of attack.

But Palin – like all of the them – deserves to be evaluated on her actions, and analyzed from research, constant listening and comparing records with words.

If we don’t want to work that hard, we deserve whatever boxed-up product we get.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!