The Parker Problem Kathleen Parker takes on Sarah Palin and loses convincingly
Kathleen Parker normally writes a good, insightful commentary. Her analyses are usually well grounded. But in her most recent column, she fails miserably on both accounts. Parker assails VP nominee Sarah Palin as being not up to the job. Quite frankly, an analysis of Parker's column reveals Parker is the one who is not up to her usual standards.
Kathleen Parker is generally considered a conservative columnist. I've read Parker for many years and find her commentary generally well thought out and intelligently presented. Today's commentary, The Palin Problem, is the exception that stands out like a lump of coal in a bowl of cotton.
Parker sets up her piece by referring to over-the-top personal attacks on Palin from liberal feminists and how critics ran the "risk being labeled anti-woman." Fair enough.
But then Parker dives off the deep end of an empty pool.
Parker opines that the greater exposure of Palin from "recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric" indicate Palin is "out of her league." If so, Parker is obviously adoring the wrong league.
Is there a bit of envy in Parker's prose? Consider this from Parker's piece:
... she recently met and turned several heads of state as the United Nations General Assembly convened in New York. She was gracious, charming and disarming. Men swooned. Pakistan's president wanted to hug her. (Perhaps Osama bin Laden is dying to meet her?)
What is all that about? If Palin has some femine mystique that disarms such lofty men, perhaps she would be just the right person to open dialogue with male head's of state!
... she has common sense, something we value. And she's had executive experience as a mayor and a governor, though of relatively small constituencies (about 6,000 and 680,000, respectively).
Here Parker makes the same mistake that many of Palin's critics who, grasping at anything to criticize Palin, have recited. She downplays the importance of Palin's executive skills as Mayor and Governor because she presided over relatively small constituencies. Of course, that is absurd on its face. Parker seems not to recognize that Palin's excellent record of executive skills is far more important than how many people populated her constituencies. It is the skills that are important. Bill Clinton had been governor of Arkansas. What other executive skills did he bring to the presidency? Look back in history when the nation was young. It would have been difficult to match elected executive positions with the complexity of today's mayors and governors. Parker has lost complete perspective at this point in her piece. This should warn the reader that this piece is not anywhere near up to the level of Parker's usual standards.
Parker continues with:
... Palin's narrative is fun, inspiring and all-American in that frontier way we seem to admire. When Palin first emerged as John McCain's running mate, I confess I was delighted. She was the antithesis and nemesis of the hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood -- a refreshing feminist of a different order who personified the modern successful working mother.
Palin didn't make a mess cracking the glass ceiling. She simply glided through it.
Why Parker switches to the past tense ("She was" ... "who personified") is further indication of a problem with Parker's analysis. Palin hasn't changed. She is the same "inspiring ... all-American ... nemesis of the hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood ... refreshing feminist ... modern successful working mother." It is Parker who changed, not Palin.
Parker then gets to the gist of her angst. Referring to interrogations by Charles Gibson and Katie Couric and an extensive interview with Sean Hannity, Parker believes she has discovered something unusual and disqualifying about Palin:
Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there's not much content there.
That's it? Palin responds to media interviews with a certain generic quality? She "filibusters"? I'm shocked! But not by Palin's interviews. I'm shocked at Parker's naivete and/or double-standard.
Has Parker held the Presidential nominee, Barack Hussein Obama to the same standard? Obama can give a two hour talk and say absolutely nothing. But he does it with style and a mostly pleasant demeanor ... until his TelePrompTer malfunctions. Then he's as lost as a blind man in a blizzard. But the blind man doesn't come across as a fool when he's lost.
Has Parker held the other VP nominee, gaffe-machine Joe Biden, to the same standard? Hardly. Of course, Biden isn't interrogated by Gibson and Couric and wouldn't interview with Hannity if his life depended upon it (why do you suppose that is, Kathleen?).
As evidence of her sudden concerns about Palin, Parker cites this from Palin's interview with Hannity:
[Palin] Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we're talking about today. And that's something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.
First off, Parker fails to set up the context of Palin's answer by providing the question she was answering. That would have given Parker's readers some context with which to evaluate the answer. Nevertheless, let's analyze the answer under that handicap.
First sentence: "Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we're talking about today." I don't know about Parker, but everybody else on this planet seems to recognize just how seriously partisanship is hurting congressional action. We've been subjected to nearly eight years of partisan sniping at President Bush. We've had nothing but partisan bickering and stonewalling of important congressional issues, like Draconian restrictions on drilling for gas and oil, recovering oil from oil shale, buiding new and improving existing refineries, building new coal-fired power plants, building new nuclear power plants, mining rich veins of coal, and other practical energy and fuel-related improvements. Democrats and their extremist environmental allies have blockaded efforts to use relatively cheap domestic alternatives to imported oil. Such partisanship has been extremely costly in terms of US funds being transferred to foreign terrorist supporting nations and dicatator-led states. It has also been costly in terms of bringing us higher cost energy and fuel, eliminating the millions of jobs that building such facilities would produce, and lowering the value of the US dollar. So Palin's first sentence is 100% accurate and is a very important reality that must be addressed by the new administration.
Final sentence: "And that's something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this." In light of the above, this is an observation that is hard to refute. Compare the two candidates, McCain and Obama, with their skills at working with others. McCain has been labeled a "maverick" Republican because he so often tries to work with Democrats in what often seems like a lone effort to avoid partisanship. He might be criticized for going to far at times, but he is clearly an example of a dying breed of politicians who value statesmenship over partisanship. He actually lives his motto, "Country First" ... it isn't just a slogan to him. This skill will be critical in the coming years when both Social Security and Medicare implode under the weight of growing numbers of baby-boomers who enter the system. Contrast McCain's record with Obama's. Obama's personal pique at the audacity of Hillary Clinton to challenge his ascencion to coronation as Democrat nominee for President was so bitter that he never considered for one second what everyone knew was his best choice for VP, Hillary Clinton. Instead, Obama snubs the Clintons (his campaign went so far as to label Bill Clinton a racist for campaigning against Obama) and selects the aging buffoon of Presidential primaries, Joe Biden, the human gaffe-machine. Obama's acid rhetoric about President Bush and Republicans as well as his flimsy attempt to label the maverick McCain as just another Bush, are clear evidence that, should Obama become President, Washington would decend to new depths of partisan bikering. So Palin has it 100% right with her answer. What is Parker's problem with this?
Parker's citation of this snippet from the Hannity interview is reminiscent of the tactic used by both Gibson and Couric in their interrogations of Palin. Both of them asked a question that Palin answered, then they proceded to badger Palin as though she hadn't answered the question! Here Parker cites a perfectly valid and important answer as an example of "BS" or too much "verbiage"? What does Parker expect? Palin should have written down her response, parsed it, edited it for length and precision, then read the result? When being peppered with questions from sometimes hostile interviewers, I think we can excuse a less than perfect response in terms of brevity. Obtuse questions do require some quick thinking in order to formulate a meaningful answer. That isn't filibustering, it's filling what would be shown as a void and treated as indecision or lack of knowledge. So Parker simply infers that anyway! Can't win either way, unless, of course, you've been given the questions in advance and, in the case of Obama, have your TelePrompTer working.
So this example by Parker fails miserably to make Parker's case and simply raises more questions about Parker's analytical skills.
Parket then cites from the Couric interrogation:
When Couric pointed to polls showing that the financial crisis had boosted Obama's numbers, Palin blustered wordily: "I'm not looking at poll numbers. What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who's more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who's actually done it?"
At least this time Parker provides the question as well as the answer, so we have context. So let's analyze Palin's response.
First sentence: "I'm not looking at poll numbers." That's about as succinct and to the point as one can get. Evidently Parker has problems with what follows, but we have Palin's answer. It's a typical answer that politicans have been giving to that question for eons. And for good reason. Polls are easily constructed to obtain whatever result is desired. The manner of asking questions, the polling samples by party and, in this election, by race, can significantly swing poll numbers to create illusions. Are responders registered? Do they have a track record of voting? Are they likely to vote in November? All of these variables can be manipulated to create whatever illusion pollsters wish to create for whatever reason they may have. So the answer is a correct answer to a question that, quite frankly, should have been posed differently if Couric's objective was to ask a question about the financial crisis. As posed, the question could refer to either the polls or the crisis, or both. Which to answer? So Palin answers both to the extent anyone in her position should. Palin dismisses the poll portion of the question clearly at the outset, then moves on to the financial crisis.
Final sentence: "What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who's more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who's actually done it?" This is an appropriate answer to a question that can only be answered generically by Palin. She is not involved with the negotiations that are in the province of McCain arena. So she provides the best anyone should reasonably expect of her. She identifies what most Americans want to see. A leader who has a track record of tackling tough issues that require bipartisan cooperation and getting to work on a crisis without delay. That happens to be what McCain did by suspending his campaign and flying to Washington to help forge a solution with which he'd have to live if elected President. Obama's response was to continue his personal quest for resumé-building by "voting present" ("contact me by phone") and letting the real leaders in Washington work out a solution. When it came to serving his own interests or the needs of the country, Obama chose the former. Is there any better example of how well John McCain is qualified by experience and record to be President and Barack Hussein Obama is not? Obama has run his campaign pledging "change" but when push comes to shove, he has shown he is content to follow the usual partisan path by refusing to join McCain in Washington to forge a joint solution to the problem. Again, while Palin could have given a more succinct answer had she taken the time to write out a response and then parse it and edit it until it was acceptable "verbiage" to Parker, Palin's answer was most appropriate to the question. Anyone who expected her to provide a solution to the financial crisis in her response is not dealing with a full deck!
Parker calls that "BS" ... I call it a fair response to a somewhat ambiguous question. It is no secret that Couric wants Obama elected. So is it reasonable to believe Couric would formulate questions with a clarity that enables the kind of response Parker seems to crave? I don't think so. Frankly, Palin's responses were what I'd expect of anyone in her position.
Parker concludes from this hollow "evidence" that Palin is unfit to serve as VP! Frankly, I'm left with a much-diminished view of Parker's analytical skills and her comprehension of the importance of this election.
Parker holds Palin to a standard far in excess of what either Obama or Biden have been held to. Perhaps Parker is a bit over-sensitive to concerns that a woman in high places will fail. Regardless, it should have occurred to Parker that Palin has had oppportunities to fail in the past, but has always shone (as Mayor, then Governor).
In this column, it is Parker who has failed the test of adequacy, not Palin.
Bob Webster, a 12th-generation descendent of both the Darte family (Connecticut, 1630s) and the Webster family (Massachusetts, 1630s) is a descendant of Daniel Webster's father, Revolutionary War patriot Ebenezer Webster, who served with General Washington. Bob has always had a strong interest in early American history, our Constitution, U.S. politics, and law. Politically he is a constitutional republican with objectivist and libertarian roots. He has faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and reason over deception and emotion. He is a strong believer in our Constitution as written and views the abandonment of constitutional restraint by the regressive Progressive movement as a great danger to our Republic. His favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and believes it should be required reading for all high school students so they can appreciate the cost of tolerating the growth of unconstitutional crushingly powerful central government. He strongly believes, as our Constitution enshrines, that the interests of the individual should be held superior to the interests of the state.
A lifelong interest in meteorology and climatology spurred his strong interest in science. Bob earned his degree in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1964.