Sunday, November 22, 2009

Palin' by Comparison

There is a wonderful article  about Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Van Meter in the December Vogue and a frightening article  about Sarah Palin by Frank Rich in today's NYT.  The Rich article discusses Palin's book, Going Rogue, as instructive about why we cannot count out Palin in the public arena even though in a recent CNN poll , 71% say she is unqualified to be president.  That same poll, however, shows that 42% see Palin in a favorable light, with 51 % viewing her unfavorably.  That second set of numbers is what is frightening and reflected in the Rich article.  Notwithstanding all the hoopla over her resignation as Alaska governor, her frequent inability to get out a coherent statement and her poor performance with Katie Couric during the election, (or maybe as Rich suggests, because of it) a large number of people like Palin, and her infatuation with the limelight and celebrity.  They think she is plain spoken and like the average American, although most average American women do not run for VP with a new Downs Syndrome baby and other children at home, including a pregnant teenager.  Why are people so willing to overlook Palin's lack of even the most rudimentary knowledge about world affairs?

Contrast Hillary Clinton who, according to the Vogue article, blew away Katie Couric with her command of the facts in a recent interview about Afghanistan.  The Vogue article also shows how sociable and charming Hillary really is despite her characterization over the years as a "ballbuster" (remember the tasteless Hillary nutcrackers during the 2008 campaign?)  And she was overwhelmingly adored by the people of Africa  on her recent trip there, although as usual the most reported incident of that trip was her unflattering clash with a Congolese student over a question about what her husband thought about the issues.  

Hillary is not only smart but she is effective and creative as SOS.  Her approach in Africa and other developing countries is to look at the "soft issues"-- including the role of women in the countries (a subject also addressed by Kristof and WuDunn's Half the Sky).  As Van Meter says about Clinton's view:

[T]he micro-economies of the poor are deeply important, and when the so-called soft issues—violence against women, food safety and agriculture, sustainable development—are not tended to, the result is chaos, instability, conflict, and war. 
Why is such an intelligent approach not given more its due by MSM?  Why instead is the MSM so intrigued by the Sarah Palin phenomenon?  To me, it shows a view of the American public as fundamentally ignorant and uninterested in anything but flash.  I hope for all our sake that view is merely a cynical one and not true.

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