Irresponsible speculation

Allow me to theorize, irresponsibly and baselessly, about the character of Governor Sarah Palin.

Every time she shows some new glaring knowledge gap—she thinks Fannie and Freddie are government-run, she can’t name a SCOTUS decision other than Roe, she doesn’t read newspapers—people are shocked that someone so ignorant could be running for the nation’s second-highest office. But for me each new gaffe just confirms my early impression of her, and this latest revelation is, to me, the clincher. Supposedly she said to one of her opponents for governor,

“Andrew, I watch you at these debates with no notes, no papers, and yet when asked questions, you spout off facts, figures, and policies, and I’m amazed. But then I look out into the audience and I ask myself, ‘Does any of this really matter?'”

For Sarah Palin, politics is not her Thing. I don’t know what her Thing is, and I’m not trying to imply that she’s not smart or capable or even good at her job. But politics, or at least governance, is not her passion. It’s not what she thinks about in her spare time or reads about when she gets home. She’s like so many other people who like their jobs but don’t love their jobs—she learns enough about what she’s doing to do it, in her opinion, competently, but doesn’t seek more knowledge of it on her own time for sheer love of the subject.

This approach works fine in her everyday life, of course. When you run for office, you have the whole campaign season to figure out what you need to know for the job, and since generally you’re advancing in increments, you’re only adding, say, 20% to your preexisting knowledge base each time. But the jump from half-term governor of Alaska to vice president isn’t incremental, and she doesn’t have months to prepare this time. So she comes off looking foolish to everyone who does read about politics in their spare time.

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with this approach. Not everyone is lucky enough to be super-passionate about their jobs, and I don’t think there’s any crime in just putting in your hours and going home. And I’m sure if, FSM forbid, she made it to the Oval Office, she’d learn on the job and perform perfectly adequately as vice president. She seems intelligent enough, even though she’s clearly ill informed.

So it’s not her preparedness, or lack thereof, that worries me most about Sarah Palin. What worries me is that she seems so fundamentally ill-suited to a job that would eat up every hour of her life for 4-8 years. Governing is damn hard, and for most offers little in the way of reward. You may be able to do an OK job without caring about it too much, but to do it anything resembling well, you have to love it. You have to think it’s the best and most important thing you could possibly do with your life. You have to be willing to give it everything, and I don’t think she is. It doesn’t make her a bad person, but it doesn’t make her a good candidate, either.

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