Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Harry S. Truman and Sarah Palin

Fans of Sarah Palin passionately claim that she is not only qualified to be Vice-President but also President. They point to her being mayor of a small town and governor of Alaska. As her record has become known, her taunted successes have been questioned. Once the initial enthusiasm waned, following a disastrous news interview and news of her misuse of her office, a number of powerful Republicans have wondered if she is qualified. Needless of one’s views of her record, she has burst upon the national political field with an aura, an aura that has faded, with a modest background and a short résumé.

People can come from the back of the pack with thin a résumé into a significant leadership position and excel. Gifts that were previously unseen and hidden under a basket burst forth to enrich us. One only has to look at Harry S. Truman an obscure Congressman that Franklin Roosevelt selected as his running mate. Few knew of Truman prior to him becoming Vice President. Yet upon the death of Roosevelt, Truman was thrust into the most significant and powerful office on earth. This unknown became the advocate of the Marshall Plan, the policy of containment rather than aggressive confrontation and one of the architects of the United Nations.

For nearly seven weeks we have watched Mrs. Palin strut across the national stage proclaiming her populist rhetoric. I have avoided the term “populist philosophy” since I have not been able to put together a coherent picture of her governing principles and philosophy. Other than stringing together populist platitudes that resonate but which have little content behind them, I see little evidence that she has the tools and the knowledge to be the President, let alone Vice President.

When asked what papers she reads regularly, she could not name one. When pressed she replied “them all.” When she was unable to mention the name of the major paper in Alaska or three or four other major papers in America, I am left wondering about her intellectual curiosity. We need our top office holders to be critical thinkers, who can ask probative questions of their advisors, Cabinet and Congressional leaders.

I am left wondering what Republican philosophy underpins her views, her hopes and dreams. Is she a liberal Republican or an extremely conservative one? It seems to me that she is a Republican as a matter of convenience as it is the dominant party in Alaska rather than being a Republican because of deep convictions. Even while standing on the national stage she has not fleshed out her views. I have not basis for understanding the basis from which she will make decisions in the future that will impact my life, the nation and the world.

Her interaction with the press has been tightly controlled. She has not been allowed to venture forth untethered into a news scrum. Palin has not been put before the press to address their questions. I fear that she is carefully controlled because the campaign leadership realize that she lacks the skills to handle the press, to think thoughtfully and respond cogently to their questions. Rather than giving a thoughtful response she responds with whatever comes across her mind at the moment. I am left wondering whether Palin will be able to handle herself and respond well when pressed by international leaders, strong Cabinet members and party officials. The last thing we need is a national leader who is a pawn of a powerful people who are around her. We do not need a political leader who will have a bunker mentality when it comes to the press.

We need leaders who are hardheaded and are driven by instincts. Instincts are important but operating only by instincts is dangerous, particularly for occupants of the White House. We need a leader who is more than a populist leader who is great to visit with at a barbeque and spouts platitudes. We need more than a party pal. We need leaders who are strong critical thinkers who can see the broad picture and are able to challenge others with probative questions, even if they are already predisposed to that option or view.

Harry S. Truman was an unknown whose light graced the world when he entered the office of President of the United States. Though an unknown Congressman from Missouri, Truman was a tough critical thinker who had the knack of getting down the heart of the matter, a man who knew the big picture, who knew what major battles to fight and what skirmishes must not distract him. He accepted responsibility. When he used a folksy phrase or expression people knew he was summarizing a complicated matter in his own words. He instilled confidence, not by his whimsical words but through his actions and decisions. He was a wonderful leader for the country at an important junction in its history.

Sarah Palin came onto the national stage an unknown like Harry S. Truman. Yet what she has demonstrated on that stage and what we know of her leadership in Alaska, is far from being a Truman. She is not the person who should be either President or Vice President.


Stephen said...

No kidding!!

Barbara said...

.... there sounds like a lot of similarities to the current president ... in the intelligence department.