Sarah Palin’s Twitter feed is exactly the kind of vacuous celebrity fan cultivation that deserves no attention, but as long as she remains a prominent public figure who is or wants to be taken seriously, at least in some circles, it’s our responsibility to take her at face value (although of course we shall still mock her, as we would any other politician, in proportion to her silliness). But if she wants to be treated like a serious politician, that means no softballs: Every time she makes a statement that would have been a career-ender for anyone else, it should be treated as such.
Consider her recent tweet*:
Extreme Greenies:see now why we push”drill,baby,drill”of known reserves&promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it? (6:07 PM Jun 1st)
I humbly submit that this statement proves that she is unfit for any public office, and indeed, for any kind of leadership whatsoever. She has just demonstrated that her talking points–and her beliefs–exist independently of reality, and that she is unable or unwilling to change them if they become unsustainable.
I recall reading an editorial in 2004 arguing that John Kerry’s infamous “waffling” should actually be considered a good thing. It argued (I paraphrase): “Single-mindedly adhering to one position regardless of how much evidence is presented to the contrary, which would be considered insanity in anyone else, is somehow considered leadership in a president.” Whether Kerry would have made a good president is neither here nor there, but although it’s never popular, a good leader must be flexible and able to adjust his plans so that they reflect reality. Consider Obama’s war position. Although he opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, once in office, he acknowledged the reality that we couldn’t simply withdraw all our troops immediately. Guantanamo Bay is an even better example: Abhorrent as it is and as high a priority as Obama has made it, he recognized the legal and security difficulties involved and hasn’t tried to just close the camp and figure out what to do with the prisoners later. He’s caught flak from progressives, but he’s just being reasonable.
I mention Obama’s war policy merely to provide an example of decisions made and altered on the basis of real situations. His choices are up for plenty of debate, but there do exist situations where politicians must rethink their positions, even foundational ones, based on new information, and where failure to do so represents a dangerous lack of perspective. Continuing to support oil drilling in the middle of the worst oil spill in US history is a good example.
Palin’s logic, insofar as there is any, is that the spill wouldn’t have been a disaster if it had happened on land, and that therefore we should have allowed drilling in ANWR. It’s true that oil spills on land are far easier to contain and repair, although they still can’t be considered “safe” in most senses of the word, but the whole point of “Drill Baby Drill” is that we should tap all our oil reserves. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find even a solitary individual of the “Drill Baby Drill” movement who supported drilling in ANWR but not off the coast. If Palin had gotten her way, we wouldn’t have prevented this disaster–we would have both an oil spill and a compromised wildlife refuge. Moreover, safety regulations were never a priority for the drilling movement, so disasters, onshore and offshore, would have been worse on all levels on Palin’s watch.
The Daily Irritant, whence I got that wonderful picture, makes another salient point: “If you’re going to be condescending, you could at least be right.”
Of course Palin didn’t mean anything by her comment except a cheap political shot. Indeed, her entire Twitter feed is little more than a series of cheap shots keyed to the news story of the day. But that is perhaps all the more evidence for her lack of ability, because a responsible politician shouldn’t use a major catastrophe as merely a platform for cheap shots (I say “merely” because one can only expect so much from any politician). Besides, the cheap shot is still nonsense, because it’s still the opposite of what logic would dictate.
I know that whether or not someone has relevant qualifications is becoming less and less of a focus with each election cycle, but that’s why I feel the need to bring it back to its rightful central location. One’s positions ought to be secondary to one’s basic competence. Palin is only competent to parrot her predetermined talking point on an issue, even if that talking point is woefully out of touch with reality. Thus, I find that one tweet alone is enough to prove Sarah Palin unfit to lead.
*All of Palin’s tweets sound like unintentional self-parody, to the point that, when I was reading her Twitter page, I checked several times to verify that it wasn’t a spoof. The persistent use of “Doggone,” coupled with preteen abbreviations, and a tendency to cram in too many words rather than making a short, coherent statement all give the impression that she is attempting to sound rambling and not too bright–in other words, like a parody. It is much improved when read by William Shatner as free verse poetry.