09 October 2006

Sarah on Touchstone

Sarah Palin was on KNOM's call-in show "Touchstone" last Friday. She took questions from callers throughout Western Alaska and even answered a few of our own.

Some thoughts:

  • I continue to be shocked at how disorganized her campaign is. The cell phone number I was given didn't work, we had to delay the show by at least ten minutes as a result, and I only got her on when I told her staff member I had been corresponding with that we were about to start the show with or without her. That got him focused. The cell phone connection cut out in the middle of the show (right in the middle of a question about subsistence) and it took far too long to get her back on the show.
  • She is a very friendly person who has smooth answers to the questions she is asked. Her cliches and soundbites flow as well as any other candidate and she is clearly a practiced campaigner.
  • Without much difficulty, I think people are drawn to like her. She answered one caller from Emmonak by noting how she had just meet a person from Emmonak and then proceeded to give the actual question somewhat short shrift.
  • She focuses so much on the Alaska constitution. Repeatedly, she rooted her political views in the constitution, which I didn't really get since I assume the constitution is relatively uncontroversial since every candidate will have to live by it. What benefit is there to saying something to the effect of, "We need to provide high-quality education to all Alaskans because that's what the constitution demands" without providing any specifics of an education plan? And yet when I asked her about abortion she said she had "nothing to hide" about her views and didn't really address the constitutional aspect of my question.
  • She shied away from controversy and dissension more than other candidates do. Several times, she noted she didn't want to "divide Alaskans" and instead wanted to unite "all Alaskans." That's great but isn't governing all about making decisions and living with the consequences? One consequence is that not everyone is going to agree with you. I was shocked when she took a question on subsistence and explicitly stated she disagreed with the caller.
  • Her answers on subsistence questions and coastal management questions (they came from callers) were very weak and betrayed a general lack of knowledge about the topic. (She's given similarly weak answers in other places.)
  • When I asked her about the ADN editorial that said she tried to be all things to all people, she quickly retorted with the ad hominem, "well the ADN editorial board isn't a bunch of folks that wants me to be governor" (a paraphrase, not a direct quotation) and went for some more mish-mash about "uniting all Alaskans.
In sum, I think she has what it takes to win the election - a winning personality, clear (if vacuous) answers to questions, and an outsider/maverick label in an anti-incumbent year. The question is - is that enough to successfully govern the state? I don't know.

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