Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Naked Ambition of Sarah Palin

New York Times op-ed columnist, Frank Rich, raises an issue that few have dared raise about Sarah Palin - her naked ambition, what Rich calls her "hubristic self-confidence and hyper-ambition."

This was an underlying reason for my decision to start this blog - that display of "hubristic self-confidence" which Palin first put on display at the RNC. We saw it in the dripping disdain with which she spoke about Obama's work among the poor of south Chicago. We saw it in her saying that she didn't hesitate for a moment to accept the VP nomination. "I'm ready!" she said with the eager smile of a pre-schooler telling her dad she doesn't need the training wheels anymore.

When I held this up next to what I was reading about her "no-holds-barred" ascent to the top of the heap of Alaskan politics, I realized that this is what is most definitive about her - a "hubristic self-confidence" and "hyper ambition."

This, of course, could be said of many politicians. But few would say "I'm ready" with no hesitation when asked about running for an office for which they are not prepared nor qualified. This is the kind of pride the Bible condemns, the kind that "goeth before a fall."

Here's what Frank Rich says:

There’s a steady unnerving undertone to Palin’s utterances, a consistent message of hubristic self-confidence and hyper-ambition. She wants to be president, she thinks she can be president, she thinks she will be president. And perhaps soon. She often sounds like someone who sees herself as half-a-heartbeat away from the presidency. Or who is seen that way by her own camp, the hard-right G.O.P. base that never liked McCain anyway and views him as, at best, a White House place holder.

This was first apparent when Palin extolled a “small town” vice president as a hero in her convention speech — and cited not one of the many Republican vice presidents who fit that bill but, bizarrely, Harry Truman, a Democrat who succeeded a president who died in office. A few weeks later came Charlie Gibson’s question about whether she thought she was “experienced enough” and “ready” when McCain invited her to join his ticket. Palin replied that she didn’t “hesitate” and didn’t “even blink” — a response that seemed jarring for its lack of any human modesty, even false modesty.

In the last of her Couric interview installments on Thursday, Palin was asked which vice president had most impressed her, and after paying tribute to Geraldine Ferraro, she chose “George Bush Sr.” Her criterion: she most admires vice presidents “who have gone on to the presidency.” Hours later, at the debate, she offered a discordant contrast to Biden when asked by Gwen Ifill how they would each govern “if the worst happened” and the president died in office. After Biden spoke of somber continuity, Palin was weirdly flip and chipper, eager to say that as a “maverick” she’d go her own way.

But the debate’s most telling passage arrived when Biden welled up in recounting his days as a single father after his first wife and one of his children were killed in a car crash. Palin’s perky response — she immediately started selling McCain as a “consummate maverick” again — was as emotionally disconnected as Michael Dukakis’s notoriously cerebral answer to the hypothetical 1988 debate question about his wife being “raped and murdered.” If, as some feel, Obama is cool, Palin is ice cold. She didn’t even acknowledge Biden’s devastating personal history.


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