Monday, October 6, 2008

NEWSWEEK Cover: She's One of the Folks (And That's the Problem)

In the October 13 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, October 6): "She's One of the Folks (And that's the problem)." Editor Jon Meacham writes an essay about how Sarah Palin's populist view of high office is risky for the country. Plus: the problems the next president will inherit; Biden opens up about the campaign; the fall of America Inc.; an interview with Irani Foreign Minister Mottaki; the Women & Leadership series and keeping kids healthy in cold-weather months. (PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK) |||DW_DOM_101308.tif NEW YORK UNITED STATES 10/05/2008

5 Oct 2008 16:56 Africa/Lagos

NEWSWEEK Cover: She's One of the Folks (And That's the Problem)

Editor Jon Meacham On Sarah Palin's Folksiness: 'Do We Want Leaders Who Are Everyday Folks ... Or Who Understand Everyday Folks?'

Palin's Populist View Of High Office -- Hey, Vice President Six-Pack, What Should We Do About Pakistan? -- Is Dangerous

NEW YORK, Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham writes in an essay that the honest explanation of the rationale for Sarah Palin's candidacy -- not her preparedness for office, but her personality and nascent maverickism in Alaska -- raises an important question, not only about this election but about democratic leadership. "Do we want leaders who are everyday folks, or do we want leaders who understand everyday folks? Therein lies an enormous difference, one that could decide the presidential election and, if McCain and Palin were to win, shape the governance of the nation."

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In the October 13 Newsweek cover, "She's One of The Folks (And that's the problem)" (on newsstands Monday, October 6), Meacham examines this question of Palin's folksiness, looking at how it's a liability for the campaign and the country. Sitting with her for part of the Katie Couric interview on CBS, John McCain implicitly compared Palin to Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, saying that they, too, had been caricatured and dismissed by mainstream voices. The linkages are untenable, Meacham writes. "A successful two-term governor of California, Reagan had spent decades immersed in politics (of both the left and the right) before running for president. He did like to call himself a citizen-politician, and Lord knows he had an occasionally ambiguous relationship with facts, but he was a serious man who had spent a great deal of time thinking about the central issues of the age. To put it kindly, Palin, however promising a governor she is, has not done similar work."

Meacham writes that he could be wrong, and perhaps Palin will somehow emerge from the hurly-burly of history as a transformative figure who was underestimated in her time by journalists who could not see, or refused to acknowledge, her virtues. "But do I think that I am right in saying that Palin's populist view of high office -- hey, Vice President Six-Pack, what should we do about Pakistan? -- is dangerous? You betcha."

"A key argument for Palin, in essence, is this: Washington and Wall Street are serving their own interests rather than those of the broad whole of the country, and the moment requires a vice president who will, Cincinnatus-like, help a new president come to the rescue," Meacham writes. "The problem with the argument is that Cincinnatus knew things. Palin sometimes seems an odd combination of Chauncey Gardiner from 'Being There' and Marge from 'Fargo.' Is this an elitist point of view? Perhaps, though it seems only reasonable and patriotic to hold candidates for high office to high standards. Elitism in this sense is not about educational or class credentials ... It is, rather, about the pursuit of excellence no matter where you started in life. Jackson, Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton were born to ordinary families, but they spent their lives doing extraordinary things, demonstrating an interest in, and a curiosity about, the world around them. This is much less evident in Palin's case."

Meacham praises Palin for her public service. "If she were seeking a Senate seat, or being nominated for a cabinet post-secretary of energy, say, or interior -- the conversation about her would be totally different. But she is not seeking a Senate seat, nor is she being nominated for a cabinet post, and so it is only prudent to ask whether she is in fact someone who should be president of the United States in the event of disaster. She may be ready in a year or two, but disaster does not coordinate its calendar with ours. Would we muddle through if Palin were to become president? Yes, we would, but it is worth asking whether we should have to."

In a counterpoint essay, Karl Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President Bush and a Newsweek contributor, writes that, with respect, Meacham misses the principal arguments for Palin. "She is the governor of a state with an $11 billion operating budget, a $1.7 billion capital budget and nearly 29,000 employees; she's got more executive experience than any candidate for president or vice president this year. In Alaska she took on the state political establishment, the incumbent Republican governor and the oil companies. She's a rising star who accentuates McCain's maverick strengths and a 'hockey mom' who has developed a powerful tie to ordinary voters."

"That link isn't itself an argument for Palin. But being able to connect with, and inspire, the public is an asset -- not a liability. As for Jon's argument against 'everyday Americans' as political leaders, many great presidents have been more average than elitist. Ronald Reagan, from Eureka College, was a far better leader than Woodrow Wilson, a former president of Princeton. Wilson would have given you 100 Supreme Court opinions he disagreed with, whether you wanted to listen or not," Rove writes.

(Read cover story at

Cover Story

Rove essay

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