It's been just over a week since I first broke photographs of Sarah Palin's Tea Party crib notes. The story was swiftly picked up by blogs and gossip sites, then newspapers , then kicked around on the cable shows before receiving it's ultimate judgment at the hands of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
To America's comedians Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving; to pundits she's the political actor who keeps on fascinating. Yet for all the coverage of the gaffe, a lot of people missed the point.
"Palm-Gate" was hardly a scandal and it would've been the tiniest of blips on the political radar if it hadn't been symptomatic of Palin's deeper problems. The scribbles struck a chord because they added one more piece to the Palin Puzzle - to an image of a person who's slowly coming together.
The key issue raised by the flap is not Palin's intelligence, nor her memory or nerves under pressure (though all are important qualities in high-level politics). The unprofessional nature of the move is not the issue. It's also not primarily about the hypocrisy of mocking the sitting President of the United States as little more than "a charismatic guy with a teleprompter" while reading a prepared speech herself and then cribbing her way through a softball Q&A.
It's about ideas, and whether Palin has any.
As I wrote in the initial story, what was written on Palin's hand was key: reminders to talk to about energy, tax cuts etc. These weren't tricky policy details - they were her supposed core principles, a phrase echoed by Keith Olbermann in his excellent Countdown segment on the gaffe. (Speaking of which: Hey Keith! How about a shout-out next time you quote me?)
Since Palin was plucked from relative obscurity and put in a position where she stood a good chance of becoming one of the most powerful people in the world, the media circus that blew up around her was inevitable. The question "Who Is Sarah Palin?" was an important one and news outlets naturally scrambled to find out. (That she was also female and relatively young didn't hurt the level of coverage.)
Yet after nearly a year and a half of the Sarah Palin Show airing on prime time, what do we know about her beyond some unnecessary details of her personal life?
We know a lot about her feuds and travel schedule, but very little about her ideas.
That's pretty strange, and pretty unsettling considering what it implies. All that camera-time, all those opportunities to stake out her political identity and it's just been flash and splash every time. She can mock Obama's "hopey-changey stuff" all she wants, but after all this time Sarah Palin still hasn't made her case.
What the palm-reading incident drove home for this observer is simply this:
It's time to admit that we do know Sarah Palin.
We know that if she's a leader of any kind, she's at best a de facto one. After all, leadership requires ideas and when Palin lays out her positions they're not her positions at all - they're moldy GOP talking points that she's still committing to memory.
The nation is hurting and it needs leaders who both know what they're talking about and know where they'd take the country.
It's time to admit the truth of what Howard Fineman put so well during his appearance on Countdown; that while she's a talented "theatrical personality," Sarah Palin is all attitude. She has no ideas, and even with those fancy glasses
- no vision.