The current dissatisfaction with political professionals (politicians, pundits, speechmakers, etc.) stems in part from the failure of ordinary citizens to set standards of effectiveness for them. Ordinary citizens live the nitty gritty details of life. One standard we could set is the expectation that political professionals talk about nitty gritty details and answer 6 questions about nitty gritty details. Former Alaskan Governor, former Republican vice presidential candidate, and former Fox News Channel contributor Sarah Palin is so bad at talking about nitty gritty details that she is my example for setting a standard of effectiveness for political professionals.
As Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin did an interview with Katie Couric. During that campaign, the worst financial crisis in decades had disrupted world financial markets and the U.S. government had decided to spend $700 billion bailing out the financial system. Couric asked:
“Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families struggling with health care, housing, gas and
groceries? … Instead of helping these big financial institutions that
played a role in creating this mess?”
In 151 words, Palin talked about:
“healthcare reform” (twice)
“job creation” (twice, including “umbrella of job creating”)
“shoring up our economy”
“reining in spending”
“trade as opportunity”
The words “middle-class families” never came out of Palin’s mouth. Political professionals would be effective if they answered the 6 nitty gritty questions of any issue: who, what, where, when, how, and why.
An effective answer from Palin would have focused on
Middle class families and big financial institutions
What the bailout money was for
The schedule for releasing the money and the
estimated time for financial recovery
“Main Street” versus “Wall Street”
The reasoning behind and/or past examples of
bailing out “Wall Street” rather than “Main Street”
or behind “Wall Street only” rather than “Main
Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin came nowhere near the nitty gritty details. If citizens of the United States insisted that political professionals include the nitty gritty who, what, when, where, how, and why when they talk about issues, interviewers like Couric might start using the same standards for effectiveness in their interviews.
It is always possible that political professionals will not know part of an answer. In that case, they should say they will find out the information and post it on their website with their answers to all of the other nitty gritty questions so their response is complete.
Every topic a political professional addresses would have its own 6 nitty gritty questions. Below are two more topics Palin has spoken about.
Sarah Palin compared paying off the federal debt to slavery. Some nitty gritty questions for Palin on this issue include:
Who was the first president to borrow money from
a foreign country?
What activities will American taxpayer slaves be
prevented from doing, since slave owners take
freedom of choice away from slaves?
When will American taxpayer slaves be forcibly
taken from their families?
Where will American taxpayer slaves be put up
(Who will taxpayer slaves be sold to?)
How do you decide which debts mean slavery
and which debts do not? Do homeowners
become slaves when mortgage holders sell
mortgage notes to a new “master that is not
of your choosing”?
Why didn’t you complain about taxpayers
becoming slaves in 2010 when House
Republicans chose “Prince of Pork” Hal Rogers
to Chair the House Appropriations Committee?
Sarah Palin visited Wausau, Wisconsin in late 2013 because of a controversy over religious music during school Christmas concerts. Some nitty gritty questions for Palin on this issue include:
Who thinks the war on Christmas is an
What are your proposals for protecting the “heart”
of all religious holidays celebrated by nonChristian
When will you talk about the effective way Wausau
community members came together to discuss the
controversy and create a solution before you arrived
How will you protect the religious celebrations of
nonChristian Americans from Scrooges?
Why did you think Wausau residents would need
to buy your book to follow your steps
“to combat the Scrooges” when the Wausau
community had already settled the issue?
If people keep asking political professionals like Sarah Palin the 6 nitty gritty questions, they will have to start responding with at least some nitty gritty answers.
“Palin: ’What The Bailout Does Is Help Those Who Are Concerned About Health Care Reform’”
September 25, 2008
“400 line up for Sarah Palin book promotion at Rib Mountain”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
November 14, 2013
“Bailed-Out Bank Nixes Lavish Vegas Junket”
February 3, 2009
“Conservatives Peeved After GOP Taps ‘Prince of Pork’ to Lead Spending Committee”
December 10, 2010
“Sarah Palin coming to Wausau area”
November 6, 2013
“Sarah Palin invokes slavery, inappropriately of course”
The Washington Post
November 15, 2013
Paula M. Kramer
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