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Will Sarah Palin's Undisciplined Operation Cost Her?

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Kathleen Parker
Washington Post Writers Group Columnist
Wednesday, June 10, 2009; 2:30 PM

"Everyone seems to have a Sarah Palin story of ignored calls, mishandled invitations or unanswered e-mail. Disorganized is how one might charitably describe the Palin operation," writes Washington Post Writers Group columnist Kathleen Parker.

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Parker was online Wednesday, June 10 at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss her column about how Palin's approach is causing her problems with the GOP and how it could impact her political future.

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washingtonpost.com: The chat is delayed momentarily.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: What was Sarah Palin's reputation for returning phone calls and messages before she ran for Vice President? Does she have basically the same staff as Governor before and after this run and has she added staff since becoming a national celebrity?

Kathleen Parker: My understanding is that Gov. Palin was inundated with volumes of requests. She was suddenly famous and in demand. The problem was that she wasn't willing to delegate or hire the staff she needed to deal with it. Machinery can be put in place for such things -- and plenty of GOP handlers and funders tried to help.

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Omaha, Neb.: Why do you think Palin has ignored external offers for administrative help? Also, do you think this lack of organization (or willingness to seek outside help) is evidence of leadership style, or just a simple newbie-mistake?

Kathleen Parker: I think it could be both. Her organizational skills seem to be part of the problem. But also, this is all new. Palin got where she is by her wits - good for her. But that's not enough at this level of engagement. She seems not to have realized this yet.

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Washington, D.C.: I would like you to address what it is about Gov. Palin that incites such vehement hatred in the left. Sarah Silverman had a "comedy" routine about Palin being raped by black gangsters; David Letterman calls her a slut and "jokes" about her 14-year-old daughter becoming pregnant by a baseball player. All of this is greeted with yuks by so-called liberals. I can just imagine the umbrage if somebody substituted "Michelle Obama" for Sarah Palin's name or "Sasha Obama" for Willow's. And let's not even discuss the loathsome comments about her that you can find on this very newpaper's web site. To me, Palin's disorganized staff and her feuds with GOP staffers aren't the issues; it's the hatred she brings out in otherwise reasonably sane people. Your thoughts?

Kathleen Parker: I may not be much help here because I don't get it either. Then again, I don't get the hatred directed at me from the right when I criticize Palin. It's a pretty nasty world out there.

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Wye River, Md.: Aren't your attacks on Sarah Palin just part of your trying to carve out a niche as the female David Brooks- the anti-conservative "conservative"?

Kathleen Parker: I'm happy to correct the record here. I've been a columnist for 22 years and have had a pretty strong niche for most of those years. I've been running in 400 newspapers for quite a while, though am relatively new to the Post. I don't think I'm anti-conservative, but, as George Will once said:"Being conservative doesn't mean one has to leap into the darkness."

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Savannah, Ga.: Ms. Parker, do you think that disorganization alone is holding Palin back? When I hear her speak on her positions, she sounds, well, like she doesn't really understand what she's talking about. (Alaska is very capitalist because it take wealth generated from natural resources and distributes it to all its citizens?) Do you think she does understand, and just comes off inarticulate, or do you think that good organization can overcome a basic deficit of ideas and understanding?

Kathleen Parker: Good question. One of Palin's biggest problems, obviously, is an inability to clearly articulate her positions. I have it on good authority that she had a terrible time training for the vp debate and threatened to leave at one point. The McCain people were very frustrated with her as they tried to hammer a few talking points. Time will tell, but I'm not optimistic. (No winking)

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Minneapolis: Speaking of Palin mail, how does the volume of mail in response to a Palin column compare to that generated by typical columns? Or, to put it differently, do some conservatives 'love' (and defend) Palin more irrationally than some liberals 'hate' her?

Kathleen Parker: Palin columns typically generate a lot of mail from both sides. Those who write to defend her are just as passionate as those who can't stand her. Palin is quite the lightning rod. There seems to be no middle ground among those who write. They either think she's dumb as dirt or the Second Coming. All very odd, if you ask me.

As a sidebar, I've noticed that mail generally is down since websites began encouraging online comments. This column had more than 750 comments when I checked a few hours ago. The mail to my Inbox is nothing like that.

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Minneapolis: Have your credentials been yanked yet for saying what's obvious?

Kathleen Parker: Nah, it doesn't work like that. Newspapers don't really mind when columnists stir things up. Now, I've lost a few speaking gigs. And I don't get invited to conservative functions anymore. C'est la guerre.

Oh, and about that Georgetown cocktail circuit . . . I'm still waiting.

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Cedar Crest, N.M.: Do you think David Letterman's "slutty flight attendant" line to describe Sarah Palin was over the line?

Kathleen Parker: Yes.

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Bethesda, Md.: I see a bit of Dan Quayle in Palin: smart but not experienced. Also both were thrust WAY too fast onto the national scene. Palin, however, has some time to take a break and get more media-savvy. Agree? Disagree?

Kathleen Parker: I agree that Palin was picked too soon. Bobby Jindal is a genius (I promise) and he would be an utter flop right now. Witness his response to Obama's address to Congress.

Trust me when I say I'm not comparing Palin and Jindal in any other regard. They're moons apart intellectually and with regard to accomplishments. But timing is important and even a talent like Jindal would crash right now.

Can Palin reinvent herself for later? Sure. She's young. But becoming media-savvy is only part of the equation. More important, she has to become educated and learned. But first, she has to want to. I'm not sure she has the intellectual curiosity necessary to bring her up to speed. Actually, this is a widely held doubt within the party.

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San Francisco: Do you think that a lot of the interest in Palin is just curiosity? During the election campaign, everyone I spoke to, liberal or conservative, said they would go to hear her speak - but not a one thought she was a qualified candidate for national office. They just wanted to see her because she is such an anomaly.

Kathleen Parker: She's interesting. As Flannery O'Connor once said, "People will stand in line to shake hands with a monkey." Or something to that effect.

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Translation Request: "A lot of this is wrapped in good rhetoric," she said, "but we're not seeing those actions, and this many months into the new administration, quite disappointed, quite frustrated with not seeing those actions to rein in spending, slow down the growth of government. Instead, China's the complete opposite. It's expanding at such a large degree that if Americans are paying attention, unfortunately, our country could evolve into something that we do not even recognize, certainly that is so far from what the founders of our countries had in mind for us."

Care to take a crack at translating this into English for us, Kathleen? I am trying, but I keep going cross-eyed.

Kathleen Parker: LOL.

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Kathleen Parker: Since I was late to the party, I'll stay a few more minutes.

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Knoxville, Tenn.: Ms Parker You said she has trouble articulating her views, but maybe may of them just don't make any logical sense, or are not very well thought out.

Is it just the delivery or the actual thinking behind the positions?

Kathleen Parker: Bottom line: If you know your material, you can talk about it.

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Re: Letterman: Listen, Letterman is a comedian. Comedians that don't go over the line are not funny. If you said she looks slutty, that's over the line. If I say it, it's over the line. Why wouldn't Letterman say it - have you been on a plane?

Kathleen Parker: I don't have a problem with raunchy humor, but time and place are everything. In a nightclub, fine. But Letterman is sort of an American institution. It just seems to me that when a woman is running for public office, we should avoid sexualizing her.

Okay, I censored myself before so I'll say it now. I also think it's out of line for a woman to sexualize her candidacy, which Palin did. Just ask Rich Lowry, who wrote that he had to sit up a little straighter when she winked during the vp debate. So, maybe when you play the flirt and invite males to see starbursts bouncing off the walls (Lowry again), then maybe you invite the sexual punchline. I'm wobbling here.

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Falls Church, Va.: I don't understand why this conversation continues. Don't. Give. Her. Any. More. Ink.

Kathleen Parker: As long as people are throwing money at her - and as long as the GOP treats her as a serious candidate - we're going to cover her.

Alas, I note that the poll featured on the front page of USA Today today doesn't mention Palin as a spokesperson for the GOP. She may be fading already.

I am told by people close to her that Palin and her family would love to turn back the clock to July 2008 . . . and just say "no" to John McCain. That may be the best indicator of her future political ambitions. OTOH, power is an addictive aphrodisiac.

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Media, Pa.: When do you ever intend, as a fellow female who has had to fight twice as hard to rise to the top as a man would, to give Governor Palin credit and praise for all that she has acomplished both in public life and to help advance the cause and participation of women in the political process? Aren't you a bit overdue in this regard?

Kathleen Parker: I praised her plenty when she first arrived, but I can't keep applauding someone JUST because she's a woman.

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washingtonpost.com: This concludes the live chat with Kathleen Parker.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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