Is no one going to say that Sarah Palin rocked the vice presidential debate? Who is so arrogant to think that they could do better with just five weeks’ preparation?

She did a great job. She memorized speeches that she trotted out in good moments. And she had such nerve! Most of us would be too shy to flagrantly disregard the question, but she knew that was her job. She knew her job was to give set up answers and fit them in the best she could, and she did that. She delivered her lines very well. She played to the camera. She was friendly, and charming, and eloquent as long as you didn’t mind that she talked about whatever she wanted.

The thing is that most of politics is not about giving the right answer. It’s about giving any answer the right way. The world is not bashing Kennedy for beating Nixon in the classic debate where Nixon wore all the wrong stuff and the wrong makeup and could have said anything and he still would have lost. No. No one is complaining about Kennedy’s dependence on style in that debate. And we didn’t generally bash Reagan for being a great orator even though we thought he was probably losing his mind even before he got to office. He was still a great orator and could deliver his messages in a mesmerizing way.

So give Sarah some credit. She did a great job. Sure she’s probably not ready to move into the White House. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t do a great job. She can only do her best. And she did. And you have to respect someone who takes a huge risk and does a good job. Look, if you think she’s unqualified, don’t vote for McCain, because he’s the bozo who selected her. But since she’s there, learn something from her. Take advantage of a fun, capable woman who is rising up to the occasion. She’s ignoring the taunts (even I have thrown some) and she has enough of a sense of self that she’s plowing forward.

But really, it’s hard to believe that she will be on the winning ticket. It’s hard to believe that anyone could choose McCain after he has shown such poor judgment. But Palin will land on her feet. She’ll get some TV commentator job, or some interior secretary job, and she’ll learn the ropes, and she’ll succeed.

If you are wondering why your own career is stalled, consider that it’s because you don’t have mentors like her. She is scrappy and she knows how to manage her image. It’s not small peanuts, and it’s hard to find a woman who is as good at it as she is and public about how she’s doing it. Take advantage of the learning opportunity.

177 replies
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  1. Yu Ming Lui
    Yu Ming Lui says:

    Outstanding post – you always bring a different perspective to the table. Palin certainly has balls, if not anything else, and that audacity will see her through a fairly successful political career.

  2. chris keller
    chris keller says:

    David Rees pointed out that most people cannot get over their ideological persuasion, viewing the other side as “evil”. I agree. (Seems to me the Republicans have raised this narrow thinking to a high art: Witness the Republican rallies, where the audience boos and cheers predictably when McCain/Palin criticize the Democratic ticket.)

    Penelope implies that she CAN get over the ideological thang and learn from the opposition. Penelope has also written many times in the past about welcoming criticism, truly believing that criticism is constructive. Which it is.

    I think this is an important point: to be able to learn from those who are different from you, and who may oppose you. Takes humility and restraint.


  3. Nigel
    Nigel says:

    Wow Penelope, showing your Gen Y colours there. Going for the all sizzle and no substance of Palin.
    Been able to sell yourself and pump out the spin might be great for selling product but is that really what anyone wants from a VP of the USA?
    Is that really going to build trust and respect for someone with the required skills or just blind ignorant faith?
    Of course Ms Palin is quite familiar with the latter but is that what the USA needs in a leader?

  4. sophie
    sophie says:

    @Opinionatpr’s comment on “In four years, the $40B pipeline deal she negotiated with Canada and the private sector will be under way…”

    Time magazine’s article “Palin’s Pipeline to Nowhere” suggests otherwise. This article supports my fear that Palin, while commendable in motive and theory, still has a lot to learn about reality.

    I think Palin has saved McCain’s campaign, however, two months may give us too much time to learn too much about her. Her freshness might become a little too exposed.

  5. sophie
    sophie says:

    @HockyMom’s comment on “I honestly don’t understand the venom that is spewed towards Sarah Palin by so called “liberated women…”

    I’m surprised this surprises you. Women are notorious for their spitefulness to one another. When they should be banning together and supporting one another towards a goal beneficial to each of them, they instead stab each other in the back.

    And compare themselves: “Is she getting ahead faster than I? Is she more qualified than I? Is she skinnier than I?”

    That said, I would like to think that women, liberated or not, are not voting for Sarah Palin just because she’s a woman. If that’s the case, I wish Republicans would have come up with a more professional image. Condoleeza Rice would have been my vote.

  6. David
    David says:

    Penelope, Love your blog. It is one of the highlights of my day when I receive an email with a new posting.
    I know this is a career blog, not a political one, but would like to bring up one obvious point that nobody really seems to be addressing.
    Palin is inexperienced, there is no doubt about that, but is Obama. Which is better, an inexperienced VP or an inexperienced President?
    I’m definately not a McCain fan, but to be fair, if we are talking about experience, I’m more comfortable with that inexperience being in the VP position rather than the Presidency.

  7. Joy
    Joy says:

    Really, would you stop talking about politics. You have no clue and are quite annoying. I was waiting for the comment of she did well with only 5 weeks to prepare and a special needs baby at home. Stick to what you know. It is NOT politics.

  8. Liz
    Liz says:

    Politics aside, I get what’s interesting and copy-able in Palin’s performance. I think that’s the problem though. Because I also have long, long years of “Be a good girl…” training that makes the idea of standing up and saying, “Of course I can do it!” When any idiot can see that I can’t, unthinkable.

  9. Liz
    Liz says:

    @HockyMom’s comment on “I honestly don’t understand the venom that is spewed towards Sarah Palin by so called “liberated women – ”

    I have friends in both parties, and to me, it’s funny to watch them squirm on this issue. Trust me, no one hates her because she’s a woman – all the unjustified venom I hear is based on the fact that she’s lower class.

    Also liberals hate that anyone would think of avoiding criticism of another woman simply because she’s a woman (Republicans used to say they felt this way too, btw).

  10. Physiology PhD Mama
    Physiology PhD Mama says:

    I agree with many above who said they or people they know could have done better with 5 weeks prep. As a former career counselor who has prepped many for interviews and presentations for high level positions, I wholeheartedly agree that her performance was not up to par, regardless of gender or initial expectations based on previous appearences.

  11. Rich
    Rich says:

    Hi P,

    I like your analysis of the debate, but I think there is a Palin opportunity that would fit the brazen careerist platform even better: stealing your competition’s message.

    Change was supposed to be Obama’s calling card for this election, however the GOP trumped his message by enlisting someone who is truly an outsider. What I find more interesting than her debate approach (stick with the pre-planned message ala Clinton/Dole in ’96) is her hijacking the impression of a new kid on the block ready to take on washington. A big gamble for the GOP.

    In the workplace we are constantly challenged to define and re-define our brand. With less than a month left, it will be facinating to watch the Obama ticket wrestle the ‘outsider’ brand back and see how they will deliver the message

  12. a reader in Denmark, Europe
    a reader in Denmark, Europe says:

    Most articles on print and web here in DK is “Palin this & Palin that”, so from the old site of the pond, she’s setting the agenda and press coverage.

    Thanks Penelope for the angle!

  13. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    @sarah: too bad there isn’t another VP debate – I think if more people tuned in with their eyes closed (it’s called ‘listening’), we would get a clearer picture of which candidate has a more coherent platform. Word salad, anyone?

  14. CV
    CV says:

    I think this is a great post– love her or loathe her, Palin can teach us a lot about what “looks like” a leadership attitude. Palin’s performance(s) also offer lessons to organizations about how they can present themselves to look authentic in areas where they are not. If interested, check the post Use Real Authenticity to Establish Fake Authenticity: Sarah Palin shows organizations how at

  15. chris keller
    chris keller says:

    Staying within narrow confines, as in ‘politics is politics’ and ‘career advice is career advice’ and never the twain shall meet shows a lack of creativity and inability to make applications, IMHO.

    To me, the debates ARE like a job interview. Playing games at the debate podium is like playing games in an interview: faking it, turning on the charm to cover for the lack of a substantive response, winking or flirting or joking—all of that is nuts. You want the job? Get serious about your interview/debate. Address the questions/issues in an in-depth manner.

    What if, at an interview, the interviewee tore down the accomplishments (or even the lack of accomplishements) of her predecessor? How would that sell in her interview?! What if the interviewing panel, while reviewing the interview, called the interviewee a “pit bull”? Would that be favorable? I think not.

    Rather, back to another of Penelope’s points, that the best person for the job is a nice person, who might even walk around the office, offering to help others.

    So, in the end, I guess I would NOT want Sarah Palin as my mentor. I don’t like the games. I don’t like the ruthlessness. I don’t like the character defamation.

    Brand-shmand . . . I don’t even know what that means in this application. I like the guy who is sticking to the issues, asking us to read his full plan for more info/details. I like that he is attacking less. I like his serenity in the face of nastiness. That is the interviewee I would hire . . .


  16. Tom in TX
    Tom in TX says:

    Biden made a goof in explaining the legislative role of the VP: “…as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.
    The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote.”

    Here is what the Constitution says: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.”

    How could someone who has been US Senator for so long make such a blunder?

  17. Susan Greene
    Susan Greene says:

    I give Palin credit for having the ba**s to stand up in front of a world audience and pretend she is qualified to lead our country. Don’t you have to wonder if she goes to bed at night thinking, “Oh s**t, what if we win?”

  18. Jean Gogolin
    Jean Gogolin says:

    @Chris Young – Re Reagan’s “losing his mind” — my husband has Alzheimer’s, and that is not an insult; it’s a tragically accurate description of what happens. We just hope it doesn’t happen to the President while he’s in office, which is one of the bazillion reasons I won’t be voting for McCain/Palin.

  19. Dave
    Dave says:

    I rest my case on Tina Fey. $5 million book deal. Tina Fey is a better mentor than Sarah Palin. Who’s smarter, really? It’s all relative to what you want to achieve.

  20. CraigM
    CraigM says:


    Did you mean that Sarah Palin should be my mentor or that should should be my role model?

    I don’t know that she would have time to take on all the BC readers as mentees. But many of us may be interested in using her (or some of her behaviors) as a model.


  21. mark
    mark says:

    McCaing Poor Judgement???

    Barack Obama has multiple ties to those responsible for the present economic crisis?:

    Franklin Raines, the immediate past CEO of Fannie Mae – €“ who has collected a $90 million golden parachute while driving Fannie into the ground – €“ has advised Obama on housing issues.

    Jim Johnson, yet another former Fannie Mae CEO, resigned from Obama's vice presidential search team when it was revealed he had received a sweetheart home mortgage deal.

    Despite serving in the Senate for only four years, Obama himself has been the second-largest recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac largesse in the entire Congress, ahead even of former presidential candidate John Kerry, who's spent two decades in the Senate?

    Obama's long-time political ally, radical group ACORN, played a key role in pressuring banks to offer loans to those who were unlikely to be able to pay them back. ACORN has taken credit for pressuring banks to accept undocumented income as a basis for offering loans, for offering loans without using credit scores, and for making 100% financed loans available to low-income people.

    More Poor Judgement by O:

    In apparent defiance of federal election law, the Obama campaign refuses to identify individual donors who have provided almost half the funds for his campaign, including obvious fakes like "Mr. Good Will" and "Mr. Doodad Pro"? And that 11,500 donations to his campaign – €“ totaling almost $34 million – €“ may have come from overseas? Or that two Palestinians living in a Hamas-controlled refugee camp spent $31,300 in Obama's online store? Who are all these people, and why won't the Obama campaign obey the law and identify them?

    That Jeremiah Wright wasn't Obama's first radical mentor? As a young man in Hawaii, Obama had a relationship with radical Frank Marshall Davis – €“ an avowed member of the Communist Party of the USA. In fact, in his memoirs, Obama concedes that he attended "socialist conferences" and encountered Marxist literature. (Now imagine the outcry if a Republican presidential candidate had such ties to a Nazi).

    That the People’s Weekly World – €“ the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the USA – €“ has rhapsodized about Obama's presidential campaign, calling it a “transformative candidacy that would advance progressive politics for the long term”? (Think about how the press would react if a fascist newspaper heaped such praise on McCain.)

    That Obama has routinely tried to intimidate his critics into silence? His political organization spearheaded a massive campaign against a Chicago radio show that invited one of his critics to appear – €“ even after being asked (and refusing) to send a representative to balance the program, hosted by a non-partisan University of Chicago psychology professor. Worse, his campaign sought to chill free speech by establishing a "truth squad" of Missouri prosecutors and sheriffs, which threatened a "vigorous response" to any ad presenting information about Obama that they deemed to be "inaccurate." And there are other examples.

    That even as America struggles to "bail out" our own struggling economy, Obama backs a global bailout? His Global Poverty Initiative would assess $2500 per taxpayer, according to Investor's Business Daily, to fund a global war on poverty administered by the UN and its agencies.

    That despite touting his academic credentials as a rationale for initiating a campaign for president just two years after leaving the Illinois state legislature, Obama refuses to release either his college or his law school transcripts – €“ just as he sought to keep records of his working relationship with former terrorist Bill Ayers on The Annenberg Challenge (a left-wing educational foundation) safely under wraps? What is it that he doesn't want voters to know?

  22. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    I gotta tell ya, Penelope, after reading this post, I’m wondering who spends the most time in the shallow end of the intellectual pool, you or Palin? I figured out a while back that the Brazen part of the “Brazen Careerist” was that you make most of your stuff up as you go along, and I’m fine with that, but your swings on the Palin situation really make me wonder about your intellectual and emotional stability; or whether you are just messing with us. “Interior Secretary”???. You CAN’T be serious. Forget that she clearly stated many times that she would expand on the Cheney doctrine which maintains that the office of the Vice President is not a part of the Executive branch, and oh by the way, we don’t even have to respond to congressional subpoenas, let alone answer your questions about what we do. I mean, is that what the Republicans think this country really wants from our leadership?
    I loved the comment about whether you would hire someone who behaved that way in an interview, which I think pretty well sums the debate up. I think that presenting Sarah Palin as a valid candidate for the office of Vice President epitomizes what has become of our political process, pandering to the lowest common denominator in the populace, but at the same time obeying the wealthy donors.
    But you know what? Doggonit, I’m pleased that she is in the contest, because she really exposes the Republican party for the narrow, out of touch, isolated party that it is; and it makes the job easier for the Democrats; they almost don’t have to do anything, simply use the old strategy for dealing with fools, which is to give them enough rope, and they will hang themselves.
    I know it’s difficult to criticize someone for trying to expand their horizons and challenge themselves, but there have to be some realistic limitations. I would love to be running the Fed or skating on a line with Alexander Oveshkin, but it ain’t gonna happen. We aren’t talking about a big fish in a small pond here, we’re talking about becomming a big fish in the biggest pond. We don’t need actors or “quick studies”, we need wisdom and leadership.
    Steve C.

  23. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    I’ve been thinking about your comment on casual speech, Penelope. I think that’s a Gen X trait. I’m wondering when you get criticised in your public speaking for not being more formal if it’s from Boomers.

  24. Cleveland A
    Cleveland A says:

    Wow, Penelope, when I saw this post I thought,”here she goes again, trying to get people stirred up.” I love the fact that you enjoy doing this, and what a great post!

    I absolutely detest Sara Palin, as do many others here. But what you were trying to do was say that here is someone who is making the most of the moment. Sara’s probably not so stupid that she doesn’t realize she’s not up to the job. She’s just taking her 15 minutes as far as it will get her. And she will indeed land on her feet, probably as a political commentator of some kind. Or maybe – Dancing with the Stars?

    And if you read PTs post carefully, you can see that she is not endorsing her or her stupidity. But sometimes we can learn something – or emulate something, in this case poise and guts – in someone we absolutely detest.

    A good lesson for all us, particularly when we’re mired in politically emotion.

  25. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    @Juki. Here we have a saying about our political process: “Politics is a lot like sausage: if you watched it being made, you would never eat any”. I appreciate you comment re what really matters is what happens after the shine wears off, once someone has been in office for a while. Are those qualities going to do the job?
    Sarah Palin obviously did the best she could with what she had to work with, but I had an uncomfortable feeling I couldn’t shake during the debate, and it wasn’t the waitress-at-the-diner mannerisms. Here’s what it was: It reminded me of being in a final exam trying to answer an essay question about a book or an article I hadn’t gotten around to reading. What’s scary about her performance is that it was the best that her trainers could come up with.
    Steve C.

  26. Neil C
    Neil C says:

    I appreciate the objectivity of this post, especially since I know you are not voting for McCain/Palin. I agree with the non political points made but really disagree with the crack on Reagan.

    Ronald Reagan’s management style should be a model to all managers for his ability to be optimistic, his sense of humor, his ability to delegate & his effective communication & execution of a broad vision. Read Peter Robinson’s “How Ronald Reagan Changed My life” & you would never say that Reagan was “losing his mind”. The massive economic turnaround & winning the cold war speak to his greatness.

    I will also say that there is more to Palin then just image. She comes across as extremely authentic and her decisions are guided by a idealogy not polls or focus groups. As long as everyone keeps underestimating her she will continue to do well. She is a rock star. Think about it. You didn’t watch that debate to see Joe Biden.

  27. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    @Neil C. I have to comment on Reagan. Reagan didn’t “win” the cold war. The centrally planned economy of the Soviet system lost it’s empire because centrally planned economies and communism do not work. You can only make so many transmissions for tractors that will never exist, ball bearings for shafts that will never be milled, without running out of resources. The tab for Reagan’s policies is only just now coming due. Fun, isn’t it?
    Steve C.

  28. Jean Gogolin
    Jean Gogolin says:

    @Neil C. – Reagan was indeed “losing his mind” at the end of his term; he was in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s and that is its precise definition. However “authentic” Sarah P. is, I would rather not have a rock star for President. I did watch the debate to see Joe Biden, who is more than qualified to be President and demonstrated it.

  29. Juki Schor
    Juki Schor says:

    @SteveC: “Politics is a lot like sausage: if you watched it being made, you would never eat any”.
    :-), thanks for that one. You are right, watching it being made kind of lowers the appetite tremendously. What about a vegetarian version with healthy content?

  30. Neil C
    Neil C says:

    @Steve C.-What exactly is the tab for Reagan’s policies? He fundamentally changed our economy to allow it to flourish over the next 15 years after he left. The crisis now is a result of a weak dollar, high energy costs & the sub-prime mortgage crisis. It has nothing to do with Reagan & everything to do with liberal Democrat policies of caving into the environmental lobby by not drilling for oil & forcing banks to lend to poor people & minorities who can’t pay back mortgages.

    Jean-Reagan was not diagnosed until he was 3 years after he was out of office. Penelope said in the post that he was losing his mind when we elected president. That is why I disagreed with her.

    I am looking forward to Obama raising my taxes. I don’t pay enough now & the deadbeats that don’t work deserve more of my money.

  31. bilbo
    bilbo says:

    I don’t know.
    I’d bet she wouldn’t share with us if she had a recent bikini wax or lament on how eccentricity twist the male mind in bed.
    That’s what we need right now truth in politics.
    By far you would make a much better VP candidate. She’s just another pretender.

  32. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    Neil C. You mean Reagan the father of trickle-down economics and deregulation? The father of let’s lower taxes and borrow against our future instead? Ronald Reagan invented the freaking deficit. Thank God Paul Volcker was around to clean up after him. I can tell you are passionate about being a Reagan Republican, and I can tell you from experience that trying to get through to anyone who uses the words Reagan and greatness in the same sentence is like trying to convince Rush Limbaugh to abuse pain killers. It’s too depressing to go over the history again, so I’m going to let you have the last word and suggest we let everyone else discuss current events and let old Ronnie rest in peace, wherever he is.
    Steve C.

  33. Jean Gogolin
    Jean Gogolin says:

    @Neil C. I know Reagan was not diagnosed until some time after he left office, but in fact, the effects of Alzheimer’s begin long before the diagnosis. I’m quite familiar with all this because my husband has it.

    I agree with you on all other points, though. Sorry to be a nitpicker, but Alzheimer’s is typically not well understood by people who have not had direct experience with it.

  34. Mitchell York
    Mitchell York says:

    Sarah knows how to manage her image? Is that why she let Katie Couric interview her AFTER the debacle with “Charlie” Gibson? Sarah Palin has abdicated her image management to her handlers. She knew how to manage it in Alaska but has no idea that she is not in Wasilla anymore, Toto. God help us all if McCain wins and dies of cancer or a heart attack (maybe even before Jan 20 09).

  35. janya
    janya says:

    This is a great analysis of Sarah Palin’s performance. She did do exactly what the public had wanted, in the best way she could after 5 weeks of cramming. Charming beats competent every time, at least on TV.

    The sad part is that the public had wanted her to perform the way she did, and that she’s an acceptable VP candidate from a major party for so many people.

  36. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    Ah jeeze, I was going to let this go but there is one comment I just can’t walk away from….Here we are in a situation where no one in the bloody free world can force banks to lend a dime to even the most creditworhty corporations in existence, but a few posts back Neil C. blamed the current financial crisis, for the most part, on “liberal Democrats”, per se: “The crisis now is a result of a weak dollar, high energy costs & the sub-prime mortgage crisis. It has nothing to do with Reagan & everything to do with liberal Democrat policies of caving into the environmental lobby by not drilling for oil & forcing banks to lend to poor people & minorities who can’t pay back mortgages.” Let me repeat: “FORCING(my emphasis) banks to lend to poor people and minorities who can’t pay back mortgages”. Elitist and racist overtones aside, to put it mildly, this baby just screams out for attention. Oh yeah, us liberal democrats dragged those mortgage brokers and real estate brokers and ratings agencies and investment bankers just kicking and screaming into the sub-prime, commission-oozing mortgage mess. Yup, forced ’em right into it, poor little right-wing Wall Street bankers.
    I knew we were powerful, but even I, a commie-loving, work-hating, republican-bashing, ex-hippie weatherman backpacking pinko democrat never dreamed we could pull that one off. C’mon, what planet are you republicans from, really? Ok, I’m done.
    Steve C.

  37. Margo Wei
    Margo Wei says:

    This article has definitely made me think. We can all be inspired by the confidence Palin has shown in furthering her career. I am sure her visibility will take her far.

  38. janya
    janya says:

    ok, great article, good analysis of Sarah Palin’s performance.

    Here’s the question, however. Sarah Palin has demonstrated her incompetence on national TV. She accepted a job, that the better part of the country is sure Sarah is not even approximately qualified for. She’s picked a bozo of a boss (granted, he’s mostly a bozo for having picked her for the VP spot), and let herself become the target of all those taunts.

    Is the visibility going to be worth the public humiliation in terms of promoting Palin’s career in the long run? Is this a good way to go about building a career – putting oneself in the spotlight, even when ridiculously unqualified? Should a career woman really want a mentor like Sarah Palin?

  39. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    A good post but very controversial due to the politics angle. I didn’t see any category listed for image so I did a search on your site and read a couple of posts on image management that I really enjoyed. I especially liked your advice in the comments section of the ‘How to manage your image’ post –

    “Everyone – male or female – needs to pay attention to the image they project. We all want something in life, we each have goals. How well we align our image with our goals affects how successful we are at reaching our goals.”

    Image management appears to me to be very individualistic and requires customization.

  40. Kristin Ohlson
    Kristin Ohlson says:

    I find this post so utterly dismaying that I hardly know where to start.

    You’ve written often about the value of being a good person. What Palin showed during her debate is the willingness to do anything to WIN. Not the definition of a good person, not someone a good person would want as a mentor.

    She’s gotten worse since the debate, with hyped- up rhetoric falsely portraying Obama as someone who pals around with terrorists– prompting someone in her audience to shout “Kill him!” I’m afraid that in her eagerness to win, she will incite a real culture war– the fighting in the streets kind. The assassination of public figures kind.

    I hope Repubicans are quietly contacting their party and asking party leaders to tone Palin down. If one of her whacked-out followers winds up killing Obama, it would usher in a time of true horror for our country. And, I would think, the end of the Republican party.

    How can this woman possibly be seen as a mentor?

  41. gt
    gt says:

    IMO, Sarah Palin is not a good choice for VP of the USA in 2008. Maybe in a few years, but not now. If she had been groomed and coached earlier in the year when her name apparently first appeared on McCain’s radar, maybe her responses to questions would be better up to speed by now. She displays a lot of confidence, but her answers during her interviews and the debate left me scratching my head. What did she say? Did she answer the question? Did that make any sense? Polititians have a way of deflecting questions from the matter at hand to what they want to say. We are all accustomed to that. Sarah Palin’s answers sound like pre-recorded messages, where the tape was badly spliced, creating sentences with words and phrases that don’t belong with each other. I fault her coaches and the lack of time to adequately prepare. I believe she will take this opportunity to make something bigger for herself, but it won’t be as the vice-president of the USA. I agree with an earlier poster, that had John McCain chosen Condaleeza Rice, the current polls may be different.

  42. 123fun
    123fun says:

    Poise and self-belief without competence or integrity – maybe Palin is a good mentor for today’s corporate world.

  43. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    The larger theme – €“ one that seems to be thoroughly missed by most of the posters here – €“ is that while you can learn a lot from everyone, the people who have the most to teach us are the successful people who are least like us.

    How many times do we write off other people's success to factors outside their control when we don't like them, but attribute their success to their own individual greatness when they have qualities we admire?

    The people who made it to the top of any organization – €“ especially those you can't seem to connect with – €“ all made it because of their hard work and use of their unique gifts. To explain the entirety of their success to causes outside their control – €“ nepotism, diversity, blonde hair, office politics, etc. – €“ is to make yourself feel better at the expense of looking at them objectively and spotting the strengths you don't have.

    The successful people who look like us, and talk like us, and think like us, have much less to teach us than the successful people who don't. It's far easier, however, to believe that people who are just like us are the superior people in the world, as that implies that we now possess all the attributes necessary to succeed.

    At that moment, we have stopped learning and our inevitable descent begins.

    For those of you who seemed to have missed it, the lesson from Legally Blonde wasn't that Elle Woods was over her head. It was that Elle – €“ despite not looking, sounding or acting like everyone else at Harvard Law – €“ was the only lawyer smart enough to get her innocent client acquitted.

  44. Taylor
    Taylor says:


    Thanks – I was going to post the same thing. It seems like most of the commentors totally missed Penelope’s point. It seemed rather straight forward, but I’m not a partisan. That probably is why it was so easy to see what her point was.

  45. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    @Kevin. Excellent point and well put. As Taylor pointed out, once you pull the partisan goggles off, you can see a lot more clearly. For me, I guess it’s more like knowing your enemies better than your allies. But I really see the value of what you are both saying. The only people I ever knew who really intuitively understood the concept of an opportunity cost were “uneducated” farmers and single mothers on welfare. That’s without ever having stepped into an economics class. They got it way more deeply than most of the students majoring in economics at university, because they had to maximize the utility of every penney. Sort of the same thing you are saying. For me, I wish I could understand how one can truly not be a partisan, given today’s political climate. What’s the secret? I get so pissed off at some of the drivell I hear spouted out as fact, it’s a blessing I haven’t got my hands on a rocket-launcher. Thanks for the bird’s-eye views.
    Steve C.

  46. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    @Steve C.

    I really believe the two issues are one and the same. We have become such a partisan country, because we've been led to believe that the people on the other side "don't get it" and therefore aren't worthy of engaging in real dialogue and discussion. By definition the, we "do get it" and need to consider our own positions no more.

    Dialogue requires listening, which requires at least a modicum of respect for the other person and their views. True conversation requires understanding the inherent worth in the positions of others, such that you can help them see other points of view, but so that you can also use their perspective to refine your own.

    As people, we love independence and therefore love choice. We are consumers who not only consume to live, but consume to demonstrate or values. Too often, this is used against us, as we are presented A vs. B options by the very groups that benefit from those categorizations. It is only when we realize that the answer is neither A nor B, but a C which inherently respects the underlying values of the original choices, that we can work together as a team.

    Without that, any exchange is merely shouting your position in an ever-louder fashion.

    Today we too often label ourselves by the words that divide us – €“ as republicans or democrats, conservatives or liberals, pro-life or pro-choice. Until we first think of ourselves as Americans – €“ people not only with a shared set of values but a need to work with everyone to solve our current issues – €“ we'll fall deeper and deeper into trouble.

  47. Steve C.
    Steve C. says:

    I agree. At some point we have to step back and ask, why is it that we all wanted to live together in the first place? Our adversarial system and the spoils to the winner seem to be pushing us over the edge. What is so painful about watching someone else get a break?

    Steve C.

  48. Juki Schor
    Juki Schor says:

    The people who have the most to teach us are the successful people who are least like us.

    I still don’t get it. Let’s take G. Bush instead of Palin. He is definitely least like me. So I could learn from him how to be successful, after all, he has been President of the US. But then, wouldn’t I have to become like him? That is not what I wanted, as I have different values. So, I would have to look for “teachers” who are not only successful but also share my values and goals for a certain position. Otherwise I am ending up learning from people who are successful in things that I wouldn’t want to be successful in. My question is, are there neutral strategies in becoming successful that can be applied anywhere with any values or goals, or does “success” or the will to being successful change people in a way that I ultimately would have to change my original values in order profit from their teachings?
    I mean, I wouldn’t go to war for oil in Irak. Instead I would try to become independent from oil and learn from people who can show me how to do that. Bush or Palin wouldn’t be the person to teach me that although they are successful. I can learn from a most successful mass murder like Stalin how to be successful in that, but does that also apply for promoting solar energy, for example? If so, I agree to study his strategy. But I doubt it, because I believe that people choose their strategies for success according to their values. If success is the only value, it starts to feel creepy to me. I don’t feel comfortable with strategies that go with any value or goal and are just focussed on being successful. Certain goals one cannot reach without being brutal. If your value is to be a kind person, certain goals will not be on your plate and I still think it is good that way.

  49. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    @Juki Schor

    Thanks for the question. Rejecting their decisions and values isn't the same as rejecting their skills, abilities, or perspectives.

    It's too easy to say there's nothing redeeming about Bush and write him off. But how does someone with no redeeming qualities get to be President of the US? He can't.

    Stalin was one of the most successful mass murderers, but he didn't start out at the top and didn't reach the top through mere violence alone. How did he get people to follow him when he had nothing? He must have found a way.

    Certainly values come into play. But excluding things which are clearly illegal, or that you feel to be immoral, leaves most strategies open for all to use. Do we use legislation, protest, popular opinion, market forces or some combination? Do we trade favors with influential groups because our proposal is too important to wait, or do we only work with people we like – €“ with the possibility that our proposals will never materialize?

    If we look at skills like how to give a speech, or remember names, or network, these are even more benign. Some people HATED Ronald Reagan's values, but admired his optimism in difficult times. Other people HATED Bill Clinton's values, but admired his ability to connect with people at all levels of society.

    The last thing to look at is their perspective – €“ how they see the world – €“ both in terms of how it is and how it could be. We're all limited in our ability to imagine, because we all have a limited set of experiences from which to project. If we simply look at the world the same way that those like us do, our ability to create a better future is severely limited.

    We need the perspectives of others, both to incorporate their ideas into ours and to understand how our vision can be expanded to become a vision shared by a larger group.

    Simply pushing for solar energy – €“ for example – €“ without understanding what everyone else is thinking in the energy and surrounding spaces, leaves you vulnerable to a changing landscape.

    What are the petroleum people doing that we can incorporate into our vision and use to help sell our ideas? How will the future of the petroleum industry both help and hurt our cause? If we simply write them off as last century's energy producers, we'll never be able to co-opt their best ideas, find areas of agreement, or form coalitions with them to further our goals.

    The beauty of this approach is that we'll find much to admire in those we initially don't like, and we'll find ourselves being much more open, respectful, and engaged with people who initially seem different than us – €“ a good outcome if there ever was one.

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