Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and author of "Diplomacy" once wrote:
"A leader who confines his role to his people's experience dooms himself to stagnation; a leader who outstrips his people's experience runs the risk of not being understood."
One can understand how this quote rings true today, applying equally to the campaigns of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and John McCain (R-AK)... or rather, campaigns that have now become about the parallel biographical backgrounds of Barack Obama and McCain's VP pick, Sarah Palin. (See WP Post Article). Both are young, dynamic, energizing, and making waves in their respective parties. Both have also been criticized for their lack of experience. But Palin's latest taunt that Obama has "never led anything" shows just how stagnant and inexperienced she is, as per Kissinger's quote. But it also places Obama in that dangerous dilemma of being the severely misunderstood yet overqualified leader.
We know that Sarah Palin is a leader, a resume detail respected by the corporate CEO and blue collar wage earner alike. She had led the town of Wasilla with a population of 5,000. She has led the state of Alaska as Governor. She has also been the leader of her family, raising five children and even sending her eldest off to fight in Iraq on September 11, 2007.
We also know that Sarah has that down-home appeal, a quality that helped President George Bush clinch the White House in two executive presidential elections. Her comment about pitbulls and hockey moms has seemingly made her the darling of the Republican party, and she has energy and a pretty face to boot. But then again, she has no choice but to emphasize her relatability and likability. Because she truly is the "leader" whose experiences are confined to that of the average American.
Palin's lack of foreign policy experience is her softest spot. But over the next few days I am sure we will see the GOP transform Palin's image from Average Hockey Mom to The Next Madeleine Albreight. I have no doubt that she will come equipped with some sound-bytes that might make her look slightly more knowledgeable than the average hockey mom.... But how will she stand up in debate against Biden? I doubt her lipstick jokes will help her navigate her way through an argument about North Korea, Iran, or China. Hopefully, Americans will come to understand that the position calls for more than the average pretty-faced mom, who happened to be elected Governor of one of the more remote and least densely populated states in the nation.
Or maybe the GOP will take the low road. Perhaps they will tell Palin to he honest, admit where she is weak. When Biden takes a shot at her, to back off. Admit her ignorance. Because she only has a BA in Communications, and limited domestic experience. Maybe the GOP will play the card that all Americans want is someone to whom we can relate, and understand. Because perhaps that someone is more likely to understand us, right? And what do we Americans know about complex foreign policy issues anyway? But sports, pitbulls, and lipstick... now those things we understand.
And on the other side of this election is the strange paradox of the intelligent, Harvard Law - educated U.S. Senator, balanced by his grass roots activism, plight as a minority, consistent American values, and charm. A man that is willing to shed his partisanship for national unity, his patriotism for international unity. Now that is wisdom beyond the average American. Resumes, education, experience (or lackthereof) aside, this is a leader who truly outstrips his people.
Sadly, Obama may be too far beyond America... too far beyond what we can understand, appreciate, and desire as our leader. And perhaps we don't want to be outstripped by our leader. After all, such a nomination would send half the nation into a spiral, perhaps causing some people to do things. Like question themselves. Or want change... Oh no, we better stick to what we know, and to what is safe... like recycled lipstick jokes, boilerplate speeches, and a failing economy. Give us more stagnation! Give us McCain-Palin!