Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, November 23, 2009
I’m sure you’re familiar with the term, “the power of positive thinking.” You know, the idea that if you really want something — to achieve success, to gain a position, to win a contest, whatever — that it’s just a matter of believing in yourself. It pushes you to accomplish goals you could not if you were paralyzed with self-doubt. I think positive thinking is great. Well,… mostly. Because I also think there’s a “danger of positive thinking.” Sometimes, positive thinking can lead one to willfully disregard obvious signals that perhaps the goal itself is not the best choice. It can lead to a certain delusion with strengths and weaknesses and how they apply to accomplishing the goal (and what might happen it if were actually achieved). Ah, but you read the comic, so I’m guessing you know where I’m going with this.
My big problem with Sarah Palin is that she is the very poster child for the danger of positive thinking. Look, she is saavy. She is bright enough to know how to play the game. She seems to have convictions. But honestly, when the McCain camp got it in their heads to offer her the position of running mate, she should have said what she supposedly said about that “Road to Nowhere” money: Thanks, but no thanks. Why did she say yes? Well, from what I can gather, it had something to do with duty and honor with a bit of self-destiny sprinkled in. But what actually got her to pull the trigger was convincing herself she could do the job. And for me, she has done nothing since that point but prove that she absolutely could not do the job. Clearly when you find yourself a year later blaming Katie Couric for ambushing you with legitimate questions there is a deeper problem. Which is, I don’t believe she has the intellectual capacity to be president, and there’s no amount of positive thinking that will ever get her there.
Now, is intellectual capacity the only determinant for what makes a good president? No. If that were true, we’d be reminiscing about the good times of Jimmy Carter’s second term. (Bright person, less than stellar president.) But c’mon now, no matter your political persuasion, don’t you like the idea of your President being up to the challenge of thinking through problems? Somebody who can give you an articulate answer to semi-expected questions? And don’t give me that “the liberal media set her up” nonsense. She is trying to hide a weakness. Much in the same way the Clintons tried to throw the focus from their weaknesses with their “vast right-wing conspiracy” nonsense. And the weakness is — no matter her beliefs, her politics, her sex — she is not that bright.
So you might have heard that Ms. Palin wrote a book. <insert snarky comment about what she actually wrote here> And you might have heard she kicked off her book tour in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That was enough to allow me to express my feelings toward Ms. Palin (a self-serving, ambitious but empty quitter who blessed her home state by leaving) with our own train-wreck of a governor, Jennifer Granholm. I guess props to Gov. Granholm for sticking it out here in Michigan when she probably could have snagged a job in the incoming Obama administration. But it truly has been a horrible year of governing for her. As a lame-duck in a state everybody acknowledges has been bleeding primarily from auto industry wounds, she had more than enough political cover to put forth some bold plans and make game-changing decisions. She has done neither. In fact, her strategy turned out to be allowing a budget to pass that she didn’t much like and then begging people to amend it afterward. (Trying to rally college students to demand the return of scholarship money she allowed to slip away — that was really special.)
Next week: Perhaps something with a bit more holiday cheer.