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October 7, 2008

What The Palin Doodle Document Suggests About How She Got Through The V.P. Debate

Palin-Doodles2

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Like the Ulysses strategy for dealing with sirens, I’m convinced that the safest way to encounter Sarah Palin is by reading the transcript of comments she happens to spontaneously offer in public — however few and far between.  Based on a couple of interviews, as well as her debate with Joe Biden, the discrepancy between how she comes off on TV as opposed to on paper is, simply put, mind blowing.  In spite of how palatable she was on stage during the V.P debate, the written narrative — reminiscent of the Couric interview — careens back-and-forth between awkward and barely coherent.

With all that in mind, I’ve been looking at the “Palin doodle document” that has been floating around the past few days, and find it really fascinating — especially in light of that Veep debate.  The note was provided to The New Republic by a woman named Laura Chase.  According to Chase — who was a colleague of Palin’s on the Wasilla city council and Palin’s campaign manager in her first mayoral race — Palin scribbled these notes on the back of a City Hall budget passed out during a 1996 Wasilla City Council meeting.

The TNR post doesn’t offer much insight into the note itself — except to call attention to the bulleted points on the right, in which Palin outlines her qualifications for running for mayor. It’s the information in the middle and the bottom of the document, however, which I find most relevant.  I believe the sample, in fact, might actually help us understand what Palin was doing during her debate with Biden.

If you look at my post on the V.P. debate, my third point offers screen shots of Palin writing and also looking down and reading.  As I wrote:

Palin, the former sportscaster, did an impressive job sounding spontaneous while working from a combination of rote memory, as well what seemed like both pre-written and written notes.  The delivery was pretty good, although the lack of follow-up questions allowed her to avoid most specificity and change the subject at will. If you watched Palin when she wasn’t speaking though, you’ll see she spent almost the entire debate making notes.

(Like Bush, I think Palin is probably quite skilled at working off a combination of memory and a written script.  Apparently, she thought she could get away with same in the Couric interview, but didn’t expect follow-ups asking for specifics and examples.)

Considering the Wasilla document in the context of Palin’s behavior at the debate the other night, let’s take a look at the passage above in the middle of the page.  It reads:

“City Hall says it sees the need for an increase in sales and property tax to pay for some local politicians “wish list.”  There is no need to raise taxes.  Wasilla is collecting two million dollars a year more than what we had projected when we sold the sales tax proposal to you four years ago!”

If you notice, the passage not only relates to City Hall business, but specifically to the budget.  I’d be willing to bet — if a transcript could be found from that City Council meeting — that Palin spoke these three complete sentences out loud to the council after writing them down for herself.  Supporting the assumption, notice how Palin actually encloses the sentences in quotation marks; adds guidelines for emphasis with underlines and exclamation marks; adopts a rhetorical confrontational tone; and also ends with emphatic punch.

Now, compare the strategy suggested by this twelve-year-old sample with how Palin dealt with the Biden debate.

Given how Palin was eagerly writing almost every moment she wasn’t speaking; and given that she and Biden were allowed pen and paper but weren’t allowed to bring pre-written notes; and given that most of her responses also ended with an emphatic punch (or a “zinger,” as she called it); and also given that throughout the transcript of the V.P. debate, you can see instances where Palin sounds more coherent for a sentence or two before descending back into disjointed fragments or sentences without clear beginnings, middles or ends, it seems reasonable to assume that Palin — having some kind of confidence problem, perhaps — approaches most extemporaneous speaking by either a.) avoiding it altogether, b.) having everything written out in advance, or c.) relying on rote memory, and scripting as much as possible on-the-spot.

  • NoContest

    McFecalbrain and his idiot mail order VP.
    They were actually chanting “Kill Him” “Hang Him” about Obama at a rally yesterday. Reminds me of Clinton’s RFK statement: “Too bad, so sad. But now you can see why I’m not dropping out” remark.

  • Angellight

    Palin Used Flash Cards at the Debate.
    Sarah Palin: Palling Around With Secessionists (Video)!
    http://www.jedreport.com/2008/10/sarah-palin-palling-around-wit.html
    There is a reason why McCain Adviser says that if we “talk about the Economy, we will lose!” That is because they have no good ideas on the economy for the Middle Class. Their ideas and solutions only benefit the rich, well-off and well-connected!
    A Prayer for Barack………..Beautiful!
    http://vmm918.dailykos.com/
    Five Myths of McCain (in Video)!
    http://www.rollingstone.com/nationalaffairs/index.php/2008/10/03/five-myths-about-john-mccain/
    **********************
    McCain Fudges HIs Navey Record
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/10/mccain_fudges_his_navy_record.html
    ******************************
    China Bush/McCainStyle: “We have been taught to fear and despise China as a communist threat. Simultaneously, our political leaders and the media perpetually preach the benefits of capitalism. Meanwhile the most clear and present threat from China is their capitalism. Made in China is the most published modern phrase. By investing the proceeds of their national productivity they have become the kings of capitalism and are now the primary source of goods worldwide. It is not their pretended politics of communism that we should be concerned about. We already have that here. We have been outsourced, out produced and our intellectual property is infringed, duplicated and returned to our shores by the containership load.” The Creditory System, Hari Heath

  • d

    The note is fascinating… but more (I think) from the standpoint of psychology than intellectual ability.
    Public speaking is tough; it’s sooo easy to lose your train of thought or (worse) lose your sense of detail and just repeat bland generalizations over and over. I’m a professor, and my lectures for my first few years of teaching had to be written out word-for-word. And I added in underlines, exclamation points, etc.! (anyone catching sight of my notes might’ve thought I was a feeb or a faker.) Now I can lecture for an hour on the basis of a few notes. It’s all about practice. Palin has had so little practice, because she has so little experience.
    (at conferences, I’ll still sometimes write out a sentence or response of my own on a scrap ahead of time to formulate it.)
    To me, the revealing bit about the note is the jumble, and especially, the big marker note: “SARAH PALIN, √ MAYOR”, with her last name outlined, and little stars around it. These scream out to me of childish egotism. Me me me me me!
    The rest of the notes are disorganized… a mash or hodgepodge. (much like her thinking/rhetorical style.)
    By the way, a must-read column (I just got from Daily kos):
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/06/AR2008100602634.html

  • bystander

    Unleashed, Palin Makes a Pit Bull Look Tame
    By Dana Milbank
    Tuesday, October 7, 2008; Page A03

    … Worse, Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.” …

  • http://leftistmoon.wordpress.com Wordsmith

    One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.” …
    Anyone saying this knows precisely how it will be taken. They’re well aware of how idiotic it is to say such things, but JUST insist on being horse’s asses.
    I read Dana Milbank’s column earlier this morning. I swear it’s the reason I’ll never travel to Florida.
    The line that caught my attention: “Wasilla needs a conservative change in leadership. The current —- is looking at his fourth term in office (12 years), it’s someone else’s turn, let’s get away from politic…..”

  • http://home.comcast.net/~sfs73/images/WordyGrrrl.jpg MonsieurGonzo

    ref : “it seems reasonable to assume presume that Palin — having some kind of confidence problem, perhaps — approaches most extemporaneous speaking by… making/taking and using notes ??!
    so… being unqualified in graphology you/we are to condemn (mock?) the Governor for making/taking and using notes ??!
    oh, COME ON, Michael… Either try harder to unsquiggle the doodle, or just turn it over to the BAGistas here who know WTF they are talking about when they are de-constructing handwriting / graphic symbolism.
    His “confidence problem”… because he cannot ‘decipher the doodle’ ~ he condemns the existence of her doodling! (^_^)

  • spence-bob

    I swear it’s the reason I’ll never travel to Florida
    Do people really think there are states in this country where this shit doesn’t happen? Come on, people – Florida’s certainly no Utopia, but it’s no worse here than it is in any other state.
    If I knew where you lived, I am sure I could find examples of behavior that is just as disgusting as this.

  • kd

    spence-bob: yes it is. Florida has bugs and hurricanes!

  • http://theforgottenwar.blogspot.com Sergei Andropov

    It occurs to me that the “SARAH PALIN, √ MAYOR” part is probably an idea for a campaign sign.

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