Sarah Palin at Mid-Career

Sarah Palin's debut on FOX News last week engendered the usual disdain from the usual suspects, but more significantly, not much enthusiasm from her fans. The ratings were great, but it is clear that the governor has not yet mastered the skill set of a television pundit. Still, it is too soon to write her off as a figure not taken seriously in public life -- a twenty-first-century Dan Quayle.

Palin is quite plainly entering a new phase of her career, one in which she has the opportunity to develop a new set of tools to equip her for future challenges. Unlike Quayle, she has a devoted following of millions, and an even wider group which finds her interesting or compelling. She also enjoys access to the internet and FOX News, neither of which were available to the former Vice President when media liberals unleashed their concerted campaign to portray him as an idiot, creating an enduring, unfair image for him. Sarah will have continued access to the largest audience in cable news.

But as a Palin fan, it was painful for me to watch her begin with talking-point rhetoric in her first interview with Bill O'Reilly as a FOX contributor. Although she loosened up somewhat, she was highly "guarded," to use the word with which Glenn Beck described her talking to O'Reilly on Friday's Factor about his own interview.

A canned presentation strategy never works well with FNC's ratings champion, who delights in posing bulldog tough questions and demanding answers. Things improved for Sarah with Beck and Hannity (see also C. Edmund Wright's article), but it is clear that she has yet to find a style of self-presentation that will work well for her as a cable news analyst.

The opportunity to produce "periodic episodes of FNC's 'Real American Stories'" will allow Sarah more time to prepare what she has to say, and achieve a greater degree of polish in the finished product, than is possible in a spontaneous interview.

She has also has some time to reflect, learn, and improve her mastery of the facts and skills she needs to move forward. One of the things I most admire about Sarah is her ability to learn as she goes. She had no academic training for assuming the executive function of a state, but she did spectacularly well as a reformer (until opponents abused the ethics complaint system to tie her down with unfounded complaints that nevertheless needed expensive and time-consuming combative efforts. Had she remained in office, she could not have governed effectively.).

Her variegated academic and work history, scorned by elitists as virtually redneck in nature, can also be read as evidence of someone able to adapt to new situations, learning what is essential quickly enough to become capable of performing the tasks at hand. She has focused on doing things as opposed to talking about things and impressing others with her erudition.

The "educated class," as David Brooks lovingly calls these snobs, have a class interest in their contempt. Having invested vast amounts of time and money in acquiring elite credentials, they regard Sarah as a gate crasher, a scab who wants to work without a union card. They will never forgive her for her lack of deference to their rituals of education and behavior. That she could defeat a corrupt establishment in her own party, win election as governor, carry through reforms, and negotiate an innovative and huge new transnational gas pipeline impresses them less than an expensive education and a fancy vocabulary, which they regard as necessary dues to be paid before being allowed entry into the upper reaches of power.

Because 2012 looms as an election in which the nation may experience a populist reaction to the Obama presidency, many assume it is a make-or-break event in Sarah Palin's political career. I beg to differ. She is 45 years old, and she has decades ahead of her in public life. Thanks to writing, speaking, and television, she has millions of dollars at her disposal, as well as many admirers.

It is not at all uncommon in the world of doing things (as opposed to the world of talking about things) for very successful people to acquire highly condensed usable information at mid-career as a substitute for the higher education they missed because their minds were focused elsewhere. A vast executive education industry exists, with many prestigious business schools offering mid-career executive training programs. An even vaster industry of corporate training professionals provides education in smaller, more focused doses, measured in hours and days, not weeks. One does not have to be on a campus to learn.

As an analyst on FOX News, Sarah Palin will need to be acquiring knowledge on a wide variety of topics, including, no doubt, many subjects on which she has been ridiculed as inexperienced and ignorant. If she so wishes, she could have access to a wide range of conservative experts to learn about the various areas of national concern she will be discussing on air. She doesn't need to acquire facts so much as concepts and frameworks.

Palin must be a very disciplined and organized person to have had her career and raised her family. If she wishes to repair her image and go on to greater respect and public regard, she has ample time and resources for a custom-designed, mid-career education. Whether or not she pursues the presidency, it will serve her well in her career.

Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.
Sarah Palin's debut on FOX News last week engendered the usual disdain from the usual suspects, but more significantly, not much enthusiasm from her fans. The ratings were great, but it is clear that the governor has not yet mastered the skill set of a television pundit. Still, it is too soon to write her off as a figure not taken seriously in public life -- a twenty-first-century Dan Quayle.

Palin is quite plainly entering a new phase of her career, one in which she has the opportunity to develop a new set of tools to equip her for future challenges. Unlike Quayle, she has a devoted following of millions, and an even wider group which finds her interesting or compelling. She also enjoys access to the internet and FOX News, neither of which were available to the former Vice President when media liberals unleashed their concerted campaign to portray him as an idiot, creating an enduring, unfair image for him. Sarah will have continued access to the largest audience in cable news.

But as a Palin fan, it was painful for me to watch her begin with talking-point rhetoric in her first interview with Bill O'Reilly as a FOX contributor. Although she loosened up somewhat, she was highly "guarded," to use the word with which Glenn Beck described her talking to O'Reilly on Friday's Factor about his own interview.

A canned presentation strategy never works well with FNC's ratings champion, who delights in posing bulldog tough questions and demanding answers. Things improved for Sarah with Beck and Hannity (see also C. Edmund Wright's article), but it is clear that she has yet to find a style of self-presentation that will work well for her as a cable news analyst.

The opportunity to produce "periodic episodes of FNC's 'Real American Stories'" will allow Sarah more time to prepare what she has to say, and achieve a greater degree of polish in the finished product, than is possible in a spontaneous interview.

She has also has some time to reflect, learn, and improve her mastery of the facts and skills she needs to move forward. One of the things I most admire about Sarah is her ability to learn as she goes. She had no academic training for assuming the executive function of a state, but she did spectacularly well as a reformer (until opponents abused the ethics complaint system to tie her down with unfounded complaints that nevertheless needed expensive and time-consuming combative efforts. Had she remained in office, she could not have governed effectively.).

Her variegated academic and work history, scorned by elitists as virtually redneck in nature, can also be read as evidence of someone able to adapt to new situations, learning what is essential quickly enough to become capable of performing the tasks at hand. She has focused on doing things as opposed to talking about things and impressing others with her erudition.

The "educated class," as David Brooks lovingly calls these snobs, have a class interest in their contempt. Having invested vast amounts of time and money in acquiring elite credentials, they regard Sarah as a gate crasher, a scab who wants to work without a union card. They will never forgive her for her lack of deference to their rituals of education and behavior. That she could defeat a corrupt establishment in her own party, win election as governor, carry through reforms, and negotiate an innovative and huge new transnational gas pipeline impresses them less than an expensive education and a fancy vocabulary, which they regard as necessary dues to be paid before being allowed entry into the upper reaches of power.

Because 2012 looms as an election in which the nation may experience a populist reaction to the Obama presidency, many assume it is a make-or-break event in Sarah Palin's political career. I beg to differ. She is 45 years old, and she has decades ahead of her in public life. Thanks to writing, speaking, and television, she has millions of dollars at her disposal, as well as many admirers.

It is not at all uncommon in the world of doing things (as opposed to the world of talking about things) for very successful people to acquire highly condensed usable information at mid-career as a substitute for the higher education they missed because their minds were focused elsewhere. A vast executive education industry exists, with many prestigious business schools offering mid-career executive training programs. An even vaster industry of corporate training professionals provides education in smaller, more focused doses, measured in hours and days, not weeks. One does not have to be on a campus to learn.

As an analyst on FOX News, Sarah Palin will need to be acquiring knowledge on a wide variety of topics, including, no doubt, many subjects on which she has been ridiculed as inexperienced and ignorant. If she so wishes, she could have access to a wide range of conservative experts to learn about the various areas of national concern she will be discussing on air. She doesn't need to acquire facts so much as concepts and frameworks.

Palin must be a very disciplined and organized person to have had her career and raised her family. If she wishes to repair her image and go on to greater respect and public regard, she has ample time and resources for a custom-designed, mid-career education. Whether or not she pursues the presidency, it will serve her well in her career.

Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.