Columnist Says McCain Has Serious 'Palin Problem' In her article, "The Palin Problem," columnist Kathleen Parker writes that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is clearly out of her league. Parker says Palin should bow out of the race to save the GOP's chances in 2008.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation, I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Here are the headlines of some the stories we're following here today at NPR News. The House of Representatives voted down the Bush-Paulson bailout bill earlier this hour, 228 against 254. Stocks drop sharply at the news. The Dow Jones industrial average now down 504 points. A White House spokesman said President Bush was very disappointed. And Attorney General Michael Mukasey named a special council today to investigate the firings of nine U.S prosecutors. The move came after an internal Justice Department investigation found the firings had been improper. Details on those stories and of course much more later today on All Things Considered.

Tomorrow on Talk of the Nation, Bill Bishop on why voters go out of their way not to hear the other side. And now it's time for the Talk of the Nation opinion page. Most Conservatives thrilled when John McCain chose Sarah Palin and his running mate. Columnists praised the energy she brought to the ticket and her own maverick credentials. A few Conservative columnists asked about Palin's experience from the start and now after three television interviews, several wonder if she isn't out of her league. The one gathering in most attention comes from the form established by William F. Buckley himself on the National Review website where former Palin admirer Kathleen Parker writes, "It was fun while it lasted." We'd like to hear from supporters of Governor Palin today, let us know why she is your pick. Give us a call 800-989-8255, email us talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.rog/blogofthenation. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker is the author of the book "Save The Males," and she joined us here in studio 3A. Thanks very much for coming in.

Ms. KATHLEEN PARKER (Columnist; Author, "Save The Males"): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And why did you like the Palin pick at first?

Ms. PARKER: I love the whole idea of Sarah Palin. Her story was fantastic, and I like the idea that she was completely unexpected. She's sort of turned the whole feminist idea of what a female candidate looks like inside out. And she had all these qualities that we all admire. She is a maverick, she does have a record in our in state of challenging the establishment. So she looked very good in paper and she looks good otherwise. So she's an appealing candidate, clearly a rising star. I think we're all willing to give the benefit of the doubt and did and then did again and then did again, and finally given the little bit we really have to go on, her performance in these interviews has just been very disappointing and I think clearly indicative that she is over her head. I think she was plucked too soon and put on thrust on the national stage before she was ready, and that's unfortunate. I feel sorry for her, and I feel bad about being the one to blow the whistle. But I just felt like it had to be said.

CONAN: What about the interviews that particularly bothered you?

Ms. PARKER: You know, there's no dishonor in saying I don't know or answering a question by saying, look, of course I don't have foreign policy experience, that's not part of my job description but what I do bring to the table is doesn't so, but - instead she try to sort of bluster her way through and she was frankly incoherent. Some of the quotes are just - I listened, I didn't just read transcripts, I watch and listened. And I just - you know, I cringed and just felt this poor woman has no idea what she's talking about. Now, I've heard all the possible explanations such as she's been over managed and perhaps they can turn this around in time for Thursday.

I know, having then for media training myself, it can be paralyzing. And there's a free Sarah campaign of foot, please let her be herself and show do just fine. We will see. But my sense based on what she has said so far is that, she's going to have to do something fairly miraculous on Thursday to make people feel comfortable seeing her in the role of the president. And unfortunately she is being subjected to a high level of scrutiny but unfortunately McCain's age and his help and make that necessary. She's not just running for VP, she's running for heartbeat away.

CONAN: And Thursday night, of course, the vice presidential debate in St. Louis, Missouri where Joe Biden and she will square off. She has been protected and, in some say, cuddled by her - by the McCain campaign, and protected from just three interviews and no press conferences as so far. And there was the difficult situation at the United Nations last week when...

Ms. PARKER: That's right. And none of that inspires confidence. Clearly why are they protecting her and why does she needs special accommodations? That's just simply a poor strategy on their part. They should have had her out front early on with, let's say relatively friendly audiences, the talk radio groups, they would love her anyway, and let get her get her feet wet that way and sort of hear herself and figure out what she's comfortable talking about and what she's not capable of talking about.

CONAN: And if she makes a mistake in there, well, that's not exclusive to...

Ms. PARKER: Right. Talking more is better, actually.

CONAN: And it's not exclusive to one place presidential candidate.

Ms. PARKER: No. In fact she's got some stiff competition from Joe Biden. But I have a feeling that when it gets down to the content he's got, what 30 years on her. I mean, he's certainly going to be better able to answer those questions than she.

CONAN: If she's not ready to be President of United States isn't this an indictment of the judgment of John McCain and the people around him?

Ms. PARKER: Well, certainly does raise questions about their judgment, and I don't think it's any mystery that they selected her because they thought she would help them win clearly. But there was an...

CONAN: It certainly did energize the pace.

Ms. PARKER: It did. Absolutely. And good for her for being able to do that. But that she did - they were not careful in their vetting, that's been pretty well established, and - but let me say this, you know, my criticism of Sarah Palin is not an endorsement of anyone else. It's simply - I'm calling it as I see it, and that's where we are at the moment.

I'm not employed by the GOP's, and the criticism aimed at me has been phenomenally both vicious and amusing. The amusing part is that they say, well, you're clearly not a Conservative or you're clearly, you know, a traitor to the Republican Party. Well, I'm not employed by the Republican Party, and as for my conservative qualifications, you don't have - you know, being conservative doesn't mean you have to leap into the darkness.

CONAN: The ballots are printed. Voting starts in some places this week.

Ms. PARKER: That's problematic, isn't it? It was always implausible that she would drop out as - it is probably - I don't know, if it's impossible, I won't say that I haven't researched that part of it. There are mechanisms in place, because obviously, if a person dies for example, you have to figure out a way to fill that ticket. So nothing's impossible and plausible, yes.

CONAN: Yeah, Tom Eagleton, of course had dropped of the Democratic Party ticket some years ago when, well...

Ms. PARKER: When a McGovern ran.

CONAN: Political problems, but that was considerably earlier in the process.

Ms. PARKER: Well, true and we got our vice-presidential candidates very late in this process. So, we've had just a very little bit of time to evaluate Sarah Palin. You know, there are other reasons - everyone says well, if she drops out, it's suicide for McCain, maybe, maybe not. I don't know.

But that's for others to determine, but she - look, if McCain - if she did drop out, it wouldn't be McCain firing her. He can't do that clearly. But she could find reasons to leave. She's got plenty of good reasons to leave.

CONAN: Spend more time with the family.

Ms. PARKER: Well, absolutely, and she can beg having had - having been ignorant, and nobody knows what it's like until they're actually in that spot. So, she's there now and she says, look, this is more than I had signed on for, I've got this baby, I've got this grandchild coming, I've got more to do that I can possibly handle.

So she can legitimately bow out, and given the economic crisis, you know, maybe McCain could say, I really need some first rate help, and I'm going to move on to someone else. I'm sorry to see Sarah go. I love her, and I want her back. But for the moment, we need to deal with this so, these are all fantasies of mine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And as you've noted, I suspect you've been getting a lot of emails.

Ms. PARKER: I would say, two to 300 an hour, and that's - you know, I may be underestimating. No, it's been a phenomenal onslaught, and I would say, I feel like I'm under siege and I've got, you know, the far right who is not being very Christian toward me, and the far left who is - for once, they've paid me a compliment or two but, always qualified with hey, we knew this all along.

What took you so long? Anyway, it's been interesting, but you know what? This - the reaction of this column I think is so strong and so passionate for two reasons. One, I said what everyone's been thinking, and two, the truth hurts. Everybody, I think, they feel that this is true, even those who still want her. And it's painful. It's a - they feel it's a reflection on them as well and so, you know, they're attacking the messenger, that's not without precedent.

CONAN: Some might argue though, she came under extraordinary attack, some of it unfair. And that this would reward that kind of politics.

Ms. PARKER: Well, she came under unfair attack from the left initially, and I came to her defense. I think I've written five pro-Palin columns. I've done everything but haul out my little cheerleading pompoms, but yeah. Some of that was most unjustified, very personal.

But I think the picture has become more clear now, and we see Sarah Palin not so much as the anti-feminist, which I think were the earlier objections. But as a person who's just simply not quite ready to fill the president slot, should that become necessary.

CONAN: We know you've got to run, Kathleen Parker. Thanks very much for your time.

Ms. PARKER: Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Kathleen Parker is the author of the book, "Save The Mails" with us here in Studio 3A. She's also a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writer's Group. We still want to hear from supporters of Governor Palin today. And let us know why she's still your pick.

Our phone number in Washington, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation, and let's begin with Jerry. Jerry with us from Winchester in Connecticut.

JERRY (Caller): Yeah, good afternoon, sir. How are you?

CONAN: I'm well. Thank you.

JERRY: Great. I just have a couple of comments. One, I lived in Alaska for almost 15 years on Kodiak Island, and quite familiar with, you know, local and state politics there. I welcome a fresh perspective from Alaska's governor, even in a role - limited role of vice president.

How can Ms. Parker claim that Sarah Palin lacks experience, when Senator Obama has 147 days on the job, and you know, his resume prior to that was as a community organizer?

CONAN: He did serve some time in the state legislature in the state of Illinois.

JERRY: OK. Well, they're all, you know, limited experience. It could be almost, you know, compared to Governor Palin's experience, you know, I just wanted to make that argument that you know, she lacked the experience, and it's also difficult I think to answer questions off the cuffs.

You know, on topics perhaps that you haven't had time to explore, or form an opinion on yet, but I do trust her to make the right decision, and to form the correct opinion, you know, when faced with difficult problems.

It's battlefield politics, and you know, often the best person suited for the job is selected in times of crisis, and I believe that's what he's done and that was the right decision. I'll take you comments off the line.

CONAN: So - all right, Jerry. Thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. Again, if you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255, email us talk@npr.org. We want to hear from Sarah Palin supporters today. If you've seen the interviews on CBS and the interview on ABC earlier this month, give us a call, 800-989-8255, email us talk@npr.org.

You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's get Shaeda(ph) on the line. Shaeda with us from Quincy in Florida.

SHAEDA (Caller): Yes, hi. I am a Sarah Palin supporter, 150 percent. I think that it's about time we have someone that is going to be in the leading of this nation that actually keyed her word. We are so tired of politics and politicians. Just saying one thing today and another tomorrow, and I believe that Sarah Palin has what it takes.

She - people are criticizing her, however, she has taken on all this fire, and I think she does outstanding while all the bullets are going her way, and I don't believe she's going to bailout, and the reason I say that is because it's not in her makeup. I believe that she is - can never - like she says to be, and I am so excited that she's now in the picture.

A lot of people I know are excited, and I think that the left wing is just - they can't take it. They can't take someone like her with integrity, with a back bone, and a woman, and on top of that, she's beautiful, and what is wrong with that? So, go Sarah Palin.

CONAN: Thank you very much for the call, Shaeda. We're getting some emails, both pro and con. Jennifer in Tucson, Arizona. The fact that Sarah Palin actually made it to the position she's in, reflects negatively on John McCain's judgment, and makes me ashamed to be an American, but in White Stone, Virginia, (unintelligible) 8:26 Sarah Palin is grossly unqualified and unprepared for the nomination, but it is Senator McCain and not Governor Palin who most deserves blame.

The nomination is an affront to the country, anyone to - wanting to seriously put country first. Governor Palin has shown herself based on her fundamental lack of experience, but based most importantly on her own misplaced and unearned self-confidence to be a high risk nominee, undeserving of the honor and not suited for the Office, and let's see if we can get another caller on the line.

And let's go to Tom. Tom with us from Ypsilanti in Michigan.

TOM (Caller): Hi. Yeah, I just wanted to call. I'm not a supporter actually of the Republican ticket, but I just wanted to fit it. It seems to me that it's really - it's character and not necessarily experience that both sides should be arguing, like Republican and Democrat, because to me, Sarah Palin kind of represents somebody who in her own party was a maverick.

I hate this word, but she'd bumped up against the Republican power brokers in Alaska, and I think showed some real character, and that's what I - if I had to pick somebody to be the president, it's not going to be who knows the president's name of the last few (unintelligible) 9:24, whoever, you know, it's going to be somebody who I think actually has the inner character and - to lead. And I think Obama has that, and I also think Sarah Palin has that.

CONAN: So, if it came to the point, if Senator McCain and Governor Palin were elected and something terrible happened, you'd be comfortable with Sarah Palin stepping in to the job of president?

TOM: Well, only in the sense that I think that as different questions came up to - that faced her, she's somebody who at least I think I would have a little confidence could face those questions and say, all right, you know, I'm going to think about what the good solution would be, and react hopefully in - with her intention to aide America and not just her party, unlike you know, the whole Bush clan.

CONAN: OK.

TOM: (Unintelligible) thought about is party, and it seems like at times, when she's seen injustice in her own party, she's fought against that. And I also can't believe that Kathleen Parker actually suggested that she use her baby as an excuse to pull out of the... of all things, I can't believe that she would say for a woman, to use that excuse, when the whole argument has been, you know, men never get questions about their children, why should women?

So I just - I was aghast that she actually suggested that Sarah Park - that Sarah Palin use that as an excuse to pull out of the race.

CONAN: Tom, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

TOM: All right. Thanks.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go now to Troy, and Troy is with us from Iowa City in Iowa.

TROY (Caller): Yes. A couple of questions here. Who would be a better candidate, and to the previous break, the banking system is the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is bankrupt, that's why they need the $700 billion.

CONAN: Troy, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. Again if you're joining us late, earlier this hour, the House of Representatives voted to defeat the Bush-Paulson bailout bill.

Just 66 Republicans voted in favor, more than twice as many voted to oppose, 94 Democrats voted to opposed the bill as well. Here's an email on the question we're talking about right now. This is from Bill in Nichols Hill, Oklahoma. She, Palin, is the only one of the four national candidates who has not been part of the gathering financial storm. Don't you think she will surround herself with people knowledgeable when she is in office? Who in the world has all of the answers at their fingertips? And let's see if we can get Salane(ph) on the line. I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly?

SALANE (Caller): Yes, it's Salane Escalante from Winchester, Virginia.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

SALANE: My comment is, didn't the United States also elect a governor from a very small area called Little Rock, Arkansas? Didn't Bill Clinton do a job for the United States? So why can't Governor Palin from a small area, (unintelligible) of Alaska do just as good for the United States?

CONAN: So, you think...

SALANE: (Unintelligible) that's all fine.

CONAN: So, you think you'd be comfortable if in necessity called - she'd be called on to be president of the United States.

SALANE: Why not? Bill Clinton did just a fine of a job just being governor also.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call Salane. Appreciate it.

SALANE: You're very welcome.

CONAN: Thank you all who called and emailed, and that's the opinion page. If you'd like to see Kathleen Parker's op-ed piece, you can go to our website at npr.org/blogofthenation. Stay tuned for more news today on the defeat of the bailout bill in the House of Representatives, and find out what happens next.

It'll be all the news on All Things Considered. Of course, many other things as well. I'm Neal Conan, this is Talk of the Nation from NPR News in Washington.

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