Finally, here’s a second thing Sarah could learn from Hillary: It’s the substance that sustains, not the exposure. In terms of raw talent on the hustings, Sarah Palin is far more of a political natural than Hillary Clinton. She might get somewhere in the long run if she would just go away in the short run and read some books. (I like the “concept of Sarah Palin,” mused a diplomatic Peggy Noonan, the Republican commentator, last week on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “…if she could just be more…thoughtful.”) Her problem is that she thinks the popular culture is the culture. She has no context, no knowledge of the world to offset her obsessive Nixonian flailings about how everyone is belittling her stature as the hardworking governor of Alaska. Her answers on CNN about Pentagon cuts in missile defense that affect her state were as halting and glassy-eyed as a novice U.N. translator’s attempt to grapple with Uzbek in his earphones.
Yet if Palin added some depth to her knowledge, she has so much she could offer. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a mother of five who translated what she wanted for her kids into fighting for affordable health care and clean air. Palin has a disabled child, one of a sadly ignored subset of Americans whose chances to live a better life desperately need her celebrity spotlight. Teenage mothers could use a leg up from Palin, too, but she’s too busy ginning up celebrity feuds.