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Sarah Palin: The worst president we’ll never have

You’ve got to hand it to Sarah Palin. Despite all her faults, she really has a knack for making the story all about Sarah.

After all, when news broke a few weeks ago that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) had been shot in the head at a meet and greet with constituents, who else but the Mama Grizzly herself could have manipulated the tragedy so well as to make herself out to be the victim and not the 14 wounded and six killed?

The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate is no stranger to the blame game. During the 2008 presidential election, it was Katie Couric who was out to get her when she asked Palin what publications she reads. And after the election, Palin blamed the McCain campaign for practically everything that went wrong. It wasn’t her who made the mistakes — it was the Republican establishment that was trying to bring her down.

Not long after the shooting, Palin’s fiery rhetoric soon garnered attention as perhaps having influenced the shooter. When some began to reference a controversial map from the 2010 midterm election, on which Palin’s political action committee had pasted crosshairs of a gun sight on Giffords’ district to signify a Democrat who conservatives should “target,” Palin was silent, and the map was soon scrubbed from the website (although a Palin aide did laughably try to argue the crosshairs could have been perceived as “surveyor’s symbols”). When commentators singled out her obsessive use of gun rhetoric (“don’t retreat, reload!”), Palin was silent. In fact, it wasn’t until almost a week after the shooting that Palin actually opened her mouth in a video statement from her Alaskan mock-Oval Office.

For eight minutes, with an American flag perched over her shoulder, she decried the shooting and expressed her sympathies for the victims’ families. She proclaimed America’s greatness. And she played the victim. Journalists and pundits, it seemed, were to blame for the negative attention of her incendiary rhetoric. Their attention to those details was distracting and encouraged hate — unlike her rhetoric, of course. Indeed, she was the victim of “blood libel” — a term whose meaning Palin seemed oblivious to and that sparked outrage from the Jewish community because of its roots in alleging Jews kill Christian children for their blood on Passover.

But Palin’s woe-is-me response demonstrated exactly why she will never be president.

She can no doubt connect with a large portion of the country that has been vocal about its support for her. When she speaks, both sides listen. But her statement on the shooting demonstrates just how limited her range is. The role of president is to speak to and for all Americans. And when our country is reeling from shock and grief, the last thing anyone wants to hear is how their leaders have been slighted in the political game. Palin seems all but incapable of talking about anything but herself.

In contrast, President Barack Obama did the opposite during his speech at the memorial service in Tucson, Ariz. Whereas Palin had seemed defensive, whiny and distracting, Obama appeared somber, hopeful and unifying. He urged Americans to talk in “a way that heals, not wounds” and, in reference to the 9-year-old girl who was killed, proclaimed that he wants “America to be as good as she imagined it.”

It was perhaps the best speech of his presidency. And in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 78 percent of Americans (including 71 percent of Republicans) expressed approval of Obama’s response. Only 30 percent approved of Palin’s.

For whatever legitimate criticisms there are of Obama’s presidency, he showed what it means to lead and to hold that office. Palin did not. And that, it seems, will be her downfall — her sheer inability to speak to all Americans and her pathological insistence to make it all about me, me, me.

Justin Snow is a senior history major. He can be reached at snow at umdbk dot com.

Originally published in The Diamondback.

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