Guest Commentary: Palin’s rhetoric questionable

Though the popular consensus following Thursday’s vice presidential candidate debate is that Gov. Sarah Palin did a pretty good job of holding her own ground, one essential question remains unanswered. Did Palin demonstrate adequate knowledge and understanding of complex issues likely to be important to decisions made within the office she seeks to hold – second-in-command of the world’s most powerful nation?

Resoundingly, the answer is yet to be determined, simply because she only managed to speak well from her talking points. Rarely were her responses relevant to actual questions being asked. Moreover, Gov. Palin failed to offer substantial counterarguments to any charges waged by Sen. Joe Biden without immediately returning to those predetermined talking points, or repeating something she had previously said. For instance, when Palin alluded to Vice President Dick Cheney’s suggested "flexibility" in the vice president’s role in the Senate, Sen. Biden countered with a reference to the Constitutional guidelines of that office. After that correction, Gov. Palin stayed in her comfort zone and away from any references to the Constitution, a document all elected officials should have memorized.

Governor Palin’s risky, yet effective, approach to framing her responses during the debate offers a conundrum that evaded media analysts. How much does she truly know? More importantly, are Americans expected to believe her capable of digesting enough from "boot camp" to have suddenly grasp a comprehensive understanding of domestic and foreign issues?

The truth of the matter is, not enough was offered by Palin to effectively solve any of these riddles without making them even more complex.

Regardless of the subject matter, one can always explain something if and only if the content is truly understood. Conversely, if you do not understand something, you cannot explain it. This is not rocket science-level logic, but a simple measure that parents and teachers often use to evaluate a child’s mastery of a particular subject or to ascertain the extent to which learning has taken place. One need only reflect on the current administration to realize the implications of Palin’s simplified and frequently "off-topic" explanations to multiple issues.

Inadequate knowledge, experience and understanding cannot be replaced merely by an abundance of "trusted" advisors. The lack of demonstrable mastery of any one issue makes it virtually impossible to believe Gov. Palin shall gather enough knowledge-based sense to either effectively choose her advisors or solve problems, especially when many national issues are interconnected.

Even as Sen. Biden pointed out during the debate, one cannot offer effective solutions until the problem is understood. It is inadequate that a candidate fails to answer any question and a debate is declared a win or tie based on presentation and style alone. Those of us who actually paid attention, we understand, "you can’t do much, if you don’t know much."

Williams, a sociology senior, can be reached via [email protected]

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