Thrilla in Wasilla

GoingRogue_ Buckle your seat belts.  She’s back, and engaging the same press she loathes as she promotes her “Going Rogue” book.   Given the renewed interest in Sarah Palin, I thought I’d revisit a question I was asked quite a bit while she was on the campaign trail: “Is she or isn’t she a great spokesperson?”

I’ll never forget the night I watched her accept the Vice Presidential nomination.  I had never heard of her, so I was chomping at the bit to see how this Alaskan “outsider” would handle a massive audience like the RNC.

Given that I was voting for Obama, my first thoughts as she began to speak were: “We are in deep trouble.”

In retrospect, that almost seems laughable.  But no one can deny how that performance captured the imagination of millions of people. In watching the clip from the convention, you will see how at the 1min 35 second mark, she hits her stride.  Sarah Palin warms to that audience, brings in her own authentic gestures, voice intonation and spark (all of which would soon be famously parodied on SNL).  Her voice is strong, she looks fantastic.  She balances toughness with softness, referencing her role as a mother – one with skin in the game on the issue of Iraq, with a son serving in the military.  While it took Hillary nearly the entire campaign to “find her voice,” Palin had no trouble finding hers.  As a speaking coach, I can honestly say, that speech was nearly flawless.

Fast forward to the infamous Katie Couric interview.  I think we all wondered, "What the hell happened?"  It was as if she had taken a “Media Training 101” class, but did none of the home work to find the answers to anticipated questions.  It was a tap dancing act at best and an unmitigated disaster at worst.   As a Democrat, I watched with some level of satisfaction and relief frankly.  But as a woman, I was horrified.  This is the best the GOP could come up with?  We’re trying to get people more comfortable with the idea of a woman running the country, and now we have to overcome THIS?

Since the implosion of the McCain/Palin team, I have been reading everything I could get my hands on, trying to get to the bottom of the “what happened?” question.  Because I am a Vanity Fair devotee, I read their Palin series hungrily.  While blatantly biased, they filled the vacuum of these questions.  What happened?  According to Todd Purdum, it was a perfect storm of lack of preparation, lack of intellectual curiosity, a serious case of ego and a small circle of sycophants who were unwilling or unable to give her good counsel.  As for the question of “who’s fault was it?” Purdum points directly to Sarah Palin.

Today, Oprah, having scored the exclusive first interview, will be interviewing her in a “no holds barred” style conversation.  Personally, I’m most curious about whether it was, in fact, a staggering lack of intelligence, a staggering case of ego, or a case of someone who was used as a political symbol to give Republican women a “Hilary”, and then tossed aside when she wasn’t up to the task.

Either way, I expect it will be riveting.