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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Skillfully playing with ignorance

In response to the On Leadership question: As Sarah Palin goes about laying the foundation for a possible presidential candidacy, what could she do to burnish her leadership credentials beyond her conservative base?

I am not interested in boosting Sarah Palin's chances to be president. At a time when America is painfully trying to recover from its bubblemania, Palin excites her base by throwing darts at a president who is making every effort to heal the country. She is an energetic, cunning, street-smart politician who skillfully plays on the ignorance of her fans.

Part of her feel-good charm is that she appears to believe the distortions of the truth and misunderstanding of the facts that fit their prejudices. It's likely that if she learned more history, geography, economics and international affairs, she would lose some of her ability to mangle reality with sincerity. By trying to burnish her leadership credentials beyond her know-nothing base, she might lose her leadership role.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  February 8, 2010; 4:12 PM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Being Sarah | Next: By punditry alone?


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I agree. but think Palin serves a useful purpose in our politics. She makes things interesting and excites a lot of followers who might otherwise not get involved. I don't agree with anything she says but am charmed by her gutsyness

Posted by: nana6 | February 11, 2010 8:03 AM
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I agree. but think Palin serves a useful purpose in our politics. She makes things interesting and excites a lot of followers who might otherwise not get involved. I don't agree with anything she says but am charmed by her gutsyness

Posted by: nana6 | February 11, 2010 7:47 AM
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now just to be fair. Posted by: Sadie1129 | February 10, 2010 6:13 AM
I would remind Mr. Gardner that Ms. Palin was a governor.
In November 2006, she became the youngest person and the first woman ever elected Governor of Alaska.On July 3, 2009, Palin announced she would not seek re-election as governor and that she was resigning effective July 26, 2009, eighteen months before the completion of her term.

Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. Eight years. He worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. Twelve years.
He was the president of the Harvard Law Review.
During his three years as the DCP's director, its staff grew from one to thirteen and its annual budget grew from $70,000 to $400,000. He helped set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants' rights organization in Altgeld Gardens.

Posted by: vze4k4bh | February 11, 2010 7:02 AM
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Your punditry is disingenuous at best; falsely claiming Obama is doing his best.

Obama is nothing but a lying thug.

Obama is 100% in the tank for the international banking oligarchy that has massive eugenics plans for the USA and is using swarm of octopus like creatures throughout government, especially in legal, financial and security fields to develop a master engenics implementation schedule for Bush Sr's New World Order.

Obama is buying into it 100%.

Do not be deceived.

Posted by: Archarito | February 11, 2010 2:40 AM
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She's an idiotic bigot (as are many of her hardcore supporters) who couldn't effectively run a lemonade stand.

Posted by: RobRoy1 | February 10, 2010 6:00 PM
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"Skillfully playing with ignorance"
Nobody does it better than obama!!

Posted by: thornegp2626 | February 10, 2010 1:11 PM
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Willful ignorance is an interesting leadership quality. I am usually turned off by hyperbole, but am willing to risk it: the bellowing ignorance of many of Palin's followers bring to mind Ionesco's Rhinoceros. Ionesco said he was inspired by descriptions of rallies offering "delirium that electrifies". Rational thought anchored to reality is an impediment to that delirium.

Posted by: JimBfromNC | February 10, 2010 1:09 PM
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Trying to have an intelligent discussion on the leadership credentials of Sarah Palin on the website of the Washington Post is no different than trying to have an intelligent discussion on the leadership qualities of Barack Obama on the website of the Aryan Brotherhood. Why bother even opening up the discussion unless you like reading spew?

Posted by: fastaire | February 10, 2010 11:03 AM
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Yes, Palin needs to go back to Wasilla, Alaska...and stay there. Forever.

Posted by: toddhathaway | February 10, 2010 8:40 AM
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While we sit here and ridicule (in some respects, rightfully deserved ridicule) Sarah Palin, she is traveling around the country, trying to spread her message of 'no'. No intelligence, no substance, no real plan.
I haven't yet figured out which is more frightening: that Sarah Palin continues to talk about nothing and is getting paid A LOT OF MONEY to do it; that people are paying her A LOT OF MONEY to talk about nothing; or that these people may be registered voters.

I don't see a viable, respectable candidate for any public office when I think of Sarah Palin, I see Hitler. Sarah Palin seems to want to take over the world, just as Hitler did. Sarah Palin seems to want to construct some 'perfect society' based solely upon her beliefs, just as Hitler did. Sarah Palin started off her 'public life' quietly, seemingly harmlessly, but as her 'following' among the dis-enfranchised forgotten people grows, so might her greed for power, just as Hiter's did. We all sadly know how that turned out.

Sarah Palin needs to be shut down, sent home to her perfect wilderness ASAP!!!

Posted by: momof20yo | February 10, 2010 8:12 AM
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To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, "Nobody ever lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the American electorate."

Posted by: pbshoe | February 10, 2010 6:59 AM
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Sarah Palin’s ignorance of the U.S. Constitution (Articles and Amendments) and Supreme Court’s opinions and other precedents is very disturbing for a person aspiring for national office. It is all right to disagree, to have a different interpretation, but base this on a thorough understanding of the issues and the consequences.

Posted by: robert-reston | February 9, 2010 5:43 PM
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I agree with his comments about Sara. I don't dislike her, but we don't need her. She is a a distraction to progress.

Posted by: slovelace | February 9, 2010 4:50 PM
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Palin seems to be deliberately ignorant, when even casual investigation would allow her to be accurate.
One small example: As governor, just before resigning, she claimed she was refusing stimulus funds because they would require Alaska to adopt a "one-size fits all" building code. (The legislature and her successor reversed her decision)
This same inaccurate statement was repeated in her book, "Going Rogue."
The fact is that the building code in question (International Energy Conservation Code-IECC), is not one size (it reflects 8 climate zones, including two for Alaska) and in fact, was already adopted in all of Alaska's major cities, at the time Palin made her decision.
I am a lifelong Republican, and I can't stand her no-nothing brand of politics.

Posted by: dc-guy | February 9, 2010 9:31 AM
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Absolutley agree. Palin's greatest asset is her ignorance and she's smart enough to know it. I believe this is why she was resistant to the McCain campaign's attempts to brief and educate her on issues that a VP candidate should have known before becoming a VP candidate. I also think this is why she resigned as Alaska's Governor. With the national spotlight on her, it would have become increasinly embarassing for her because her lack of knowledge and leadership skills would have become so blatant that her charisma would not have sufficed at winning over followers. Unfortunately;however, we do have a significant portion of the U.S. population who believes this "I'm no smarter than you" mentality is a desirable quality to have in a leader.

Posted by: lballen69 | February 9, 2010 8:49 AM
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