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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

Supreme tea-party hostess

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?

Just what she's doing -- no, not as a presidential candidate, but as a political celebrity. Leadership entails matching your skill set with your career, and I think Sarah Palin is doing that quite well.

Because her skill set sure isn't governing. She barely handled being governor of Alaska, let alone president of the United States. That became clear when all her boasting about the new pipeline, selling the state aircraft, the bridge- and then road-to-nowhere - all these high-fives turned out to be untrue.

That's why she left office early, and without any coherent explanation. She couldn't say that she was doing the obvious: fleeing from any responsibility for governing.
No, her skill set is in speaking and connecting to audiences - mocking and sharing resentments so they boil up. She's a great performer - in the actor/oratorical sense rather than in the doer/managerial sense. She's adept at the shout out, not the figure out or plan out.

Hence she's remarkably like Shakespeare's King Richard II - a great drama-king of the stage and screen (now, mobile or computer screen). He, like she, is enticing to watch and enjoy, but a distinct failure in governing.

Part of her incredible watch-ability -- a new word, meaning the lure to watch someone -- is the whiff that this supreme tea party hostess might just run for president. The audience's intrigue would plummet if this supposition were removed from the Palin phenomenon. It's a key part of her shtick. And Sarah Palin, so gifted in her particular skill set, realizes and exploits it.

By Ken Adelman

 |  February 9, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The Palin of the past | Next: The genius and pitfalls of charisma


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Ken Adelman hits the mark in comparing Palin to a Shakesperean character. She appeals to the theatrical senses and her fans will remain as long as she stays in character and continues to appear in such staged venues. When she gets wider exposure as a more life-sized commentator on TV, I imagine she will not fare well, and she'll be impatient with those that would have her add real insight to a conversation, as opposed to a smirk and a wink.

Posted by: Phyllis7 | February 16, 2010 10:37 AM
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It's one matter to share the stage as a "celebrity"--but another, to stand out against a field of declared competitors. If Mrs. Palin is actually aiming for the White House, she will have to run a marathon of primary campaigns and debates with fellow Republicans -- like any other candidate. (And then we'd see how Sarah's hopey-changey thing was really workin' for her.)

Posted by: Sophie2008 | February 10, 2010 9:52 PM
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If Laughter is the Best Medicine, as the old saying goes, Sarah Palin's 2012 Presidential platform should be healthcare. The entire country will suddenly achieve perfect health as we laugh at the political debates starring Sarah Palin, the comedians 'besting' each other with the newest SP jokes. Sarah Palin's Presidential campaign will achieve the elusive "world peace" as we all join together to laugh at her.

Run, Sarah, Run!!!!

Posted by: momof20yo | February 10, 2010 6:45 PM
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I stand corrected.

Posted by: alloleo | February 10, 2010 9:23 AM
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Alloleo wrote: "I doubt that Palin, in all her incompetence at governing, could come up with anything as misguided, arrogant, and just plain foolish as Adelman's promotion of the invasion of Iraq."

While I agree with you that Mr. Adelman's zeal for the war in Iraq was misguided at best, Mrs. Palin recently stated that she thought invading Iran might be a good idea! So if you think Mr. Adelman, with all of his experience in foreign affairs was foolish how do you suggest we describe a self describe foreign policy neophyte like Mrs. "I can see Russia from my back yard?"

Posted by: youngj1 | February 10, 2010 9:14 AM
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I am always amused at the comparisons made between Mrs Palin and former President Reagan as demonstrated by my fellow poster. Mainly because despite what one might think about Mr. Reagan's politics there was never any doubt that he was an intelligent and well informed, something Mrs. Palin has yet to demostrate in my opinion. Additionally, while her "percieved" average Jane manner is endearing to many, I for one do not ever want just an average person leading such a large and complex organization like the federal government. And finally I can never recall Mr. Reagan being a quitter. He may have embellished at times, and often made decisions I didn't wholy support but I was never concerned to the point of fear that his actions or as in the case of Mrs Palin lack of commitment would place the nation is real and great peril!

You can have the ordinary but for me it takes a person of extrodinary resolve, intellect and temprement to successfully lead this nation and on all three counts Mrs Palin does not measure up!

Posted by: youngj1 | February 10, 2010 9:08 AM
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I doubt that Palin, in all her incompetence at governing, could come up with anything as misguided, arrogant, and just plain foolish as Adelman's promotion of the invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: alloleo | February 10, 2010 9:01 AM
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I keep hearing how great Sarah Palin is at putting on a show. Well, she's no Nicole Kidman or Sandra Bullock, attractive entertainers with real talent, or Hilary Clinton, a politician who knows what she's talking about. We have had Palin crammed down our throats by the print and broadcast media. When will the WP and others get the message? Most people do not care about Palin. In fact, the only reason I'm writing is to plead with you and other media to please give us a break.

Posted by: gtinla | February 10, 2010 8:55 AM
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Thanks, Ken, for being one of the few responsible Republicans to tell the truth about this person, who feeds off of and fuels the growing rage in our citizenry. SP is in no way a "run of the mill American"; run of the mill Americans have decency, integrity and a sense of responsibility.

Posted by: jabrokaw2 | February 10, 2010 8:41 AM
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The problem with Sarah is that she is just your average run of the mill American as evidence by the points on the palm of her hand, and some, you know who you are, just can't fathom the idea of having " a regular American" running for higher office. Yet thats her greatest appeal. I recall as a young man watching another politican be ridiculed and held in contempt, yes I speak of Ronald Reagan, like her he had great appeal to the masses, because he was able to speak to Americans how they speak, not this posh elitism we see now on TV. I for one think its refreshing, and will continue to follow and support her, as for those on the left who continue their attack, keep it up, they will only make her even stronger.

Posted by: wf922 | February 10, 2010 5:29 AM
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