Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Fish in the Kool-Aid

When I wrote my recent post on Sarah Palin’s resignation speech, I believed I was one of the few people in the world to whom her speech made sense. Today I ran across a post by Stanley Fish at the New York Times. Fish seems to agree with me and thinks the confusion on the part of the pundits is about their limitations rather than Palin’s lack of clarity:

It is true that her statement was not constructed in a straightforward, logical manner, but the main theme was sounded often and plainly: This is not what I signed up for. I’m spending all my time and the state’s money responding to attack after attack and they aren’t going to let up because, “It doesn’t cost the people who make these silly accusations a dime.” [snip] And in the end she earned the declaration that “I have given my reasons plainly and candidly.”

But the pundits didn’t want to hear them or, rather, they were committed to believing that the real reasons lay elsewhere, and were strategic. They couldn’t fathom the possibility that she was just giving voice to her feelings. It must, they assumed, be a calculation, and having decided that, they happily went on to describe how bad a calculation it was.

Read the whole thing.

Fish also thinks the rambling nature of her speech was a feature, not a bug: the very fact that Palin clearly wrote it herself emphasizes that it was not a calculated political move. Form followed function, in other words. Perhaps he’s right and my wish that she’d had a good wordsmith tighten it up was off-base. I suspect when you’re Sarah Palin, it doesn’t matter how carefully you speak, how tightly you script, how many red pencils edit and re-edit your words: most people - and almost all pundits - are going to hear what they expect to hear. Very few are going to hear what is actually said.

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