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She’s Got Time

John O’ Sullivan wonders if Sarah Palin is — or could be — the next Margaret Thatcher. But before the skeptics from both ends of the political spectrum roll their eyes,  they should consider O’ Sullivan’s restrained conclusion. After he reviews Thatcher’s rise to power and her laborious professional development, he writes:

Mrs. Palin has a long way to go to match this. Circumstances may never give her the chance to do so. Even if she gets that chance, she may lack Mrs. Thatcher’s depths of courage, firmness and stamina — we only ever know such things in retrospect.

But she has plenty of time, probably eight years, to analyze America’s problems, recruit her own expert advice, and develop conservative solutions to them. She has obvious intelligence, drive, serious moral character, and a Reaganesque likability. Her likely Republican rivals such as Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney, not to mention Barack Obama, have most of these same qualities too. But she shares with Mrs. Thatcher a very rare charisma. As Ronnie Millar, the latter’s speechwriter and a successful playwright, used to say in theatrical tones: She may be depressed, ill-dressed and having a bad hair day, but when the curtain rises, out onto the stage she steps looking like a billion dollars. That’s the mark of a star, dear boy. They rise to the big occasions.

In other words, the jury is out. It seems odd to discount Palin’s potential while a socialite from Manhattan, who disdains any media contact and claims no distinctive policy views, is being touted as the next New York Senator. The implication with regard to Caroline Kennedy is that political stars can be made, or developed over time if they possess some inherent ability. (Or in her case, a certain bloodline and fundraising ability.)

As for Palin, we simply don’t know whether she is the next Mike Huckabee (destined for a cheesy show on Fox) or a political dynamo who, bit by bit, can not only build her record, but construct a rationale for her own candidacy. Her latest interview is evidence of her ability to master tasks – like cogently answering media questions. Defining an agenda and broadening her appeal (without losing the affection of the conservative base) are more difficult undertakings. But considering the time it took from the year Ronald Reagan burst onto the national political stage (1964) until he won the presidency (1980), we should perhaps  reserve judgment for now. Truth be told, we won’t know about Sarah Palin’s viability for quite some time.


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