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Analysis: Sarah Palin Needs More Than a Hand

(YouTube)
President Obama prefers the teleprompter. Sarah Palin uses her analog Palm Pilot, scribbling in ink on her palms. So what?

Index cards, three ring binders, someone talking into your ear or just winging it -- are all acceptable options. What's ultimately important for the public is to listen to what the speaker is saying, not how he or she is saying it.

That's made more difficult, however, with Palin characterizing the president as "that charismatic guy with the teleprompter," not to mention the hyperventilation about the nascent Tea Party movement and an Obama vs. Palin battle for the soul of America in 2012.

American politics follows Newton's laws of motion: For every action there is a reaction. Palin disparages Mr. Obama's reliance on the telepromter and then receives her comeuppance for her hand-held notes, as if she were cheating on a civics test.

It's in the unscripted moments that the true nature of the combatant is revealed. Unscripted, President Obama can get all professory. For example, in his pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, the president was asked about working with the Republicans this month to push a healthcare reform bill forward.

He responded, "If we can go step by step through a series of these issues and arrive at some agreements, then procedurally, there's no reason why we can't do it a lot faster than the process took last year."

Go through a "series of these issues" "step-by-step," "arrive at some agreements" and "procedurally" there is reason to expect progress. Perfectly logical and lawyerly.

(AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
Palin's unscripted remarks are even more folksy and peculiar than her prepared remarks. When asked about the future of the Tea Party movement, she said, "This is a beautiful movement because it is shaping the way politics are conducted. You got really both party machines runnin' scared, because they're not knowin' what are we gonna do if we don't have Tea Party support. They know that they won't succeed." Democrats and Republicans "runnin' scared" from the "beautiful movement," and not knowin' what to do?

So far, Mr. Obama's logical arguments and communication style haven't gotten Congress and the American people to dance to his tune, despite dozens of speeches, town halls and interviews. Critics say that the American people don't "know" him, even with two best-selling books, two years on the campaign trail and a year in office. Health care reform, jobs legislation, financial reform and other issues are stalled, aided by the lack of any bipartisan support for fixing what is wrong with America.

Obama is up against an immovable object, and he hasn't yet figured out how to move it. His latest attempt is to bring Democrats and Republicans together on Feb. 25 to get healthcare reform moving again.

The Republican response to meeting with the president was expressed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): "If we are to reach a bipartisan consensus, the White House can start by shelving the current health spending bill."

White House officials say that Mr. Obama does not intend to restart the health care legislative process from scratch. That doesn't bode well for moving healthcare reform out of the penalty box.

The former vice-presidential candidate and Alaska governor, who forsook her job to focus more on national politics and her earning potential, has her own bully pulpit.

Palin, who has described herself a pitbull with lipstick, is clamping her sharp teeth down on the Obama administration. "To win that war we need a commander-in-chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern," she said during her Tea Party speech in Nashville Saturday.

Palin, who has become the queen of the Tea Party, says she is considering a run for the 2012 presidency. If and when she elects to seek the White House, she'll have to add more logic to her folksy delivery -- or at least offer suggestions on how to solve the complex problems facing the country rather than simple slogans.

Talking about handling the terrorist threat as "We live, they die," as she did in her Tea Party speech, is a manifestation of the politician as pitbull with lipstick. You wouldn't give the nuclear launch codes to a pitbull, even a lipstick-wearing one who is cashing in on her celebrity. (For good insight into Palin, check out Fox News colleague Chris Wallace's interview with her.)

The good news for Palin fans is that the former governor has time to improve her presidential mien as the Obama administration tries to find its footing.

Dan Farber is editor-in-chief of CBSNews.com
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    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.