The Girl Next Door

The news is out: Sarah Palin is John McCain’s running mate, and she has a good chance of becoming Vice President of the United States. In other widely derided news, Ms. Palin appeared not to know what the Bush Doctrine was during an interview on September 11 with ABC’s Charlie Gibson. Now, I am certainly no foreign policy expert, but even I can give a vague definition of the Bush Doctrine after one trimester of International Relations. Palin was unable to go even that far. Upon Charlie Gibson’s prompting to assess the merit of the doctrine, the governor responded, “In what respect, Charlie?” Gibson avoided answering the question, instead asking how she interpreted it, and Governor Palin’s response was a tentative, “his worldview?” It was clear that she had no interpretation —or even basic understanding— of the Bush Doctrine to share with the American public. Although I acknowledge that this was her first interview with a major news network, I was disheartened that Palin did not have the awareness to understand the nuance that combating “terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation” entails. At another point in the interview, she touted the fact that she is intimately acquainted with Russia because, “We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia.” I am sorry, Ms. Palin, but your assertion that you are qualified to deal with Russia because, “They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska” is not going to cut it. The prerequisites that come with the office of the President of the United States may include a special seal and a nice plane, but the job itself is, needless to say, a serious one. And I believe that the responsibilities therein should only be entrusted to those who are qualified and equipped to handle it. This all reminds me of the TV show “The West Wing.” In last Sunday’s New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd invited Aaron Sorkin, the show’s creator, to write a dialogue between Senator Barack Obama and the fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet, of the series. Clearly, I am not the only political-junkie, newspaper-writing West Wing fan. At one point in the series, Bartlet is running for reelection and is pitted against a Republican candidate who, being the governor of Florida, is a newcomer to the national political scene. Sound familiar? According to Sorkin, Bartlet’s opponent, Bob Ritchie, was designed to be “the guy without gravitas who somehow relates to the everyman,” especially when contrasted with the incumbent candidate Bartlet, whom Sorkin described as “the know-it-all.” The show makes it clear to viewers that Ritchie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer with some of his comments on the campaign trail, but this does not in itself doom him. What finally does so is his lackluster performance during one of the times he is faced with a presidential issue and hasn’t got a speechwriter or aide to help him out. In response to the news that a Secret Service agent has been killed by an armed robber, he says, “Crime. Boy, I don’t know.” His words are vague, disappointing and uninformed – again, sound familiar? Yet somehow, this man, whose only reaction to an issue that he would legislate if he were president was no reaction at all, appealed to (admittedly fictional) Americans as the guy-next-door and therefore the guy they could trust to make important decisions. As a real-world American who appreciates the grave responsibilities inherent in the presidency, I have only one question, the same question that a senior aide to President Bartlet puzzles over as he strategizes ways to win the election. When did it become a bad thing to be the smartest kid in the class? Knowledge portends change and innovation, so Americans should have no aversion to it. In fact, information should be dispensed liberally and a high premium should be placed on education. That is why I think there is merit in PA’s notoriously high standards, despite the opinion some have that the school expects too much of its students. Only with lofty expectations can one fathom true achievement. Thus I challenge Americans, and especially Andover students, to look to the smartest kid in the class as a beacon and as an asset. Our country, and the world, needs mental dexterity and agility. After all, don’t we want leaders who know Russia’s location without needing to see it from their houses? Trisha Macrae is a four-year Senior from San Francisco, Calif.