Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin urged Americans not to forget Haiti yesterday, as she wrapped up a weekend visit to the embattled nation in support of a Christian group assisting in the country’s ongoing cholera epidemic and earthquake reconstruction. The question that made its way around the black blogs and magazines last week when Palin announced the trip was more or less does Palin really care about black people, or is she going to Haiti with an ulterior motive?
I think it is a question worth exploring as we consider that Sarah Palin, who hails from Alaska, has had very little interaction with African-Americans in her lifetime. Palin who has been very highly critical of the first lady and President Obama in her latest book, appears to be preparing for a 2012 presidential run. Whether or not she can win a GOP primary remains to be seen, but I for one have no doubt she is going to run.
Yet, we all know that if she is to truly have a shot at becoming president of the United States she must appeal to a broader swath of Americans beyond the Tea Party and conservatives who adore her. Perhaps I am cynical, but if I were considering running against the nation’s first black president in 2012, I would darn sure make clear to my political team that I need more events with people of color surrounding me and more photo-ops showing my concern for the less fortunate, down-trodden and disenfranchised among us.
Enter Haiti — what better place to be seen helping black people, and caring for their most basic needs and physical well being. Palin was accompanied on her trip to Haiti by her husband, Todd; daughter Bristol, a Fox News crew and the Rev. Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham), who runs the group that hosted her. Palin arrived in Haiti during a respite from the riots and violence that have followed the Caribbean nation’s contentious November 28 election.
Palin, who stood amid the rubble and devastation noted that severe problems afflicted Haiti even before last January’s devastating quake. She said her fellow citizens should “get out of your comfort zone and volunteer to help.” Interesting statement: “comfort zone”— whose comfort zone are we discussing Gov. Palin? Yours or the American people’s?
To be honest, when Palin first came on the political scene in August 2008, I like everyone else was impressed with her rise in Alaska politics and was equally impressed by her fiery speech before the Republican National Convention. I thought: watch out Dems this chick is feisty and bright. She was a breath of fresh air compared to Senator John McCain’s old war hero, “Country First” routine. Palin put a new face on conservatism (that is until the Katie Couric interview) and her family seemed to be ideal (until the news about Bristol’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy broke) and it just went downhill from there.
I am not a Palin basher — I actually met her and attended one of her rallies here in Leesburg, Virginia during the 2008 campaign on assignment for XM 130’s POTUS. I admire her work-life balance of family and career, something my generation has perfected. She has led an extraordinary life in just the last three years, becoming a household name and a millionaire in her own right. I am not sure what is next for Palin, but I for one will not be supporting her for president should she run. I simply find her to be a bit shallow, and self-serving at this juncture, not qualities befitting a serious contender for the presidency of the United States.
As a black woman, I find her lack of understanding of history, the civil rights movement, the importance of organizations like the NAACP, and her misguided criticism of Michelle Obama, troubling at best. She seems to live in a vacuum where only people who look like her and agree with her matter.
I hope her visit to Haiti teaches her that there is a big difference between campaigning and governing, and that if she is to become a serious presidential candidate she had better start talking to people who don’t look like her or already agree with her. That is what a real leader does — bring people together and unite them toward a common vision and goal that benefits us all.