What values do we place on our leaders’ public appearances?

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Y
ou’ve been very thoughtful in your comments about the presidential race and our financial crisis — and in your comments about the values that are shaping your choices this fall. But, these issues are becoming more complex by the week, aren’t they?
    We’ve now had several days of media reflections on the big vice presidential showdown on Thursday night between Sen. Joe Biden and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. You may have been among the millions who saw the debate. Two days later, you may have seen Tina Fey, once again, draw millions of viewers for her “Saturday Night Live” lampoon of Gov. Palin.
    In fact, the Palin-Fey relationship grew more complex on Sunday.

    (AND, here’s a quick quiz: Which photo today is Palin? And which is Fey? The answer is at the end of today’s thoughts.)

    I’d like to know how you are feeling about the way our leaders’ public images have been reflected in recent days. Tell me specifically what you’re thinking about Gov. Palin.
    Here’s a quick recap:
    Sen. Biden won the vice presidential debate, according
to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll of viewers. Fifty-one percent
said Biden did the best; 36% said it was Palin.
    Palin
scored higher on likability — 54% said she was more likable than Biden. Only 36% said he was more likable. She opened with a personable,
“Hey, can I call you Joe?” She was often folksy and down to
earth. She appealed to ordinary Americans: “Joe 6-pack”
and “hockey moms.” Biden reminded viewers of his humble background
and the tragedies in his life.

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    The
biggest news on Friday seemed to be that Palin didn’t fall on her face. Expectations
were very low after her disastrous interviews with Katie Couric and
Charlie Gibson. Her debate performance helped her: 84% of
those polled said Palin exceeded expectations. But with such a
low bar it’s hard to see how it could be otherwise. A majority—64%—said
that Biden also exceeded expectations.
    Likability
and not embarrassing oneself are factors in voters’ decisions. So are qualifications. Almost nine of ten viewers polled said
that Biden is qualified for high office. Only 42% said Palin is
qualified.
    Then, on Saturday night, actress Tina Fey lampooned Gov. Palin in a comedy skit that played upon moments in the debate. Sen. Biden was lampooned as well, but Gov. Palin seemed to take the toughest blows. At one point in the skit, Fey said, “We don’t know if this climate change hoozie-what’s-it is man
made or if it’s just a natural part of the End of Days. But I’m not gonna talk about that. I would like to talk about taxes,
because with Barack Obama, you’re gonna be paying higher taxes. But not
with me and my fellow maverick. We are not afraid to get maverick-y in
there and ruffle feathers and not got to allow that. And also, too, the
great Ronald Reagan.”

    Then, on Sunday, reporters caught the real Palin apparently flubbing a reference to Afghanistan, referring to that nation in a fund-raising talk in San Francisco as “our neighboring country.”
    Later Sunday, Palin cracked her own joke about the mistaken reference, telling reporters, “I’m was just trying to give Tina Fey more material. Job security for ‘Saturday Night Live.’”
    So, the real Palin and Fey-Palin seem to be circling each other. Online reports late Sunday suggested that Palin’s advisers are suggesting she should appear in some kind of prominent comedy skit herself before election day to demonstrate that she’s a good sport about it all.
    How do you feel about this complex turn of events? What values do you place on our leaders’ public appearances? What do you think Sarah Palin should do at this point?
    Are you more inclined to support her? Or less inclined?

    (Answer to our photo quiz: In these photos, Palin wears green; Fey-Palin wears black.)

    Please, click on the “Comment” link above, or if you prefer to drop us a quick Email,
you can do that as well. We’re also still inviting readers to sign up
for a couple of in-depth surveys Dr. Baker plans to conduct a little
later this fall. To take part in that effort, add your Email address to
the box in the upper left area of our Web site.

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