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Palin hands her critics an issue

February 8, 2010 |  7:27 am

PALINHAND Whatever you think of Sarah Palin's remarks to the Tea Party Convention -- and I thought they were an effective, if unfair, encapsulation of the conservative case against President Obama -- she shouldn't be criticized for writing crib notes on her left hand. Sure, it's embarrassing that Palin, who disparaged Obama as a charismatic guy with a TelePrompter, was caught using a low-tech prompter of her own. But Democrats who mock this foible run the risk of underscoring the complaint that liberals treat conservatives, and "ordinary Americans," with condescension.

Most of us need some help when we speak in public. In high school, I competed in extemporaneous speaking, an event in which you had to analyze a current-affairs topic for eight minutes without much preparation.  The rules allowed you to use an index card with a maximum of 50 words of notes, but my teammates and I prided ourselves on our ability to wing it without a card. (This worked against me at one speech tournament, when a judge ranked me last because a performance as smooth as mine "had to be memorized.")

Yet in my adult public speaking, I have used a few notes, sometimes scribbled in my pocket diary. After I delivered a eulogy for a former colleague, the family flattered me by asking for a copy -- except there was no copy, just those indecipherable (to them) notes. I  could have performed on that occasion without a crib sheet, and the same thing is probably true of Palin. So please: No jokes about her critics talking to the hand.

-- Michael McGough

Photo: Sarah Palin speaks at the Tea Party Convention. Credit: Ed Reinke / Associated Press

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