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Do the country a favor, Sarah Palin, and run for president

Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dear Sarah Palin:

I hear you're pondering a run for the White House in 2012. Last week, you told Fox news it would be "absurd" to rule it out.

I'm writing to ask that you rule it in. I very badly want you to run for - and "win" - the Republican nomination for the presidency.

I know you're waiting for the punch line. Maybe you figure I think you'd be a weak candidate who would pave the way for President Obama's easy re-election.

That's not it. No, I want you to run because I believe a Palin candidacy would force upon this country a desperately needed moment of truth. It would require us to finally decide what kind of America we want to be.

Mrs. Palin, you are an avatar of the shameless hypocrisy and cognitive disconnection that have driven our politics for the last decade, a process of stupidification creeping like kudzu over our national life.

As Exhibit A, consider your recent speech at a so-called "tea party" event, wherein you dismissed the president as a "charismatic guy with a teleprompter." Bad enough you imply that teleprompter use is the mark of an insubstantial man, even though you and every other major politician uses them. But what made the comment truly jaw-dropping is that even as you spoke, you had penned on your left palm, clearly visible, a series of crib notes.

Mrs. Palin, if Obama is an idiot for reading a prepared speech off a teleprompter, what are you for reading notes you've inked on your hand like a school kid who failed to study for the big test?

In the Fox interview, you scored Obama for supposedly expecting Americans to "sit down and shut up" and accept his policies. But when asked when the president has ever said that, you couldn't answer. Obama, you sputtered, has just been condescending with his "general persona."

I found that a telling moment. See, ultimately what you represent is not conservatism. Heck, I suspect that somewhere, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan are spinning like helicopter rotors at the very idea.

No, you represent the latest iteration of an anti-intellectualism that periodically rises in the American character. There is, historically and persistently, a belief in us that y'all just can't trust nobody who acts too smart or talks too good - in other words, somebody whose "general persona" indicates they may have once cracked a book or had a thought. Americans tend to believe common sense the exclusive province of humble folks without sheepskins on the wall or big words in their vocabularies.

I don't mock those people. They are my parents, my family elders, members of my childhood church. I honor their native good sense, what mom called "mother wit." But if it is insulting to condescend to them, it is equally insulting to mythologize them.

More to the point, something is wrong when we celebrate mental mediocrity like yours under the misapprehension that competence or, God forbid, "intelligence," makes a person one of those "elites" - that's a curse word now - lacking authenticity, compassion and common sense.

So no, this is not a clash of ideologies, but a clash between intelligence and its opposite. And I am tired of being asked to pretend stupid is a virtue. That's why I'd welcome the moment of truth your campaign would bring. It would force us to decide once and for all whether we are permanently committed to the path of ignorance, of birthers, truthers and tea party incoherence you represent, or whether we will at last turn back from the cliff toward which we race.

If the latter, wonderful, God bless America. If the former, well, some of us can finally quit hoping the nation will return to its senses and plan accordingly. Either way, we need to know, and your candidacy would tell us. If you love this country, Mrs. Palin, you can do it no greater service.

Run, Sarah, run.

• Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Readers may write to him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.



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