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Palin & Small-Town America

I was surprised when James Carville compared the City Offices of Wasilla, Alaska to a bait shop. Strange that the man who promoted Bill Clinton as The Man From Hope (Hope Ark., population about 10,000), criticizes Palin’s experience as a mayor of a small town. Hello—she’s Governor of Alaska. He seemed appalled that Governor Palin might not even have a passport. Shudder. I smiled and said to myself, “Keep it up, Carville. You may have to eat those condescending remarks.” I’ll bet supper (excuse me, I meant to say dinner) that night (oops, evening) with wife Mary Maitlin, a Republican consultant, began with her smiling and saying, “What were you thinking?”

First, a confession. I live in small-town America. I graduated from a small state college. Sarah Palin grew up in small-town Alaska. I grew up in Klondike, Texas. It rubs me the wrong way when someone like Carlin criticizes what he calls fly-over country. I spent the first decade of my career in urban areas, trying desperately to return to fly-over country. I finally succeeded in returning to my roots and spent the next two decades in one small town, running a small business. I spent another decade traveling around the country teaching other professionals what I had learned in that small town—from small town people.

Now about that passport. I don’t know if Sarah Palin has one and I don’t care. Another confession—I don’t have one either. I had to apply for one once, and I don’t recall anything in the experience that made me wiser. Unless you are a terrorist, almost anyone can get one. Foreign travel is wonderful and can enrich one’s life experiences, but I doubt if having a passport is included on many resumes or job applications. I was a road warrior for a long time, but have only begun to really experience America, must less foreign countries. Traveling is truly enriching only when you can experience the lives of ordinary people who live at your destination. My business trips did not qualify and I doubt that Congressional fact-finding trips do either. One of my clients in our small town was a farmer who never slept away from home in forty years of marriage. He was one of the brightest, well-read people I have ever met. I know many more brilliant, small-town people who are members of the great un-traveled.

I have long lamented that America thirsts for a new national hero—a John Wayne type with Will Rogers humor and Ronald Reagan communication skills and political savvy. Our new national leader would say what he means and mean what he says—a real man who does not pander and change his promises as he switches audiences and locations—a strong man who would protect all of our constitutional rights including our rights under the second amendment—a man who stands on the side of right and disdains political expedience. Our new national stud would embarrass liberal reporters who ask questions loaded with preconceived notions at variance with the facts. Our new guy would spend less time learning how to deal with foreign cultures and more time telling foreign leaders how things work in English-speaking America—and foreign aid would be on the line, every time. I think that not having preconceived notions planted by diplomats and bureaucrats may actually be an advantage in foreign affairs.

My man would have assistants who always carry large photos of members of Congress who stand in the way of our economy and undermine our national security. During frequent press conferences about America’s problems and their solutions, big screen videos of these members and their daily quotes to the media would be played. My hero would then tell exactly what he thinks about what they said. He would tell us how it really is, not what we want to hear (because, I believe Americans can take the truth and we recognize political deception when we hear it).

Best of all, this man would be representative of mainstream America—someone who has actually had to earn his keep—someone who has made a payroll for a small business, drawn a paycheck from someplace other than a government treasury. I secretly hoped that my hero would have had to struggle to make it in a free enterprise system.

Who would have ever guessed that my great leader would turn out to be, ahem, … a girl. So Governor Palin, if you are reading, listen to the handlers and pundits. Nod, smile and ignore. Continue being yourself. As we say in small town Texas, “Dance with the one that brung yuh.”

Jim H. Ainsworth—former CPA, CFP, CLU, Registered Investment Advisor, Licensed Securities Principal, was twice named one of the most influential accountants in America by Accounting Today magazine. The author of eight books and hundreds of articles, he learned how the economy works from financial and tax interviews with thousands of clients over almost three decades. He has also ridden horseback across Texas. He welcomes comments at www.jimainsworth.com

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