Who, II


I’m beginning to revise my initial reaction to John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin for VP. I still think it makes it harder to play the “experience” card against Obama, and find it distressing that both parties should put such greenhorns on their tickets at a time when the United States faces such enormous challenges. But there’s a strategic cleverness to the pick that I did not at first appreciate.

One, judging by the largely ecstatic reaction in the conservative blogosphere, McCain has at a stroke made peace with the Republican right, yet in a way that does not wave a red flag in front of moderates and independents.

Two, he has picked a candidate who reinforces his themes of cross-partisanship and integrity, a pork- and corruption-fighter who has more than once taken on her own party establishment. Appealing both to the base and to cross-over voters with the same choice is a neat trick.

And three, she’s a woman — a woman, moreover, who defies easy categorization: a basketball-playing, moose-hunting beauty queen, a pro-life feminist, a chief executive and mother of five, a Caprasque everywoman who looked not the least bit intimidated at being so suddenly thrust onto the national stage.

But still… I love Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as much as the next fellow, but he was a senator, not a potential president. The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard was fun, but it was a TV show. Could this woman really be president? Could Obama? Doesn’t experience count for anything?

Filed under:

Who, II

  1. She is not commander-in-cheif, she is commander-in-training.

    Which is basically how it should be. God forbid someone takes a shot at John McCain, nothing is going to happen medically to him by natural causes while he has access to the best doctors in the world. In four years she could be up to snuff and make a potential fantastic president if McCain decides not to run again; or in 2012, a decent and happy face to run against Obama after spending that time writing foreign policy pieces and making speeches.

  2. Experience counts for two not unrelated things: complicity and guilt.

  3. Notwithstanding the lack of depth of her political experience, what about the quality of it?

    I’ve only been to Alaska once, but it did strike me in many respects as truly America’s last frontier – attracting “unique” individuals from the southern 48. While single men seemed to outnumber number women by a considerable margin, the underrepresented had a saying “the odds are good, but the goods are odd”.

    If this sense of individualism translates into local and state politics, how will Governor Pallin’s experience/style translate into an effective politician in D.C.? Not well, I suspect, but maybe that’s the point.

    A maverick in the US Senate with 20+ yrs of experience is one thing. A “maverick” Governor with two years of experience from the State of Alaska may be quite another.

  4. Dot–remember also that it’s a deeply corrupt state. As an obviously-astonished NPR reporter said this morning, she may end up being the last political figure standing in a few months.

    Re experience: I agree that it should count for something. One of the theoretical good things about the Canadian/Westminster system is that people don’t rise to heads of their parties without, generally, significant experience (think about the Jeanfather). Any moron can run for President. But then, a PM is stuck with his MPs for cabinet ministers . . .

  5. “Doesn’t experience count for anything?”

    Not according to Parisella, it doesn’t.

    I am of two minds about experience. I think it matters less that Palin does not have loads of experience because she is ‘the spare’ and will not be in charge of anything unless something happens to McCain. I think it matters more as far as Obama is concerned because he is going for the top job.

    What does the president do that needs experience? All legislation is crafted in Congress and all the president does is say yes/no to the bills. Foreign affairs is key but how do you get experience in this area, other than being a diplomat or soldier.

    I, too, wonder about inexperienced people running for office this year but I am not sure what qualifies as the proper training for the position. It is an odd job: one minute you’re hosting the women’s gold medal team in softball for a photo-op and the next you’re in the situation room getting ready for war with Iran.

  6. I saw comments elsewhere pointing out that as Governor she has experience running a $7 billion budget (I don’t know if the number is correct).

    But I do know that Alaska has no sales tax, no individual income tax, and with the majority of the state’s revenue coming from oil and gas royalties, it seems to me the biggest financial challenges to the State Legislature may be in deciding how much of the money to retain in their “Heritage Fund”, and how much to distribute to Alaska’s citizens in the form of annual cheques.

    Also not great experience for the challenges now facing America…

  7. What about “skeletons”.

    Isn’t part of the who “nobody knows who the Hell she is” factor the fact that she hasn’t been vetted thoroughly? I mean sure, I know the McCain folks vetted her, and I’m sure it was thorough, but it’s not the equivalent of months and months of national media spotlight. With someone like Biden, we pretty much know nothing’s gonna come out, ’cause it’d be out long ago in all likelihood. With Palin, who knows?

    And I’m not talking about that thing with her former brother-in-law. That’s nothing. But who knows? Maybe there’s something serious.

    And while JFD’s point is well taken that McCain will have (and frankly, already has) the best doctors in the world, I don’t think that necessarily means it’s improbable that something might happen to him medically. We’re talking about a 72 year old man with a history of cancer. Not to be morbid, but I don’t think it’s beyond being a factor worthy of consideration.

    I’m not sure many analysts of American politics would agree that the position of VP is meant to be a position of “Commander in Training”.

    Then again, all that said, I never felt that VP choice had much impact on an election, so I suppose there’s no reason for me to change that now. It’s just, she’s such an unknown quantity? Is it not at least possible she’ll be a complete disaster?

  8. As for the experience thing, for all of Obama’s lack of experience, Palin blows him out of the water.

    Barack Obama: 8 years teaching Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago; 8 years as an Illinois State Senator; 3 years as a United States Senator; almost 2 years running a Presidential campaign which won the nomination of the Democratic Party.

    Sarah Palin: 2 years on Wasilla City Council (Pop. 6000); approx. 6 years (Wikipedia’s pretty sketchy) as Mayor of Wasilla; 1 year losing the race of Lt. Governor; 1 year as Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; 1.5 years as Governor of Alaska (no offence, but a state a drunk monkey could run).

    Really, her 1.5 years as Governor are her ONLY qualification to be President. You’ll excuse me if I don’t think 10 years of experience running (or helping to run) Wasilla, Alaska means NOTHING in terms of one’s qualifications to be “leader of the free world”.

    One thing’s for sure. If McCain wins, I’ll take up religion and pray daily for his health.

  9. Actually, the latest on Palin is that she wants Creationism taught in schools along with evolutionary theory. I am beginning to incline to the Dan Quayle in Dress theory.

  10. bcl,
    nice attempt at the drive-by smear, but you want to check your facts before you use half a story to dismiss Palin. Here’s the other half you either missed or omitted in your eagerness to smear:

    In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms: “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”
    She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state’s required curriculum. Members of the state school board, which sets minimum requirements, are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. “I won’t have religion as a litmus test, or anybody’s personal opinion on evolution or creationism,” Palin said.

  11. You knw this is big deal in Wasilla AK when the City’s webpage has two stories under “Wasilla News”:

    Former Wasilla Mayor Picked for Vice Presidential Run

    Baby & Me Lap-Sit Program at the Library

    The “Oct. 10 Babycakes” program looks interesting…

  12. “Asked by the Anchorage Daily News whether she believed in evolution, Palin declined to answer, but said that “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class.””

    Sounds like shes koo koo to me. Why would you want to waste time debating whether Eve rode on the back of Barney the dinosaur? In any case:

    “Palin’s statements track with the official Alaska Republican Party platform, which support creation science and intelligent design by name, and says that “evidence disputing the theory should also be presented.””

    We got us a sexxxy nutter applying for US VP.

  13. I don’t think Palin will help McCain get the Hilary women’s vote. I do think she is a great geo-political candidate. She is going to help get the vote from the John Wayne America. If I were living in Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota, or even living in the rural parts of the bigger states, I would be able to identify with the VP from Alaska. Palin also has a good religious background that she shares with many Americans. I do think that McCain made a good choice with Palin as his VP candidate.

  14. This reeks of the worst kind of tokenism. I’m sorry if I don’t understand how 1 1/2 years as Alaska governor qualifies one as the leader-in-wings of the free world. Especially as McCain has been blasting Obama’s inexperience.

  15. Good electoral move. Questionable administrative move. But it’s an open question as to how much a president’s competence really matters.
    An activist competent president can make a difference. But an incompetent dud can be carried along quite nicely by his team.
    Ronnie Reagan was an amiable gibbering idiot for eight years but lots of people were taught to love the administration that carried his name.

  16. I remember years ago a friend pointed out the experience difference between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Both were governors, but Georgia is a small state while California is comparable to Canada in population and economy. (I’m not a Reagan fan BTW.)

    Alaska is even smaller in population than Georgia, with a simple economy. So Palin is essentially inexperienced. But history is full of fast learners, so I wouldn’t write her off completely.

  17. Another reason she won’t help get the Clinton vote?

    She supported Pat Buchanan for President.


    I just can’t believe that someone who wanted Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States would vote for a ticket because the ticket added an anti-abortion, Pat Buchanan-supporting woman, who may or may not “believe” in evolution, and who wants to get closer to the Presidency than Clinton will ever get, based on a year and a half as Governor of a state with a smaller population than Austin Texas and a government budget the management of which basically amounts to “How are we gonna divide up all these oil and gas royalties?”.

    If anything, I’d bet the impertinence of that will TICK OFF Hillary Clinton supporters. I’d bet the house that Clinton is both astounded and angered by the implication, and I’m sure she’ll share that with her supporters.

  18. Not a good analogy. No moose in Austin, Texas.

  19. The fact that she is a pro-lifer probably won’t go far in wooing women to the GOP

  20. She was the mayor of a town of 8,000 approx. Biggest issue – sewers, should we raise taxes, etc.

    She has been Governor of Alaska for 20 months.

    She was a sport writer before that.

    In an interview recently, she didn’t know what a VP does.

    …..potential president? …shudder…

    Obama – at least he’s a lawyer, constitution lawyer at that….and at least understands Federal government workings.

    The reason she’s been picked – a woman, pro-life, life long member of the NRA. doesn’t believe in climate change….the evangelicals will be so happy.

  21. Alaska

    Population Ranked 47th in the US
    – Total 683,478 (2007 est.)

    population not even larger than most cities.

  22. Now, Paul Begala’s obviously extremely biased, but he’s not some lunatic Commie, so I thought his article for CNN was interesting.

    Say what you will about Obama’s judgement in deeming Joe Biden ready to be a heart beat away from the Presidency, and John McCain’s judgement that Sarah Palin is ready to take the 3 am phone call should the need arise, but not even right-wing commentators saw Obama’s pick of Biden and wondered aloud “Is Obama out of his mind?

  23. This also surprises me.

    Then again, McCain has been known to get impetuous around younger women.

    (ouch, low blow, my bad)

  24. This has catastrophe written all over it, and I kind of feel bad for Palin because she seems like a perfectly likable lady who is simply so far out of her depth that she makes Obama seem like FDR, Winston Churchill and Julius Caesar combined.

    In addition to blunting his own attacks on Obama’s “inexperience”, McCain has now given Hillary and her legions of supporters *the* reason to rally behind Obama with equal fervor with which they once supported her.

    The *nerve* of this man, to suggest some kind of equivalence between a feminist icon like Clinton and the mayor of Wasilla AK (not to mention first runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant!).

    And here I thought Thursday was a great day for Democrats. Somehow, McCain managed to make Friday better.

  25. I think it’s a bit much for Obama supporters to be getting snooty about credentials. If Obama is qualified to be president, Palin is qualified to be v-p.

    It has also been interesting to watch the ‘feminists’ get their knickers in a twist about this nomination. They are obviously experiencing the vapors that one of their own is not going to be the first woman v-p but instead a life-long nra member and anti-infanticide hockey mom is going to make it there first.

    I think Palin is an interesting pick. She has the right values, political philosophy and as long as she has no serious skeletons in her closet, and she can continue to perform like she did yesterday at her unveiling, she is going to bring lots to the Repub ticket.

    I think she is the first person to be picked for Pres or V-P, in I don’t know how long, that seems like ‘one of us’ and is certain to connect to lots of voters because she comes across as being normal.

  26. gentry:

    In spite of all the Clinton talk in Palin’s acceptance speech, I doubt this was a serious play for her disenchanted supporters. This was almost entirely for the benefit of the right-of, right-of, right-of-center crowd (who haven’t had much of a reason to be excitied for the Republicans in a while) without scaring away most independents who still have a decent opinion of McCain.

    Case in point: Mark Steyn came out of his vacation long enough to weight in. He’s positively smitten. I don’t think he’s ever been so approving of a decision by McCain.


  27. To Sandi,

    Thankfully, Palin doesn’t come from some rinky-dink place like Newfoundland and Labrador. Population: 512,000 est.

  28. haha, i love this GOP idea that somehow Palin is just as qualified as Obama. I mean I can totally see Palin organizing and winning a gruelling primary campaign against, say, one of the Bush family.

    This woman hasn’t ever so much as evinced any interest in foreign affairs, let alone competence therein. Lordy, lordy, lordy.

    I suppose if anyone needed any proof that McCain is absolutely unfit to be in charge, here we have it. Who’s going to be Secretary of State, Carrot Top

  29. I think it’s hysterical that Obama supporters think that being a community organizer and part time prof makes you qualified for anything.

    Palin has actual experience being in charge, making decisions, and was commander of Alaska’s National Guard while Obama has talked lots but not actually done much. She has walked the talk while Obama is coming across as typical pol, saying one thing while doing another.

    And Palin is being considered for v-p while Obama is running for president so I am not sure that all the talk about who is less experienced helps Obama in any way at all.

  30. I think it’s hysterical that Obama supporters think that being a community organizer and part time prof makes you qualified for anything.

    I read this exact talking point somewhere else today.

  31. I read this exact talking point somewhere else today.

    Uhhh… good for you?

  32. On McCain’s choice of Palin, Karl Rove says it best.

  33. I’d like McCain to win but I have mixed feelings about this. I think the vice president should be someone with more experience when the president has an advanced age, preferably someone who could have seriously contended for the presidency him/herself. Palin could not have done that.

    However, she does appear to have at least as much experience as Obama (to me, a governor has a slightly tougher job and accomplishes more than a senator). Also, her anti-corruption stance is highly impressive, and she has run a business, and then accomplished a meteoric rise in Alaskan politics while at the same time raising a family of five children. Very impressive.

  34. It is good to see McCain/Palin supporters fighting charges of her lack of experience with gusto!

  35. Ti-Guy

    And your comment is entirely original? Do you have anything to add to the conversation? I wish lefties would get some new insults because ‘talking points’ is so unoriginal, it feels like I have read it a million times, and yet they think it’s some kind of brilliant comeback.

    Blues Clair

    I am interested to hear why you think comparisons between Obama and Palin’s experience is anyway helpful to Barack?

    It seems to me the Repubs have nominated the experienced candidate to be in charge while letting the newbie learn the ropes. And the Dems have done the opposite: want the newbie to be at the controls and the veteran is shunted to the side.

    I think non-harpy females will take a serious look at Palin and like what they see because she is normal. And just wait until the overbearing Biden comes across as condescending in the debate. Women will be outraged, that what happened to Hillary is happening all over again to Palin.

    I think Palin appointment was inspired.

  36. jwl,

    Obama’s camp doesn’t need to bring up Palins experience. The media will cover McCain’s hypocrisy if he brings that up. But most commentators seem to suspect the McCain’s camp realized that the lack of experience charge against Obama didn’t do much for Hillary, so they decided to fight Obama head on with CHANGE. But in bringing in Palin, McCain’s camp also highlighted his age and his recent bouts with cancer. Interesting, no?

    “Sarah Palin is one heartbeat away from the presidency.” That is a pretty strong statement. One McCain’s people probably really don’t like.

  37. True about Biden, gaffe prone. He has to be careful.

  38. Blues Clair: “It is good to see McCain/Palin supporters fighting charges of her lack of experience with gusto!”

    I guess, maybe, maybe not. As Canadians writing on a Canadian web site there’s not much fighting going on, as far as I can tell. Also, there’s nothing wrong with being honest or bipartisan, it makes for a better debate or conversation, even if it doesn’t win elections.

    I think a lot of Republicans are hoping that the Dems focus on Palin’s lack of experience, since that argument will only accentuate the same quality in Obama.

  39. SF, you are probably right about that. So I can’t imagine that the Dems would focus on her lack of experience. Makes sense, no? Or do people consider Obama’s advisers to be nit-wits.

  40. Notwithstanding the “Hail Mary” nature of McCain’s move, I’m beginning to believe it’s a legacy move on his part – so he isn’t remembered as an also ran in the same light as a defeated Bob Dole (1996 GOP nominee after unsuccessful prior attempt and former Senate majority leader), since relegated to doing Viagra commercials.

    Legacy in the same way as Walter Mondale against incumbent Ronnie picking Geraldine Ferraro as VP which opened the door to the possibility of a Hilary Clinton 24 yrs later, or the civil rights activists of the 60’s that led to Barack Obama’s candidacy today.

    Short of throwing in the towel after the DNC, with their apparent unity and open ended fundraising abilities, maybe this was what he was thinking during his walk in the woods before offering the position to Palin – pulling the GOP into the 21st century – his personal way of going out with a bang, not a Dole-ish whimper.

  41. I just finished Palin’s whole Bio and you have to give this lady some serious political Kudo’s check out how she killed the boondoggle of the bridge to nowhere it really is a fascinating story.

  42. Wayne, what bio? Where?

    All I’ve read or understand is that the bridge to nowhere had been widely discussed in the media as a boondoggle, and wsince it was not fully funded by the Feds, she cancelled it.

    What’s the fascinating part?

  43. Not bad Ben Hicks.

    “She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long,”
    – Charlie Black
    (Top McCain Adviser)

  44. “So I can’t imagine that the Dems would focus on her lack of experience.”

    Blues Clair I don’t think they are going to be able to help themselves. So much I have read today focuses on her experience, which then delves into Obama’s experience. I don’t think Obama’s advisers are nitwits, far from it, but it’s going to be extremely hard to attack her without a) looking at least as inexperienced as her b) looking misogynist.

    Hillary did not have much luck going after Obama for his lack of experience, true, but many women thought Barack was extremely condescending towards Hillary. It is a battle of identity politics, women v minorities, and it will be fascinating to watch.

  45. Wow, “non-harpy” females will like Palin because she’s “normal”? A creationist who opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest? Yeah, really, I can hardly tell the difference between her and Clinton.

    I love this GOP idea that women are, apparently, so stupid that they can’t distinguish between Clinton and Palin, and will vote for the latter just because they voted for the former. If that’s not insulting to women, I don’t know what is.

    I wasn’t sure if there was a way to mobilize the remaining Clinton supporters to Obama, but I think McCain found it, bless his short-tempered soul.

  46. Gentry

    It is known as identity politics and has taken over North America. Just as many voters are supporting Obama because he is black, and think he will heal racial divisons, many women will support Palin because she is a woman. I think identity politics is terrible way to think but many on the left think it’s just great.

    What makes you think blue collar types who supported Hillary are going to move to Obama? McCain/Palin will appeal to nascar crowd while Obama/Biden won’t. McCain/Palin have a much more normal narrative than their opponents and many people vote simply on who they would rather have a pint with.

  47. It’s nice to know that the right underestimates voters to such an extent that you believe them to be incapable of distinguishing between candidates except based on obvious markers like race and gender.

    I really honestly can’t contain my happiness today…hooray for VP creationist beauty queen!

  48. In his defence, gentry, that is the voters they most often deal with. :)

  49. Urk. Me grammar be gooder than normal today.

  50. The Poly Sci folks may call it “identity politics” but to anyone who has studied Marketing 101, it’s market segmentation – which involves stereotyping, and an analysis of what the competition is doing, in coming p with a marketing strategy.

    Same as selling a new brand of soapflakes to a dumbed down audience.

    Does your husband have ring around the collar? Governor Sarah Palin’s doesn’t. Vote Republican!

  51. There is no experience but moose hunting, guns, oil drilling for Alaska, I love my country and children and did she mention she was a beauty queen that came runner-up as Miss Alaska?

    Gsoh what a resume, I am astounded by her biography. PTA? Jeepers that will you prepare you for international politics. She has less experience than GWB and we all know how that played out.

    And why isn’t the press asking her about her Governor to brother-in-law issue?

    She seems like a good person but a VP candidate with John McCains’s health issues – it’s not a mentor program – this is the heartbeat next to the President who could be the next President of the United States.

    This is nuts…

  52. Bonnie N

    I am curious to know what experience Obama has that makes him qualified to be president? Other than spending a lot time thinking about how many angels can fit on a head of pin, what experience does he have.

    I have been reading up on Palin today and while the Dems and msm are taking their typical smug, sneering attitude they always have, it turns out that Palin does have foreign affairs experience.

    Alaska is the first line of defense in U.S. missile interceptor system and one of the battalions in the Alaska National Guard is key to the country’s protection from missile attack.

    Also, because Alaska is so close to Russia, the U.S. armed services place a lot of importance in the Alaskan Governor. Palin has probably seen as many classified military and intelligence secrets as anyone outside the White House has.

    But you keep on making those snide comments about her PTA experience. You are a credit to the sisterhood.

  53. I think the calculation for McCain is that Palin has obvious strengths that help him in a lot of ways that offset the one big weakness. The base is enthusiastic. His ticket has a historic quality now, which is a lot better than being two old white guys standing athwart history just in case Americans decide they can’t trust Obama in the end. Some independent women will give him a better hearing the rest of the way. She’s well versed in energy policy, something McCain wants to be a major issue. She has youth and charm (such as those are defined in the stodgy world of politics), and her political instincts are very much in line with his: this is now a decidedly reform ticket.
    But then there’s the obvious weakness. The experience is an issue. But the running mates will be less of a story the further we get from the announcement. This is still an election between McCain and Obama, and if experience is the make or break factor in your vote, you’re not voting for Obama no matter who the running mates are.

    As an aside, I think a convention worth starting would be to name at least the major cabinet appointees before the election. We know who the veep would be, but won’t the secretary of state have much more influence in the presidency of whoever wins?

  54. jwl says: Also, because Alaska is so close to Russia, the U.S. armed services place a lot of importance in the Alaskan Governor. Palin has probably seen as many classified military and intelligence secrets as anyone outside the White House has.

    Yeah, I bet she’s seen as many classified military and intelligence secrets as Nunauvt Premier Paul Okalik and the other premiers of territories where the North Warning System radar bases are located.

  55. Dot: I have no idea what the sensitive documents Canadian premiers have seen but I am guessing not many. This is what I was referring to:




    So Palin has actual experience while Barry and Joe only have thoughts. I think the reaction of the left to Palin has been extraordinary. You have to search far and wide to find someone more intolerant than a liberal who claims to be tolerant.

  56. Ok, so I will grant you that there are missile defense systems and they are based in Alaska. And Sarah Pallin is Governor of Alaska.

    Yet, I have trouble understanding how this gives her more experience than the others. What specific experience? Do you think se was involved in picking the sites, selecting the missiles, confirming the targets, knows where they are aimed and why etc.

    What “classified and military secrets” do you think she has, and what level of security clearance do you suppose the Governor of the State of Alaska possesses? Higher or lower than the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? (My guess is not much more than the Mayor of Wasilla)

  57. I love all the phantom experience that the GOP is now crediting Palin with – did you know she has a son in Iraq, which makes her an expert in the Middle East? Also, this one time, she Tivoed the Russia House and listened to a CD of tATu, which, really, is all the Russia experience she’ll ever need.

  58. What “classified and military secrets” do you think she has?

    Well, if we knew, they wouldn’t be secrets now would they?

  59. Gentry

    At least Palin has experience that can be debated over.

    Obama, on the other hand, has none that can be discussed because all he’s got is ‘co-sponsored’ a bill, hung around with domestic terrorists/ assorted marxists and is a product of Chicago’s notorious political machine while claiming he will do things differently.

  60. Well, if we knew, they wouldn’t be secrets now would they?

    Not necessarily. She could acknowledge she knows Colonel Harland Sanders’ secret formula for his Kentucky Fried Chicken from her early work experience without divulging the specifics of his blend of 11 herbs and spices.

Sign in to comment.