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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Who is Sarah Palin?

I wrote this about her about three weeks ago:
The only Republican VP contender that scares me is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Or should I say, scared.

Many don't have a clue who she is, but her national profile is growing. Due to her effortless charisma, strength and frankly, fantastic looks (I'm a sucker for a girl in glasses), Palin was a cinch as the female VP candidate that would say three things to voters: 1) McCain's no sexist; 2) The GOP isn't a bunch of White fuddy-duddies - here's our new face, and 3) Hillary Holdouts, the water's warm. Jump on in.

I said then that I didn't believe that I should be scared anymore because she gave Barack Obama major props for his energy policy. But even now that John McCain has chosen her as his vice-presidential candidate, I'm amused that I seem to have so many more reasons not to be scared of her candidacy.

There are so many red flags for the public (and many conservatives): the fact that she apparently does not believe global warming was caused by human beings, is militantly anti-abortion, believes that creationism should be taught in schools, was for the earmark-from-hell "Bridge to Nowhere" before she was against it, is a bit of a libertarian, supported gay rights issues, supported Pat Buchanan for the presidency in 2000 (not W.), sparked a J or two, implemented a windfall profits tax on oil companies, and as noted above, overtly complimented Barack Obama on a position that McCain opposes, once hired a sexual harasser without proper vetting and is embroiled in a scandal in her native Alaska involving an improper firing. Oh, and she also hates polar bears for some reason.

Surprisingly enough, all of that wasn't enough to deter McCain. Palin has some truly serious demerits that the McCain campaign, in their haste to mitigate the praise for Obama's speech on Thursday, may not have considered carefully.

First is the fact that the very argument that was most likely to sink Obama was effectively taken off the table today. That is the question of experience.

The 44-year-old mother of five (more on that in a minute) is in the second year of her first term as governor. Yes, this does give her the only "executive experience"on either of the tickets filled otherwise with senators. But Sullivan, who was on fire on this topic yesterday, makes a great point to defuse that meme:
So ask yourself: could Sarah Palin have run a national election campaign against, say, a machine as powerful as the Bush family, and won? Does she have the skill set to construct a campaign that would actually have brought her to the nomination herself? I find the comparison with Obama ludicrous. But it will be made.

Alaska has a population around 600,000. That's less than the population of my adopted hometown of Philadelphia, as well as several other American cities. Yes, she was a mayor of a small, small Alaskan town before this, but if McCain wants America to truly believe that this is the most qualified person to be President of the United States in the event that he, a 72-year-old cancer survivor, might be unable to fulfill the duties of the office for whatever medical reason - they have even less respect for the American public than I thought they did. It is utterly irresponsible for McCain to have made this nomination for this reason alone. It is, as Sullivan stated, a move lacking the seriousness that the selection merits:
Yes, we knew McCain had an ego. We never quite appreciated how vast it was. Yes, Obama is inexperienced in foreign policy. But at least he has thought seriously about it. Do you really believe that Sarah Palin understands the distinctions between Shia and Sunni, has an opinion about the future of Pakistan, has a view of how to exploit rifts within Tehran's leadership, knows about the tricky task of securing loose nuclear weapons? Does anyone even know if she has ever expressed a view on these matters? Here's a bleg: can anyone direct me to any statement she has ever made about foreign policy?

...now we know something about McCain's promise: he takes all this even less seriously than Bush.

Palin has as much foreign policy experience as I do, and apparently I've even been to more countries. She seems clueless about her party's platform on Iraq, and McCain's plans for the war - especially since she's called publicly for an "exit plan". Could this be a McCain attempt to flip the Obama argument of "judgment, not experience" back onto him, thereby making the election more about judgment in an effort to further question Obama's? It could be, but it would be a Hail Mary - and an awfully early time to throw that in the air. Unless they know something we don't.

In tossing their best theme in the trash, they tried to latch onto another that Obama has owned since the beginning of this election: change. She tried to offer as much in her speech today, in which she not only invoked Hillary's "18 million cracks" in a blatant pander (as if her nomination itself wasn't enough of one), but also she tried to question the "status quo", no doubt hoping to trade on her reputation for ethics reform. But will that already be enough to overcome a candidate that has ingrained "Change We Can Believe In" into the American lexicon? That's like punting the ball when you have the chance to tie the score with a field goal, hoping to recover a fumble on the kick return and return it for a touchdown to win the game. Yes, it could happen - but really, how likely is that?

About as likely as a candidate for President of the United States choosing a running mate he's barely met.

(Wait, what's that?)

Sigh. I agree with Paul Begala wholeheartedly:
For months, the McCainiacs have said they will run on his judgment and experience. In his first presidential decision, John McCain has shown that he is willing to endanger his country, potentially leaving it in the hands of someone who simply has no business being a heartbeat away from the most powerful, complicated, difficult job in human history.

Sullivan then sums it up:
Think about what the Palin pick really says about how McCain views this campaign and how he views his potential responsibilities in national security.

Think about how he picked a woman to be a heartbeat away from a war presidency who hadn't even thought much, by her own admission, about the Iraq war as late as 2007.

Think about how he made this decision barely knowing the woman.

Think about the fact that the most McCain could say about his potential war-time vice-president in foreign affairs and national security when selecting her is that she commanded Alaska's National Guard as governor and has a son in the military.

Think about how the key factor in this decision was not who could defend this country were something dreadful happen to McCain in office but how to tread as much on Obama's convention bounce and use women's equality as a wedge issue among Democrats because it might secure a few points here or there. Oh, and everyone would be surprised. And even Rove would be annoyed.

This is his sense of honor and judgment. This is his sense of responsibility and service.

Here's the real slogan the McCain campaign should now adopt:

Putting. Country. Last.

McCain may have lost the election today. It seems he made a hasty pick of someone he hardly knows and definitely cannot be sure whether or not he'll work well with, throughout this campaign or, heaven forbid, in the White House. Maybe he should've asked a certain question that all of us were asking today in advance of his pick:

Who is Sarah Palin?


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