Friday, August 29, 2008

Is Sarah Palin Ready for the 3 AM Phone Call?



In a brilliant choice of "stunt casting," John McCain has selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice President running mate. The announcement was made (and no, I don't make these things up) at The Nutter Center at Wright State University .

Palin, a former runner-up beauty queen with five children, has been Governor of Alaska for two years, and is married to a man who is 1/8 Yu'pik Eskimo.

Prior to her short tenure as Governor of Alaska (the state population is 670,000, smaller than that of Charlotte, North Carolina) Palin served on the City Council of Wasilla, Alaska (population 5,500) from 1992 to 1996, and was elected mayor of that hamlet in 1999. She has no economic experience, no foreign policy experience, no legislative experience, and has an undergraduate degree (no graduate degree at all) in journalism from the University of Idaho.

After being defeated in a run for Lieutenant Governor in 2002, Palin was appointed Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a post she held for less than two years before resigning to protest the "lack of ethics" of fellow Republican leaders in Alaska.

Palin's major claim to fame in conservative political circles is that she is an anti-choice right-to-life advocate who gave birth to a Down Syndrome child (her fifth child) in April of 2008.

For John McCain, of course, the chief attraction of Sarah Palin is that she is a woman, making her the ultimate affirmative action candidate, selected almost solely for her gender.

Palin's selection by McCain puts the question of drilling in ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) front and center. She and John McCain disagree on ANWR -- though in truth McCain has flip-flopped on so many issues this year that it's hard to know if he stands for anything any more. Palin also disagrees with McCain's good buddy, Joe Lieberman on ANWR. Will McCain tell Palin to be quiet about ANWR, or will John McCain fold on this issue, as he has on so many others?

Time will tell! In the interim, McCain has clearly abandoned the notion that experience matters.

As Michael Halperin at Time magazine puts it:

On the face of it, McCain has failed the ultimate test that any presidential candidate must face in picking a running mate: selecting someone who is unambiguously qualified to be president.

Palin is a talented politician who has both support among conservatives and a compelling personal story. But her short resume in Alaska politics and her nonexistent national track record will make it impossible for McCain to argue with a straight face that she was the most qualified person he could have selected.

In the short term, the pick will create excitement among the kind of grass-roots conservatives who have never been enthusiastic about McCain, and in the media, which will be fascinated by Palin's good looks (matched by those of her dishy husband), intelligence and charm.

But Palin is now going to have to perform at a very high level to persuade the media and the public that she is truly ready to be a heartbeat away — and a 72-year-old's heart at that — from the presidency. How she handles questions about federal issues, national security and foreign affairs will be closely scrutinized, and her margin of error is next to zero.


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16 comments:

jdege said...

"After being defeated in a run for Lieutenant Governor in 2002, Palin was appointed Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a post she held for less than two years before resigning to protest the "lack of ethics" of fellow Republican leaders in Alaska."

Of course, that said Republican leaders in Alaska are variously under indictment or under investigation would tend to indicate that Palin was right. Her nomination should help McCain distance himself from the perception that he shared in the corruption that Stevens and Young have come to epitomize.

"Palin's major claim to fame in conservative political circles is that she is an anti-choice right-to-life advocate who gave birth to a Down Syndrome child (her fifth child) in April of 2008."

Which will not hurt McCain.

"For John McCain, of course, the chief attraction of Sarah Palin is that she is a woman, making her the ultimate affirmative action candidate, selected almost solely for her gender."

That's contradicted by your two prior statements, and by the following:

"Palin's selection by McCain puts the question of drilling in ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) front and center."

Also a benefit to McCain.

"She and John McCain disagree on ANWR -- though in truth McCain has flip-flopped on so many issues this year that it's hard to know if he stands for anything any more. Palin also disagrees with McCain's good buddy, Joe Lieberman on ANWR. Will McCain tell Palin to be quiet about ANWR, or will John McCain fold on this issue, as he has on so many others?"

McCain probably knows he's in the wrong on this issue, and is looking for a way to extract himself from the position he took. This might well help him do that.

"Time will tell! In the interim, McCain has clearly abandoned the notion that experience matters."

Obama lacks experience, so he needs to surround himself with people with the experience he lacks. McCain doesn't have that problem.

PBurns said...

Palin may help strengthen McCain's hand with die-hard born-again, gun-toting Republicans whom has has spent his life insulting, but I think it gets him very little from the moderates which is what he needs. I think the notion that women will flock to her because she has a uterus is fatally flawed. But, as I said, time will tell.

Palin's biggest problem (other than the fact that she appears to be a disaster on video) is that if she tosses Don Young and Ted Stevens under the bus, that will hurt the GOP a LOT. Also, she is going to be asked about her pro-killing Polar Bear position, which *may* be a hard sell in the lower 48. The difference between her and McCain/Lieberman on ANWR is also a problem; she either looks like she rolled over to her constituents in Alaska, or else it look like she and McCain are in the pocket of Big Oil, same as Bus and Cheney.

And what does this woman have to say about Iraq, South Ossetia, Hurricane Katrina, Medicare, Social Security and Homeland Security? She is in the deep end of the pool without water wings, and it will show very fast, I think. Look at her in the clip, above: She does not even know what the Vice President does. And he does a lot (or can) as Cheney has proven. In the case of McCain, who is very old and seems to be losing his memory, Palin has a very high chance of being President -- a job she seems to be totally unprepared for.

P

Anonymous said...

In a dangerous world, who will keep you safe? At a perilous time, who has the experience to face down the Russians, track down the terrorists, back down the Iranians, and bring peace to the Middle East?

Sarah Palin?????

You're kidding me, right? A small town mayor from Alaska (who is under investigation herself) is who they want to put one-heart beat from the Presidency? Tell me this is a bad joke!

- Isaac

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered that John McCain really DOESN'T want to win? That would explain a lot.....and too bad Obama didn't pick Hilary as HIS running mate, that would have guaranteed to keep the crazy assasins at bay!

jdege said...

"if she tosses Don Young and Ted Stevens under the bus, that will hurt the GOP a LOT."

I can conceive of no possible universe in which that would be true.

The GOP was hurt badly, in 2006, by the "Bridge to Nowhere". Not just by moderates - the core of the party found the whole mess repugnant.

McCain, of course, has been fighting against the earmark system for many years.

Tossing Stevens and Young under the bus won't hurt McCain with conservatives, and it won't hurt him with moderates. It won't hurt him at all.

Chip said...

I think Palin is a brilliant choice. She's a woman, as Patrick pointed out, which could be a major drawing point.

Her outsider-YET-traditional-family-prolifer status can only help her in an election in which the incumbent is detested by some 70-80% of the population, as in this case.

Palin is also very photogenic. This is one of McCain's numerous weak points: the man just looks weird (btw, his neck isn't messed up because of his POW experience, it was that way beforehand -- check an old photo).

PBurns said...

Palin named her kids Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig. Is it me, or are those more like DOG names than children's names?

A friend emailed me his summary line: "Dan Quayle with tits."

Tim Egan at the NYT (which endorsed McCain as the GOP candidate), notes that Palin has her own ethics questions. He then goes on to note ask The Big Question (http://egan.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/ms-alaska/) : Could Palin take on Putin?

Pretty clearly, the answer is: NO.

On camera, it's going to look like an old man and his daughter -- something that will only highlight the age of one, and the small town inexperience of the other.

P

Chas S. Clifton said...

"that hamlet" -- a little East Coast metropolitan bigotry here, Patrick? The town where I do my banking, etc., is smaller than that.

Once I was a reporter on a paper in slightly larger town -- 12,000 -- and I can tell you that people are people and politics is politics -- all that differs are the quantities of zeroes in the dollar amounts appropriated, mishandled, stolen, whatever.

Coming after Sen. Obama's speech about how we're all equal in America, this was a brilliant piece of political jiu-jitsu. Obama still has the advantage, but the "thunk" you heard was his lanky body hitting the mat down at the dojo.

Chas S. Clifton said...

And as a university professor, I have encountered students named Willow and Bristol - probably a Piper there too.

Maybe they are resonant to Alaskans: Bristol (Bay -- Dad is a fisherman), Piper (Cub -- for the old bush pilots)....

Anonymous said...

Oh wow. McCain made a gimmick pick for v.p. I guess just he can't get away from the ex-beauty queens. Watch out Cindy. How not surprising this is.

M. Evans

PBurns said...

Chas, you are right that "politics is politics" and people are people. Palin, no doubt, has political skills.

It turns out, however, that a glad hand and a tough demeanor (all you really need to be a small town mayor) are not enough to actually do the job of running the largest Governemnt in the world: you actually have to know a little about the programs you are administering too.

Small town mayors don't deal with the NPT, the DoD, the DoJ, the DIA, the NSA, the DoE or the DoE (there are two). They don't have an ICE, a NTSA, a CMS, a HUD, or a SSA.

And budgeting is not simply a matter of zeros: You have to know what you are adding and cutting and the tradeoffs, and those tradeoffs are not always apparent. Or, as Sonny Bono so infamously (and correctly) said when he came to Washington: "Wow -- I had no idea all of this was so complicated."

Palin may be perfect for small-time Alaska where law enforcement is all about illegal moonshine stills, moose-part cases, and fishing limits, but she's never had a border with Mexico to think about, a hurricane aftermath to deal with, or a weapons systems to evaluate. She has never been overseas, she has never met a world leader, and she is of such minor import on the political seen that no one knows anything about here, INCLUDING John McCain.

Could she do fine after a term or two as Governor? Maybe. But she hasn't had a term or two; she's had less than 2 years in office (in a state with a population of less than 700,000), and in that time she's already gotten caught in a scandal.

For the record, it turns out McCain does not really know her, and chose her only because his advisors said he could not pick "Traitor Joe" Lieberman. The other three people in contention (Pawlenty, Ridge, Romney) were people he hated or whom he thought were too boring. See >> http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/08/how-palin-came.html for more on all this.

The bottom line is that Palin has gotten very little vetting, and NO ONE in the GOP was prepared for her to get the tip. Who would be so irresponsible as to put someone into nomination without proper vetting?

But, of course, that's how John McCain makes decisions -- by the seat of his pant, and he figures he can apologize later.

While some people like to toss the word "maverick" around with McCain, the real word for it is "half-assed, into the wind, and without plannning" and always loaded with opportunism. Ditch the first wife, grab the gold, confess when caught with your hand in the till, claim to be a reformer while bedding corporate lobbyists, flip flop on positions from one day to the next, and make jokes about it when caught.

P.

PBurns said...

jdege, the the "Bridge to Nowhere" fiasco did not hurt the GOP a bit. Pork is the state meat in Alaska, and always has been, which is why Stevens just won the GOP primary, and why Palin is pushing for all kinds of environmentally destructive (and silly) projects in Alaska.

As for the so-called Bridge to Nowhere, the rest of country did not identify it as Republican pork (though thanks for point that out :). When it comes to waste, folks have been MUCH more focused on the $10 billion a MONTH going down the rat hole in Iraq than they have been about the few hundred million dollars spent (or in this case not spent) on a bridge in Alaska that was actually connecting one part of America with another.

So why does it matter if Ted Stevens goes down this election year? Simple: when the Senate is this closely split, every seat matters.

If Stevens loses in Alaska, it's a BIG loss in the U.S. Senate because the Democrats move that much closer to the 51 votes they need to retain control of the Senate, and the 60 votes they need to overturn a veto. The loss of Stevens has a VERY big effect in the political system. Huge, in fact.

So is Palin going to throw him under the bus (and Don Young too) knowing that this will cost them leadership and power in the Senate? Time will tell, but it sure will be interesting!

P.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I blew on Gov. Palin's kids' names though -- how did I miss the obvious "Buffy the Vampire-Slayer" reference?

Anonymous said...

From http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2008/08/29/2008-08-29_john_mccains_dangerous_gamble_on_sarah_p.html

+ + + + +

"In picking an unknown, untested, half-a-term woman governor from Alaska to be his running mate, John McCain is following in a long line of reckless men who have rolled the dice for a beauty queen. Except in this case, McCain is taking one of the biggest, boldest gambles in modern American political history.

"He's betting his presidency on a naked political play for holdout Hillary supporters and other female swing voters - and hoping that a large share of these predominantly pro-choice women will ignore or overlook Palin's staunch pro-life, anti-stem cell views.

"But that's just the better half of it. McCain will now have to pull off a grand slam of cognitive dissonance - trying to discredit Barack Obama as unready to be Commander in Chief while trying to pawn off the least qualified candidate put on a national ticket in our lifetime as the second best choice to lead the most powerful nation in the world."

PBurns said...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Eh?

And then I looked it up.

"Willow" was Buffy the Vampire Slayer's best friend, and "Piper" was the second sister on the series "Charmed" played by Shannen Doherty.

So maybe she's naming her children after TV series witches. If so: Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot. People name their DOGS after TV characters sometimes, but children?? No. Never.

Of course, maybe these names are the Bible and I missed them. ::whistle::

"The devil made me do it."

P

Anonymous said...

Actually, now I'm curious. What DOES she name her dogs?

Or is it mean to name them before you shoot them?