Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Thoughts on Palin as McCain's VP

I was utterly shocked when this was announced. Upon further review, I can see more and more how it makes sense on paper for McCain, but the fact remains that he just put someone unqualified within arms reach of the presidency of the free world. For all the hay McCain just made of Obama's inexperience, how can he then pick someone younger with less experienced than Obama by his side? That leads me to conclude that all of the "not ready to lead" stuff was sheer hot air, mere political calculation to win an election, not sincere concern or critique. So I'm to believe from McCain that Obama is "not ready to lead," but Palin is a "maverick outsider" with the ability to theoretically step into the presidency in 4 months? I call that two-faced, McCain. You lose all credibility. You're another Rovian hack guided solely by political calculation, not America's security or best interests. Even if Obama's choice was also calculated, I feel good about Biden because he has substantial national and international experience and I feel could comfortably step into the top job. Palin seems like pure political pandering designed to get past Nov. 4, not someone who stands out among others as ready to lead on the world's biggest stage tomorrow. How else can we explain how Palin was picked over Romney, Ridge, Pawlenty, Hutchinson, Snowe, or Huckabee? "Outsider" is not synonymous with "qualified."

But what bothers me the most about this pick is that McCain only met her once. It's clear to me this was a purely political calculation, designed to give McCain the best shot at winning and reaching key demographics. Was that slogan "Country First" or "Pander to Win an Election at All Costs," John? Apparently, appealing to key demographics now substitutes for knowing someone and their judgment personally. Having a strategic resume is secondary to actually being qualified. Would you hire a corporate CEO after one in-person meeting? And I'm to believe that someone whose greatest experience is 18 months as a small-state governor and mayor of a town with less people than my neighborhood is the most qualified person to potentially lead the free world. I saw it reported today that it only took her 112,000 votes to win the governorship of Alaska, and moreover, Karl Rove called Tim Kaine (governor of Virginia and mayor of Richmond, 103rd largest U.S. city) too inexperienced for the VP slot on the Dem side. Hmmm... so where does that put having a journalism degree, being a hockey Mom, and being mayor of a town of 9,000 on Rove's grid? I know Obama has limited legislative experience compared to some, but the dude graduated from Harvard Law, edited the Harvard Law Review, and was a constitutional law professor before his legislating days, and he served in the STATE legislature and CONGRESS. And 18 million people saw his resume and chose him.

Let's applaud her life and accomplishments, but while this might be sleek political calculation to win in November, I shudder to think that someone with less experience than some of my 30-something friends might be leader of free world and have the reins of the world's largest economy and the most complicated foreign policy position in the history of the world. Being a small town mayor, mom, and journalism student don't qualify you to be on the world's biggest stage.

We'll see what reaction is to this pick, but I fear that Americans are so eager for a candidate like the boy or girl next door that they'll forget that the boys and girls next door are not qualified to be president of the United States. This job takes a million types of skills and savvy, and I want someone super qualified for it, not someone with less education and experience than people I know.

The danger for Obama-Biden in all of this is that any attacks might be taken along gender lines. Even after re-reading this post, I fear that some might say that I'm thinking she's unqualified b/c she's a woman. I can hear the angry retorts now - don't I think woman can make good judgments? Don't you think women are smart and capable? Doesn't being a Mom count for anything? There's a real danger here for Obama, and I'm actually glad to see that the first post-Palin ad doesn't even mention her by name. For the record, I'd happily vote for an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket. I believe Clinton is qualified, and I trust her judgment on a national and international stage. I hope that people can separate out gender and see that we are looking at one of the most inexperienced politicians nominated for this post in history. It makes for good media for a day or so, but I'm not sure I want the guy who's the mayor of the town where I went to high school (pop. 6,500) brokering trade deals with China (pop. 1.3 billion) or peace deals with Russia (pop. 142 million). It seems farcical to me that people are touting her executive experience, as though less than 2 years of governing Alaska is supposed to put my mind at ease. And people are saying that her lack of experience doesn't matter as much since she's the VP, but folks, VPs are meant to take over for the President (which might happen with a 72-year old McCain with a history of health issues), not secure some women voters and sure up the pro-life base. In fact, one woman I've talked with has even said that this pick actually disrespects women, for it seems clear that this pick is much less about her qualifications and much more about her gender and appeal to certain demographics. The question isn't about whether or not she is qualified, but about a buzz factor, a shake-up. My friend questions whether this is a great day for woman; is this a signal that accomplished, qualified women are now seen as equals to accomplished, qualified men, or is this just the work of cynical, calculating politicians using a woman to win an election? Are we to believe that Sarah Palin is the most qualified person or woman for this post?

I'm very interested to see how this plays out in the press and among the electorate. Part of me thinks that the Dems should now win 40 states, but then I pull back and worry that this might make it more competitive even yet. Time will tell.


Blogger Bob said...

After another couple days for Palin to sink in, I think it does tell what we might expect in the coming months. As Chuck Todd of MCNBC pointed out in his commentary, this choice must indicate that the McCain folks have decided that "not ready to lead" was a losing message. The selection of Palin seems to indicate that the GOP is also putting its money in this election on "change." Now the race is on to see which party can better sell the change message. I expect that McCain will back off of Obama's inexperience and instead hammer home the ways he is different than Bush. Palin will be billed as a fresh-faced outsider with a history of reform (short as it is). The maverick ticket; the reform agenda. Meanwhile, Obama will (and has) continued to try and tie McCain to Bush and will simply lump in Palin as more of the same since she must agree with McCain on issues. I imagine that the Obama camp will also then try and do some more selective work at chipping away at her extreme inexperience, her stance on abortion, and other chinks they find in her armor as they dig further. They'll need to be careful not to be perceived as sexist or attacking women in their offensive, so as others have suggested, it'll be important that they stick to an issues-based approach, but one that still frames Palin as they want her to be seen. I see how it is a bold gamble that may indeed pay off, but I still remain concerned about her inexperience, at least until I learn more about her character and history and hear her speak. I read that she said of campaigning in Pittsburgh that it's nice to see a new part of the country, which again reinforces how incredibly green she is in national politics. Born in ID and a mostly life-long Alaskan (and someone not expecting this pick), this must be crazy culture shock for her. But if Pittsburgh is new territory, it seems like the learning curve is super steep if she is to be ready to theoretically step into the #1 spot in 4 months.

4:22 PM  

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