Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's Choice for VP: Political Cynicism

So John McCain has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. I'm sure that we'll hear much about this choice and Gov. Palin over the next few days, but I wanted to offer a few quick thoughts (I just heard the news in the last half hour or so).

First, my initial reaction is that Sen. McCain's choice is exceedingly cynical, albeit perhaps politically savvy. Is Gov. Palin qualified? I don't know; I don't know much about her and I suspect that you don't either. Is Gov. Palin the most qualified person available? I seriously doubt that she is even among the most qualified candidates, let alone the most qualified candidate. Moreover, I don't think that she was chosen because of the importance of her home state of Alaska; after all, Alaska's 3 electoral votes almost always go to the Republican candidate anyway. No, the reason that Gov. Palin has been added to the ticket is simple: She is a woman. Sen. McCain is trying to capture some of the disgruntled supporters of Hillary Clinton and trying to get some of the moderate Republican soccer moms to keep from crossing over and voting for Obama. I'm sure that the Republican spin machine will spout all kinds of reasons as to why Gov. Palin was the best choice, but I, for one, will take some convincing. And, to the extent that she was chosen simply because she is a woman (or if that fact was a major component to the decision-making process), then I find it to be very cynical, not to mention depressing. I thought that what both Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton were trying to prove is that neither race nor gender should be deciding factors.

One or two other quick thoughts on the nomination. Over the last few months (and, in particular, the last few days during the Democratic convention), we've heard Republican supporters repeat ad nauseum that Sen. Obama does not have the experience to be President. (As to this point, I thought that Al Gore's comparison showing that Sen. Obama has almost the exact same experience as Abraham Lincoln was interesting.) So, let's assume for the sake of argument that experience is a legitimate issue (I'm sure I'll blog on that subject another time). What does it tell us about Sen. McCain's campaign that his choice for Vice President has been a governor (of the 47th most populous state in the nation) for only two years and before that she was the mayor of Wasilla (population 5,470)! Now, consider that Sen. McCain, if elected, will be the oldest person to take office for a first time as President (3 years older than Ronald Reagan). The old cliche is that the Vice President is just a heartbeat away from the Presidency. So, in the eyes of Sen. McCain, a woman who has been Governor of state with a tiny population for two years (and mayor of a small town before that) is qualified and has the experience to be a heartbeat away while the oldest person elected sits in the Oval Office?

Think about it this way: The choice of a running mate is the first real "presidential" decision a candidate makes. Barack Obama chose Joseph Biden, a 6-term United States Senator with experience in areas that Sen. Obama is arguably lacking (including serving as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Judiciary Committee). Sen. McCain, by contrast, chooses a virtually unknown Governor with virtually no experience (and certainly no national experience). Based on these choices, which candidate, Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain, do you trust to surround themself with more competent people to help them make the decisions that will be so important to our country?

Just a few quick notes about Gov. Palin that I'm sure we'll hear over and over during the campaign:

  • She is married to a Yup'ik Eskimo.
  • She has five children (including a 4-month old with Down syndrome and a 19-year old son serving in the Army [scheduled to be deployed to Iraq soon]).
  • She is apparently a hunter and a life-long member of the NRA.
  • She is anti-abortion.
  • She was runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant.

Yup, Gov. Palin is the person that I want sitting a heartbeat away from the Presidency....

This is part one of a series. Part two was posted August 30, 2008.

Edited August 30, 2008 to add link to part two.

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