Wednesday, October 1, 2008

McCain's Views on Palin

This morning, NPR host Steve Inskeep interviewed Sen. McCain. Much of the interview focused on the current economic crisis and proposed bailout. But after that discussion, Inskeep asked Sen. McCain about Gov. Palin:

INSKEEP: Senator, as you know, the vice presidential debate comes on Thursday — your running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, against Joe Biden. Gov. Palin has been asked about her foreign policy qualifications and cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as one reason she's qualified. I'd like to ask you, senator, what specifically do you believe that Alaska's proximity to Russia adds to Palin's foreign policy qualifications?

McCAIN: Well, I think the fact that they have had certain relationships, but that's not the major she has stated, and you know that. The major reason she has stated is because she has the knowledge and background on a broad variety of issues, including probably the major challenge of America, and that's energy independence. And she has been responsible, taken on the oil companies, and we now are going to have a $40 billion natural gas pipeline. She has oversighted the natural gas and oil and natural resources of the state of Alaska and, by the way, quit when she saw corruption there. She has the world view that I have. She is very highly qualified and very knowledgeable.

First, note that Sen. McCain never really says what he thinks about Gov. Palin's foreign policy credentials; he completely ducks that question and focuses, instead on her "knowledge and background on a broad variety of issues" and then says that she is "highly qualified and very knowledgeable." Given what we've seen and heard from Gov. Palin recently, does Sen. McCain really believe this? If so, I think that he's simply demonstrating that his judgment is now completely unreliable. Or, perhaps he is simply saying what he must to "stay on message" in which case it is a clear example that the "Straight Talk Express" has completely run off the rails.

After this exchange, Inskeep asks a series of follow-up questions:

INSKEEP: Given what you've said, senator, is there an occasion where you could imagine turning to Gov. Palin for advice in a foreign policy crisis?

McCAIN: I've turned to her advice many times in the past. I can't imagine turning to Sen. Obama or Sen. Biden, because they've been wrong. They were wrong about Iraq, they were wrong about Russia. Sen. Biden wanted to divide Iraq into three different countries. He voted against the first Gulf War. Sen. Obama has no experience whatsoever and has been wrong in the issues that he's been involved in.

INSKEEP: But would you turn to Gov. Palin?

McCAIN: I certainly wouldn't turn to them, and I already have turned to Gov. Palin, particularly on energy issues, and I've appreciated her background and knowledge on that and many other issues.

INSKEEP: Does her energy qualification extend to the international energy market?

McCAIN: Of course, that's what it's all about. It extends to a broad variety of issues, from her world view of the threats that we face of radical Islamic extremism, to specific areas of the world. I'm very proud of her, and proud of the knowledge and background that she has. She's also been a governor of a state, and she has been involved in running a bureaucracy, she has been in charge of running a state, and it's not an accident that she's the most popular governor in America. I remember, in all due respect, that some people, when Ronald Reagan came out of California, said he was totally unqualified. I remember an obscure governor of the state of Arkansas that people said he was totally unqualified. This kind of thing goes on, usually in Georgetown cocktail parties.

Let's parse this exchange for just a moment. First, Sen. McCain says that he's "turned to [Gov. Palin for] advice many times in the past". Really? When? Remember, before nominating her, he'd only met her once or twice. And since nominating her, I'm curious to know which issues he's asked her advice about other than "energy issues". Then, Sen. McCain turns the question to simply repeat his talking points that Sen. Obama (and Sen. Biden) have been wrong on Iraq and other foreign policy issues. Of course, he fails to mention that the very night of the first Presidential debate, Gov. Palin, when asked by a real live voter for her opinion on attacking Pakistan, responded with an answer that sounded very much like the answer Sen. Obama gave during the debate (and with which Sen. McCain disagreed). Then, when asked if Gov. Palin's energy qualifications extended to the international market, Sen. McCain somehow segued into Islamic extremism. Huh? When asked about her foreign policy credentials he talks about energy and when asked about energy he talks about Islamic extremism. Did he not understand the issues? His responses are starting to sound like Gov. Palin's... Maybe he is taking her advice.

Finally, Inskeep moved the interview to a discussion about honor and how the campaign was being conducted:

INSKEEP: Is it a struggle, though, sometimes? It's been a pretty brutal campaign.

McCAIN: No, it's not a struggle. I know what's right. I've been around for a long time. I know what's the right thing to do.

INSKEEP: Have you come back to your advisers at any point and said — for example, the ad that ran with your name on it saying that Barack Obama supported comprehensive sex education for primary school students, something that said was wrong. Have you ever gone to your staff and said, "Take that ad off. It's not right"?

McCAIN: It's factually correct. It's absolutely factually correct, and you can go on my Web site and you can see the exact language of the bill that Senator Obama sponsored. But the point is that if he had agreed to the town hall meetings that I asked him to do all around the country, like Jack Kennedy and Barry Goldwater had once agreed to do, the tenor of this campaign would be dramatically different. If we'd have gone around the country, and stood side-by-side before the American people and listened to their hopes and dreams and aspirations, the whole tenor of this campaign would be dramatically different. I'm proud of the campaign we are running, the ads are factually correct. And if someone named or anybody else doesn't agree with it, I respectfully disagree with their conclusions.

Let me recap that last paragraph (by leaving out the middle discussion about Kennedy and Goldwater and town hall meetings):
It's factually correct. It's absolutely factually correct, and you can go on my
Web site and you can see the exact language of the bill that Senator Obama
sponsored. ... I'm proud of the campaign we are running, the ads are factually
correct. And if someone named or anybody else doesn't agree with
it, I respectfully disagree with their conclusions.

In this few sentences, Sen. McCain manages to sum up his entire approach to this campaign: If Sen. McCain says something is a fact, it is; he is right and anyone else who disagrees, no matter what evidence they may have, is wrong. Funny, that sounds an awful lot like the Bush administration.

Inskeep challenges Sen. McCain on the claim that Sen. Obama supports "comprehensive sex education" for kindergartners and gives Sen. McCain a chance to back off of the claim, but Sen. McCain doesn't; instead he challenges's analysis, which includes the following:

The ad claims "Obama's one accomplishment" in the realm of education was "legislation to teach 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergarteners." It's true that the phrase "comprehensive sex education" appeared in the bill, but little else in McCain's claim is accurate. The ad refers to a bill Obama supported in the Illinois state Senate to update the sex education curriculum and make it "medically accurate." It would have lowered the age at which students would begin what the bill termed "comprehensive sex education" to include kindergarten. But it mandated the instruction be "age-appropriate" for kindergarteners when addressing topics such as sexually transmitted diseases. The bill also would have granted parents the opportunity to remove their children from the class without question....

The bill also called for all sex education course materials to include information that would help students recognize, among other activities, inappropriate touching, sexual assault and rape....

(For the record, the real dispute between the candidates is whether sex education should be medically accurate and age appropriate [as Sen. Obama prefers] or abstinence only [as Sen. McCain prefers]). Please, don't take my word for it: Go read the entire article on this issue (and take note of Sen. Obama's discussion of what age appropriate really means in this context) and then decide whether the Straight Talk Express is being truthful; and remember, according to Sen. McCain, his ad is "absolutely factually correct" (emphasis added) and he is "proud" of a campaign that makes the sort of statement that Inskeep challenged.

That Sen. McCain is either unable or unwilling to recognize the lie (he could have said, "Gee, that ad might have exaggerated the claim a wee bit..." and all would have likely been forgotten) is further evidence that Sen. McCain has lost the ability to tell right from wrong in his zeal to capture the White House. But Sen. McCain doesn't appear troubled by any of this: "No, it's not a struggle. I know what's right. ... I know what's the right thing to do."


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