I am still trying to get my head around this Sarah Palin thing. The timing of the announcement certainly served its cynical purpose of not letting Barack Obama bask for a day in the glow of his dynamic address the night before. The selection is also a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to peel the shrinking number of still-not-over-it Hillary acolytes away from the Democrats, for those who can’t see the issues for the skirts they are packaged in. As for the substance of Palin herself, well, we’ll see.
This much we do know: Obama chose someone who is eminently qualified to take over the reigns of government if something were to happen to him. John McCain, just as surely, did not. The Republicans want you to believe that the governmental experience level of Palin – serving, as she has, on a small-town school board, city council and for a brief time as governor – is comparable to that of Obama. However, Obama has been running for president for a year-and-a-half now – a resume enhancer all by itself – and has successfully managed a huge staff dealing with complex issues such as campaign logistics and issue development. All candidates and presidents of any experience level rely heavily on staff and advisors, and Obama has put together a distinguished group who not only show his ability to recruit talent but also serve to define him. Who defines Palin? Except for the armchair quarterbacking we all do about national and international issues, if she even does that, she has zero experience in many of the issues that will face the next president and VP.
Secondly, experience-wise, McCain has it exactly backwards. It’s one thing for someone with less experience like Obama to come to the White House with a fully-formed staff and agenda and a VP who can support his initiatives and offer advice informed by many years of distinguished service. It is quite another for McCain to put the nation at the risk of having less than a rookie as the head of the government if something happens to him. (Palin in People: Ready to be president? "Absolutely. Yup. Yup.") Being "one heartbeat away" means something quite different when that one heartbeat belongs to John McCain. With this interesting piece of stunt-casting, McCain violated his promise to pick someone who could take charge if he could not.
Although the MSM always hold Republicans to a lower standard than Democrats – imagine what would have happened if a Democrat had tried to bring along a knob like Dan Quayle – Palin will be defined in the next couple of weeks in the drips-and-drabs of her political history that will get exposed, chewed up and spit out in various future 24-hour news cycles. We already know enough to know there are likely to be more interesting things out there. She is already under investigation for using her state office to extract vengeance on a former brother-in-law; she came out four-square for teaching religion-disguised-as-science ("creationism" – which, I just noticed, comes up as misspelled on my spell-check – among the options offered: "cretinism"); she gave a $27 billion contract to a Canadian company for a pipeline; she does not believe women have the right to control their own bodies; etc. Distinguished investigative lawyer IT seems to have a very nice running start on these and future issues, for which we are all eternally grateful.
What she has said and done in the past will be grist for the mill, but I expect her to be tightly scripted this week at the GOP convention. They’ll have her taking a crash course in things she doesn’t know yet, like what a vice president does and such. When she does have a press conference (talking to People magazine doesn't count), I expect her to wax indignant about any questions trying to probe her past and current positions, trying to knock down old issues and avoid creating new ones. It'll be interesting, at least.