Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin: Less Than a Rookie

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.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Ok Mike, so it's not ok for the VP to have limited experience but it's perfectly fine and acceptable for the President to have zero experience as long as he has good people around him? By this logic even you could be leader of the free world (God Help Us All) and drive this country into a liberal socialist utopia while you french-kiss Karl Marx.

William Tyroler said...


It's not as clear-cut, I don't think, that Palin pales in comparison to Biden. As Wm. Stuntz, a Harvard Law prof. argues:

But there is a third definition, and it may be the one the voters care most about: the relevant question is not how much time the candidate has spent in the relevant government jobs, but what the candidate has accomplished during that time.

By that measurement, and even conceding that "her résumé is thin, maybe disqualifying," Stuntz assesses Palin as coming off well against her opponent.

But there's a "structural" problem for the Dems: arguing Palin's inexperience only highlights Obama's own. Arguing that he survived the rigors of a nomination process isn't helpful; it means that he gave pretty speeches (or, perhaps more bluntly, that he made a more persuasive appeal to the party's left wing). In and of itself, his nomination suggests nothing about his capacity to govern.

As to her possible background issues: fair game, to be sure, and we'll have to see how it plays out, but so far there's less than meets the eye. "(U)nder investigation for using her state office to extract vengeance on a former brother-in-law"? Well, yes, but that doesn't quite convey the story. The -ex in question (Wooten) was a state trooper, and an investigation revealed that:

• Wooten used a Taser on his stepson.

• He illegally shot a moose.

• He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion.

• He told others his father-in-law would "eat a f'ing lead bullet" if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.

Pretty good grounds for firing, I'd say.

Besides, I'm not sure it's in the interest of Biden, a serial plaigirist, to get into this sort of dust-up.

Creationism? I yield to no one, including the estimable iT in my disdain for this doctrine, at least as a false science; nor in my desire to keep it out of any science curriculum, under a separation of church-state rationale. On the other hand, she's not running for local school board, and we'll see whether and to what extent her views on this subject are aired. The idea that she might represent some sort of evangelical invasion of the body-snatchers is refuted by the historical record:

Her respect for the state constitution was illustrated by her first veto as governor. Alaska's Supreme Court had ordered the state to provide health benefits to same-sex partners of public employees, finding that this was mandated by the state constitution's equal protection clause. Palin vetoed a subsequent attempt by the legislature to enact legislation to take away the same-sex benefits. After being advised by the state attorney general that the legislation was unconstitutional, she said that signing the bill would be in direct violation of her oath of office. (Anchorage Daily News, Dec. 29, 2006 article.)

Note, too, the advantage that accrues to prior executive experience: it provides a track record for, well, executive decisions.

illusory tenant said...

Y'all are too kind.

You can never be sure why politicians are pushing "creation science" but if they're serious, it does say something about their mentality on both scientific and legal grounds.

On the other hand, it's probably an effective vote-getter in certain U.S. precincts and in such a situation I'd probably be out there meself, stumping for Genesis.

Anonymous said...

Mike, you can downplay her "experience" all you wish, but I can guarantee you that during her years as mayor and during her time as governor she never voted "present" hundreds of times on the issues that came across her desk (as Mr. Obama so famously did during his "formative" years as a state legislator). She actually made decisions, trimmed government waste, lowered her own salary, and challenged the unethical around her. Meanwhile Obama sucked off the teat of the Tony Rezkos of the world.

It amazes me that in your world a guy running for a position as a government executive has a better resume than the woman who has actually been an executive. The same logic no doubt which led you to believe that Hillary had actual "White House" experience merely because she married a guy who had the job of running the country.

Will you ever understand that the glory belongs to the one who actually steps in the arena, not the one (voting "present") on the sideline?

Anonymous said...

I left this comment on Soglin's WaxingAmerica blog, but I'm so enamored with it I thought I'd share it with you:

I think you're missing one possibility here. What if the Palin choice was simply a place-holder to get through the convention? She satisfies the wingnuts and unifies the party for their big, but now interrupted by hurricane Gustav, show. Afterwards, she pulls a Muskie and withdraws for the good of the ticket and the party. She has two potential justifications. With infant in tow, she dramatically claims the demands of the campaign and then serving in Washington are too big a sacrifice to ask of her family. Or, the Troopergate ethics investigation heats up with unpleasant revelations and press and, while confidently predicting her complete vindication, selflessly withdraws because it becomes too big a distraction from the campaign. McCain is then free to name someone he really wants to have next to him: Lieberman; Ridge or even Romney, any of whom would have inflamed the Christian Right.
This explains her selection as well as anything else I've heard.

As I write this the story is breaking about Palin's pregnant 17 year old daughter. Justification #3, with no doubt more to come. Maybe putting the convention on hold and leaving all those reporters with time on their hands wasn't such a great idea after all. Let me close with a snarkey, "Hey Governor Darling-of-the-Hard-Right, how's that abstinence-only thing working out for you?"

Anonymous said...

Anony 2:22 here again. I just read that Palin is a member of group called Feminists for Life, which does NOT discourage birth control. I humbly withdraw and regret my snarkey final comment (there's a lesson here). The rest of my comments stand. Thanks.

AnotherTosaVoter said...


This was a moderately lucid post with which I agree to a large extent.

That being said, I wonder to what degree you will revel in the schadenfreude of the revelations about her daughter.

Anonymous said...

Now she has two reasons not to move to DC. Sage insight, that about her pulling out. Falwell and most republicals ought to be praying for divine intervention on both ends of the Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

Boy, if she just would have had her daughter abort the baby everything would be fine.

Mike Plaisted said...

ATV: I tend to avoid easy targets, but I think the hypocricy of the religious right when it's one of their own is, well, hypocritical.

The far more interesting aspect to all this is McCain's vetting and decision-making process. I read somewhere that a reporter went to the home town newspaper to look at clippings and discovered that he was the first one there. McCain's people never looked at the one most probable source of all kinds of stuff about her. This was sloppy because McCain was in a rush and wanted the tactic of surprize more than anything else. I suspect he'll pay quite a price for that. And he should.