Because life is a series of edits

On Sarah Palin

In Politics on August 30, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Like most of the country, I’m still trying to figure out what I think about John McCain‘s pick of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. While it’s way too early to draw any real conclusions, here are a couple of thoughts on the matter:

Initially, I felt what Joseph Bottum at First Things called a “nervous joy” at the audacity of the Republicans deciding to forego playing it safe with Mitt Romney or some other stuffed shirt and choose a little-known (but likable and seemingly accomplished) woman in Palin. On the heels of the Democrats’ big shindig in Denver, I couldn’t believe the Republicans had a chance to keep the race even close (let alone interesting), nor did I think they would actually take it if they happened to think of one. But to come up with and take a chance implies risk, and as I processed the selection more, I confess some nervous doubts have surfaced.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a good summary of rebuttals to many of the arguments the Left has already thrown at Palin, and I can go along with most of them easily enough. I do, however, find myself wondering with James Fallows on his Atlantic Monthly blog how long-term-looking McCain’s choice really was:

“The image to have in mind is not Dan Quayle: a person with quite a bit of grounding in national issues who was added to the ticket in an attempt to jazz it up. Always and only the comparison should be with Clarence Thomas — with this one interesting difference. Thomas was a shrewd choice not simply because his race made it more complicated for Democrats to oppose him but also because, once confirmed, all evidence suggested to conservatives that he’d be the kind of Justice they were looking for. In Palin’s case, this seems to be a choice that looks forward to Election Day, and not one day beyond that.”

Choosing Palin certainly makes McCain much more viable as a conservative candidate for the election, but it also highlights his age vulnerability as President. Maybe I’ve read one too many quotes about Palin being “one heartbeat away from the Presidency,” but let’s be honest: McCain at 72 in 2008 sure seems a lot more frail than McCain at 64 in 2000; if elected, I don’t think he’ll make it two terms, either due to a decision he makes or one his body makes for him. The result would be Palin becomes President, but it sure would be nice if she had at least a few years as Vice before that happens. This, in my mind, is the biggest risk of the gamble.

So far, at least, I like who Palin seems to be, as well as what she has seemed to get done in Alaska. It will be interesting to see what the media dig up on her (so far the worst seems to be the “TrooperGate” situation and a less-than-flattering basketball picture from the late-70s). I am interested as to if/how the whole “Sarah Palin is not the mother” rumor resolves, but since Palin seems as upright as she seems sharp, I find it hard to believe she would try to sneak that one by McCain and the national media.

Who will I vote for? My libertarian leanings (among other things) won’t allow me to jump on the Obama/Biden train – too much smoke and socialism there. Will I vote for the McCain/Palin ticket? Probably. Will I do so confidently? Confidently enough, I suppose, assuming nothing significant changes between now and November. Rest assured, regardless of who wins the election, God is not going to be surprised by the outcome, and that’s peace enough to avoid worrying about politics that will barely be a footnote in His story.


  1. Sorry, I just don’t get it– either your turnaround or Megan’s. Why does this suddenly turn you from what could only be described as distanced apathy and a willingness to vote for a write-in candidate, to now “confidently enough” voting for the guy that you were so “meh” about a few days ago?

    Don’t get me wrong– I think Sarah Palin is fine enough as a Republican VP candidate. But I don’t really see what is so special about her. My thoughts? Here you go:
    ~So, she’s pro-life. McCain’s record on the pro-life vote is impeccable. For all of his maverick moderateness, this is the one thing that the conservative right can count on in him. Yet, somehow McCain isn’t pro-life enough for evangelicals.
    ~Sure, she’s a protestant Christian. So is Obama. So is Hillary Clinton, for that matter. In fact, the only one in this mix who isn’t outspoken about their faith is John McCain. I feel like the reason why the religious right is jumping on the Palin bandwagon so quickly is because she is “our kind” of Christian.
    ~Okay, she’s pro-guns, and pro drilling in ANWR. So are most other Republicans– oh, except McCain, who’s against drilling in ANWR. Oops.
    ~Well, she’s young. And that may be an asset against the “youthful” Obama, except that it weakens McCain’s strongest argument against Obama: that he lacks experience.
    ~Wait, that’s right: she’s got a great story! A son in the military, another with Down Syndrome. Her husband can do amazing things with a snowmobile. And you mean to tell me she was a basketball player AND she was in a beauty pageant? AMAZING! Oh, but haven’t we been saying that Obama needs more than just a good story to really stand out as a candidate?
    ~Oh yeah, she’s a woman! So naturally she’ll draw a lot of the Hillary sisterhood away, right? I think this was, sadly, probably the main reason she was chosen. But I think it ignores the fact that a lot of the sisterhood actually share other values with Hillary than simply gender– and Palin cuts against every one of those values.
    ~The biggest one of all: she’s the VP candidate. She’s not running for President. And despite the prominent role that Dick Cheney has played as VP, we have to keep in mind that VPs traditionally have had a largely PR role for the White House. (Even Cheney has mostly played this role.) Maybe McCain’s age heightens this somewhat, but Reagan was 69 when elected to his FIRST term, and was still going strong in year eight. And let’s be honest: if something did happen to McCain and Palin took over the Oval Office, just how confident will we be her?

    To be fair, I think the two best things Palin has going for her aren’t getting much play:
    ~She has a (mostly) strong record on ethics and ethical reform. There are a few points to exploit in arguing against this, but I think she could win those debates.
    ~Even though she’s only been in politics on a relatively small scale until 2007, she has the most executive-level experience of anyone on any ticket. None of the other candidates have much to offer past legislative experience, which helps them when working with congress but not in actually doing the job of President.

    I keep wondering if the real appeal for Palin is that she represents a possibility of electing a woman to office who isn’t Hillary.

  2. I have been given a lot to think about. I think that link you put on here about her pregnancy is terrible. It makes me feel very sad for her daughter.

    And to the above quote about Reagan, I don’t think he was going strong in year eight. It was widely known that many were covering for him in the White House.

    I have a lot to chew on. Thank you Craig.

    So Ed, who are you supporting? You have a strong voice…I’d like to know.

  3. I won’t speak for Megan, Ed, but for myself, I think it’s wonderful that Palin could be the first woman in the White House, as well as that the good-old-boy network of the Republicans were the ones who somehow put her there. That, to me, is change, and I’m glad for it.

    I hardly think what I said represents a mindless “turnaround” from my Ron Paul preference; I was probably going to vote McCain anyway in hopes he would use less government than Obama (no guarantees from Republicans on that anymore). I liked that McCain didn’t go with the status quo pick, but his choice does raise some legitimate risks a lot of pro-Palin Protestants are in denial about because of their giddiness at how she aligns with their beliefs. There’s already one Messiah-to-be in the race; it would be good not to create another one.

    That said, I like Palin, and I like McCain/Palin better than I would have liked McCain/someone else. But I’m still cautious at this point (as evidenced by my “probably” and “confidently enough” qualifications), and will be interested to see what pans out at the convention (if, that is, it actually takes place).

  4. Coming back to the other side: you’ve got to give the McCain campaign and the Republican Party (but really, it was the McCain campaign) a lot of credit for their timing, and the way they handled the announcement. As late as the morning of, there were still strong rumors about Pawlenty and others as the VP choice, while someone on CNN even said, “I saw where a private jet from Alaska flew into Ohio this morning; the only thing I can figure is that Palin is going to be announced as VP” and the others said, “no way!”

    Yet, they did announce this total surprise, and their timing was perfect to suck all of the wind out of the sails of Obama’s acceptance speech the night before– which surely would have been the headlines for two or three days (until Gustav took them over, probably) had the McCain campaign not handled this so deftly.

    And for the nagging complaints about the experience argument (is it really fair to liken the switch they describe to the American Communist support for Hitler?!?), I’ll say this: there is a big difference between the inexperience of a VP candidate and the inexperience of the Presidential candidate.

    As for experience: Palin has a (modest) level of executive experience, as I mentioned above– and, if elected, her stint as VP would give her great opportunities to hone that, plus get hands-on foreign policy experience and legislative experience (remember, the VP presides over the Senate). Should she/they land win the election, she’d be a very strong candidate as president in four or eight years. (You can see it now, too: Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, and Sarah Palin as the Republican nominee– a guaranteed first female President.)

    Her greatest political weakness is something I haven’t seen covered much, either: she’s no fiscal conservative, according to her records in Alaska. (Her greatest personal weakness is being hashed and re-hashed over on Megan’s blog, so I won’t try to get into that too much that here: whether a nursing mom of a Down child can– and should– accept a high-profile, highly scheduled and highly demanding position like the VP.)

    As I said before, Palin has a lot of things going for her– but very little else apart from ANY of the other short-list Republicans, apart from the fact that she is young and a woman. And I didn’t make this clear before, but I’ll say it plainly here: I think our country is “ready” (whatever that means) to have a female (or a minority male) as President or Vice-President. I like the fact that she’s a woman, and I’m glad to see that so many of the barriers of our past are being knocked down. But be very careful about this angle: if we say that it is acceptable to vote for her because she is a woman– and not because of the things that commend her– then we can hardly call “misogynist” or “sexist” when someone openly opposes her because he/she is against her, only because she is a woman. (The same goes for Obama being black: it’s great, but it’s no reason to swing your vote.)

    I confess, Craig, that the only reason I assumed a quick turnaround (did I say mindless?) is because everything you’ve blogged about the political process has been ambivilent, indifferent, or mildly disgusted, and you’ve suggested (though, I admit, never outright stated) that you would probably prefer to write-in Ron Paul instead of voting for one of the nominees. Forgive me if I assumed too much.

  5. You’re forgiven, Ed. Check out my latest post for my thoughts in response.

  6. I am very interested in what will take place at the RNC (if it ever gets under way). I still keep wondering if after such a well carried out DNC, McCain desperately tried to divert attention from Obama with the surprise choice of Palin (especially after Obama’s speech on Thur. where he addressed everything McCain has given him). Perhaps, I am too cynical and think everything is political charged, but I am just wondering if the GOP just didn’t have much electricity to compete with the well executed Obama campaign and needed a new charge. I wish I knew some more about Palin, I am looking forward to hearing more this week.

  7. Mark, I don’t doubt that McCain’s choice was partly what you described, but as Doug Wilson elaborates here, it worked (and has the possibility of working). Granted, this may seem pragmatic, but every political decision has an element of pragmatism to it (think Obama moving his acceptance speech to Invesco Field at Mile High rather than keeping it in the smaller Pepsi Center – that wasn’t just to sit out under a Colorado sky).

    Do read Wilson’s post on the pros/cons on Palin. I think it’s an honest piece of thinking.

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