Friday, August 29, 2008

My Problem With the Palin Pick
It's basically this, as noted by Andrew Sullivan:
"In picking an unknown, untested, half-a-term woman governor from Alaska to be his running mate, John McCain is following in a long line of reckless men who have rolled the dice for a beauty queen. Except in this case, McCain is taking one of the biggest, boldest gambles in modern American political history," - Dan Gerstein, a former adviser to Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Shouldn't there be at least lip service paid to the idea that whether "the gamble" works is less important than. y'know, the good of the country?

This isn't a slight against Sarah Palin, who seems as or more intelligent, and certainly more authentic, than most of the names that were kicked around on the Republican side. And maybe McCain and his team are absolutely certain that she has all the attributes of someone who very easily could be called upon to lead the country, as well as (for Republican purposes) what her views and mindset are across a large number of policy areas. But that's somewhat hard to credit when it's announced that they barely know each other.

No, it's pretty surely a pick exclusively about politics--picking off Clinton-supporting women who aren't primarily guided by the issues, exciting the dispirited rank-and-file Republicans, reinforcing the pro-drilling (the one thing we know Palin favors) campaign promise, whatever. Which itself should be really troubling, if you think about it. The consideration is whether it will pay off for McCain, not what the consequences might be for all of us. For that matter, there's very little sense of what areas of policy Palin has expertise or even interest in and could take an active role for in her vice-presidency. Sullivan puts it this way:
For me, the more I think about it, the more this pick is about McCain's contempt for Obama. He really seems to think that Palin is as qualified as Obama to be president.

My only qualification to this is that the other party McCain shows contempt for with this choice is the American public. At best, he has "an instinct about her" that she will be both an effective leader and one consistent with his principles, should the need arise (not, obviously, a huge hypothetical given McCain's age and health history). At worst, he simply doesn't care--and he doesn't think the voters will care either.

My first reaction to the pick was that Palin's selection seemed like something you'd see on television--as a plot contrivance in a reality show or a lousy, soon-to-basic cable movie about politics. Right now, it's closer to sadness and even dismay that the McCain campaign seems to think we're dumb enough that it might "work" for their political purposes.


Anonymous said...

I was surprised by the Palin pick, partly because she has very little Washington and, likely, foreign policy experience (a big criticism of Obama) and partly because it was a decided move away from the center. Of course, this made me realize that Biden wasn't necessarily a move to the center either. If you wanted a woman with conservative credentials who would perhaps attract former Hillary supporters, aren't there any number of House or Senate women who would fit the bill?


David said...

I don't know if "the center" is really a plus or a minus (could be argued either way). But the issue I have is that McCain essentially has put a blank slate potentially a 72 year-old heartbeat from the presidency. And I don't think he knows much more about her than we do. Obama might not have the experience, but it's clear that he's thought fairly intensely about foreign policy issues, and the fact that he got the nomination shows that he convinced at least a significant number of Democrats that he's up to the job.

McCain's decision on Palin, by contrast, was solely his, and it seems like he made it solely for political reasons with little consideration of her fitness for office or even her strongest beliefs. It was a "gut call"... just like so many of Bush's gut calls.

If he wins, I sincerely hope McCain's gut proves abler than Bush's. But that he'd take this chance with all of us is very troubling to me. Palin is evidently beloved by the "social conservative" base, and their campaign has raised a ton of money since the choice was announced. But these are people who seem primarily concerned with whether the individual "thinks right"... which is the same mindset that gave us Bush in the first place.