I had a post all written and ready to go about Sarah Palin. But I knew she would be speaking at the RNC last night, so I thought it only fair to hear what she had to say before pulling the trigger.
Speaker after speaker took the podium. Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Linda Lingle, and Mike Huckabee all extolled her virtues. I began to wonder if anyone else was seeing the irony here: all four of these people are more qualified to hold the office of Vice President than the person they were praising.
Now don’t get me wrong, here. Sarah Palin gave a hell of a speech. I can see why people like her. Hers is a great American success story: Beauty Queen. Hockey/PTA mom. Mayor. Governor. VP candidate. Americans, and women in particular, have reason to feel proud of her and her accomplishments, even if one doesn’t agree with her politically. Most importantly, she and McCain have given Republicans a reason to feel good about themselves for the first time in a long time.
What I particularly admire about her is how she didn’t simply choose to ride her good looks to wherever they might take her. She was determined to use her obviously considerable brain power, and entered the dirty, male dominated world of politics, and has been wildly successful. In my mind, she gets full kudos for that.
But strangely, the feeling I got deep in my gut as I listened to her is the exact same one I get whenever I hear Barak Obama speak, in spite of their obvious differences. In both cases, I am aware that I am listening to a person of exceptional intelligence, gifted oratory, and vast personal charisma. It is obvious that both Palin and Obama have bright political futures. I will even go out on a limb here and say that either one might make a fine president….some day. But not on this day. Today both are still a little too wet behind the ears for my liking.
I find the argument that she will attract disenchanted Hillary supporters puzzling. No two people could be farther apart politically than Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. (Interestingly, they hold the same position on the death penalty–they are for it–but there’s not much overlap after that.) Unless voting for a female candidate is THAT important to someone, I can’t imagine a Hillary Clinton supporter voting for a pro-life, pro-NRA, pro-creationism candidate, regardless of her gender. In fact, if there are any former Hillary supporters out there who are considering voting for Palin, I would be genuinely interested in hearing from you.
Whenever I have objected to Palin’s lack of experience, it always seems as though someone’s immediate response is, “Well, what about Obama’s lack of experience?”. My answer to that, as I have stated above, is simply to point out that had I any intention of voting for Obama, that argument might have some relevance. But since I don’t, and for exactly the same reasons, that argument is a non starter, at least with me.
So it’s not that I don’t like Sarah Palin. I do, up to a point. I don’t agree with her on issues like sex education and teaching creationism in schools, but that’s a subject for another post. It’s not that I think she’s a bad choice, simply that there are better, more experienced ones.
Even if you support McCain (as I do) you have to ask yourself: if Sarah Palin had been running in the Republican primary, would you have even considered voting for her? Even for a second? The answer is surely no. Why not? Again, NOT because she’s a bad candidate, but because there were better ones available to vote for.
With this in mind, I would feel much more comfortable with someone like Joe Leiberman, Rudy Giuliani, or Linda Lingle as second in command. The phrase “a heartbeat away from the presidency” is a bit melodramatic in some cases. Neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush were likely to die in office. But John McCain is 72, and not a very healthy 72 at that. If he is elected, I have little doubt he will be re-elected. If he doesn’t live to 80, then Sarah Palin, with little executive experience and no experience at all at the federal level, will be the leader of the most powerful nation on earth at a time when we need the most experienced leaders possible at the helm.
McCain’s experience vs. Obama’s lack of it is what McCain had going for him. With another, equally experienced running mate, he might have buried Obama with this issue. But not now. While from a political point of view the move has merit. I am concerned that his choice could leave his ticket vulnerable to the very criticism that has been quite rightly aimed at Obama.
Is this really what American politics has come to? Barack Obama names as his running mate a man who is the very embodiment of the old boy Washington scene he claims to deplore. Can there be any doubt that Biden’s skin color played a role in the decision? Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr labeled Biden “the first white male affirmative action hire in history”. Can their be any doubt that Palin’s gender played a major role in McCain’s decision? But at least Biden brings some experience in federal government to the table, the kind of experience that Obama sorely lacks. Obama can learn from Biden. I’m not sure what McCain can learn from Palin.
I’m still voting for McCain, but I’ll be praying nightly he lives another eight years.