Palin: Ready on Day Two?

Some random questions about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:

  1. Would Governor Palin be ready on Day Two?
  2. If Senator John McCain would select someone as conservative as Governor Palin to be Vice President, what kind of conservative is he likely to choose for the Supreme Court?
  3. Senator McCain has said that military experience is critical for a president. Governor Palin has none, so is military experience no longer necessary?
  4. Before becoming Governor, Sarah Palin was Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. The population has mushroomed of late, from about 6,500 to around 9.000 or so. In most small towns the mayor is simply the person who chairs the meeting, but is pretty much a first-among-equals with the council members. A city manager often serves as the chief operating officer. What was her role as Mayor? And given the difference between the federal bureaucracy and Wasilla’s, does it matter?
  5. The GOP claims Sarah Palin’s 20 months as Governor of Alaska gives her “executive experience” beyond that of any of the other candidates. Given that Alaska is the roughly the size of Memphis, Tennessee, does that mean any mayor of a city with a population of 690,000 or so is qualified to be president of the United States?
  6. Why are Republican operatives so afraid of answering the question, “Is Governor Palin qualified to be president of the United States?” When asked, they always change the subject. I’ve not heard one give a direct “yes” or “no” answer.
  7. It’s March 2009. Russia invades the Ukraine. President McCain calls in his closest foreign policy advisers to discuss a United States response. Does anyone really believe Vice President Palin would be in the room?
  8. If Vice President Palin disagrees with Senator McCain on an issue, will he really care?
  9. If Governor Palin’s lacks the experience to be president, does Senator Barack Obama? After all, he only  has three years in the United States Senate and seven years in the Illinois State Senate.
  10. Does #7 mean there’s more to being president than holding public office — and if so, does Governor Palin possess it?
  11. Does Senator McCain really believe that Governor Palin is the second best Republican in the country to be president?
  12. If Senator McCain wanted a woman on the ticket, what made Governor Palin a better choice than former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Olympia Snowe, Senator Elizabeth Dole or Governor Jodi Rell?
  13. Will Senator McCain continue to attack Senator Obama for lacking the necessary experience to be president now that he’s selected someone with even less experience to be the president-in-waiting?
  14. Will women vote for Governor Palin because she’s a woman if they disagree with her on abortion, the threat of global warming, teaching creationism as a valid alternative to evolution?
  15. In other words, when casting their ballots, does it matter to women what a woman thinks or merely that she is a woman?
  16. What’s wrong with the P.U.M.A.? I saw one of their spokespersons on television who said Democratic women would abandon the party because of Governor Palin being on the GOP ticket. Apparently they don’t care about policy or Supreme Court appointments. Their level of anger is reaching clinical proportions — hopefully they’ll get help soon.
  17. Governor Palin is a proven fighter for higher ethics in government, yet she’s under investigation for abuse of her powers in Alaska. During the investigation a tape of one of her aides pressuring an agency head to fire her ex-brother-in-law came to light. Has she fired that aide — and if not, why not?
  18. Republicans claim that Governor Palin’s approval rating of 80+ percent is part of what makes her qualified to be Vice President (and, by extension, President). When that approval rating tumbles, as it surely will over the next two months, will that make her less qualified?
  19. Does Senator McCain really want to be president? Because based on his first “presidential decision” — the selection of Governor Palin to be his running mate — it sure doesn’t look that way.

These are just some of the questions the annointment of Governor Sarah Palin brings to mind. What are yours?

Note: I’ll add additional questions, as they come up, here:

  1. Cindy McCain told ABC, in response to Governor Palin’s foreign policy credentials, “Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia.  So, it’s not as if she doesn’t understand what’s at stake here.” And it is true that in her 20 months as commander-in-chief of the Alaskan National Guard she has kept the Russian hordes in Siberia at bay. But is the GOP really reduced to spinning Alaska’s proximity to Russia as proof of Governor Palin’s foreign policy credentials? If so, how sad.
  2. What would be wrong with some straight talk by Senator McCain in which he admits she’s not qualified yet, but promises she will be soon? You have to admit it would be refreshingly honest.
  3. A staffer at Focus on the Family urged Christians to pray for rain last Thursday during Senator Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver (the organization later retracted and apologized for the message). Is Gustav’s intrusion on the Republican convention a divine message — or is it just one of those coincidences that shows God’s indifference to who wins — and if not, does it show God’s sense of humor?

Palin Selection Undermines McCain’s Campaign

Senator John McCain has been running a two track campaign for president: one is focused on issues like Iraq and off-shore oil drilling; the second attacks his Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama, for lacking the experience to hold the nation’s highest elected office. With the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, Senator McCain has irrevocably undermined that second track as Senator McCain cannot credibly claim Governor Palin is qualified to be president without acknowledging that Senator Obama is, too.

Senator McCain and his political advisorsclearly view choosing Governor Palin as a running mate is a game changing move. It is. It makes Senator McCain’s election far more unlikely. After all, the best argument for choosing Governor Palin as his vice president is that of all the possible selections, she was further away from where Katrina made landfall than any of them.

OK, that’s a bit harsh. Turning to Sarah Palin makes a lot of sense on some levels. Back in February I wrote about the political wisdom of Senator McCain choosing a woman as his running mate. I listed several choices, including one of Alaska’s Senators, but neglected to mention the state’s governor, Sarah Palin. So, of course, that’s who Senator McCain picks as his running mate.

One of the comments to my post got it right though. Someone who signed the post as DGB wrote: “What about the most popular governor in the nation? What about a young energetic new face? What about a solid evangelical conservative? Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, is a no brainer. It would be the smartest choice in years for a VP.”

And in many ways it is. Governor Palin satisfies the Republican party’s conservative wing. She’s anti-abortion, pro-capital punishment, against gay marriage, and, in her campaign, supported the teaching of creationism in Alaska’s schools. She also bolsters Senator McCain’s claim to being a reform-minded maverick. She defeated an incumbent GOP governor in 2006 and, once she took office, quickly passed a comprehensive ethics law. Prior to taking the Governor’s office she had gone after Republican officials for ethics violations resulting in their resignations. Her approval rating in Alaska hovers around 80 percent.

Add to all this the fact that she’s a mother of five children (the youngest of which has Down syndrome), is married to a part-Eskimo, is the former mayor of a small town and represents a new, younger generation of Republicans, and she is, as DGB said, a “no-brainer” as running mate.

However, she also undermines the Republicans strongest attack against Senator Barack Obama’scandidacy. In selecting Governor Palin, Senator McCain is proclaiming that, over everyone else in his party other than himself, she is most qualified to be President of the United States. Considering that Senator McCain, at 72, will be the oldest major party, non-incumbent nominee in history, this selection takes on even greater importance. Senator McCain is declaring Governor Palin is qualified to step in as president at any time. Yet consider:

  1. Senator McCain has said military service is an important criteria to be president and pointed out Senator Obama’slack of such service. Yet Governor Palin has never served in the military.
  2. Senator McCain’s claims Senator Obama lacks the experience to be president. They point out he’s only 47 years old and that the only elected offices he’s held was seven years in the Illinois State Legislature and three years in the United States Senate. Yet Governor Palin at 44 is even younger and her only elected offices was as city councilwoman (four years) and mayor (10 years) of Wasilla, Alaska (population less than 9,000) and less than two years as Alaska’s Governor.
  3. Senator McCain blasts his opponent for lacking experience in international affairs and on defense. Yet Senator Obama has served on the United State Senate’s Armed Services Committee for three years. Governor Palin has absolutely no international experience and her only defense experience stems from her position, as Alaska’s Governor, as being “comander in chief” of the state’s national guard unit.

Senator McCain can’t have it both ways. He can’t simultaneously claim Governor Palin is qualified to be President of the United States, but Senator Obama isn’t. He can’t claim Senator Obama lacks the experience to be president, without admitting Governor Palin doesn’t either. And if she is unqualified to be President of the United States, why did Senator McCain select her to be one heartbeat away from that position? Even if that heartbeat isn’t 72 years old, selecting a running mate someone unqualified assume the presidency is a disservice to the country that rises to the level of malpractice.

Governor Palin’s record is thinner than Senator Dan Quayle’s was in 1988 when then Vice President Bush selected him as a running mate — and they won that election. Yet in 1988, candidate Bush wasn’t facing the political challenge Senator McCain does. President Ronald Reagan may not have been as popular in 1996 as he is today, but his approval rating was far higher than is enjoyed by the current President George Bush. The economy was stronger and the country was safer in 1988 than it is 2008. The times call for a running mate with substance.

What makes this selection so politically pathetic is that, as I pointed out in that previous post, if his goal was to add a woman to the Republican ticket he had several choices. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, for example, has served in the United States Senate for 15 years, is part of the GOP leadership and is eight months younger than Senator Joe Biden. Senator McCain could have made history (the first woman on a Republican national ticket) and demonstrated his belief that experience matters. He didn’t.

In his acceptance speech, Senator Obama questioned Senator McCain’s foreign policy judgement. Senator McCain’s selection of Governor Palin to be Vice President brings into question the GOP candidate’s political judgement as well.

Senator Kerry Makes the Case for Obama

President Bill Clinton gave a phenomenal speech tonight. He did everything he should have done and, as importantly, could have done, to unify the party and make the case for Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy. There will be plenty of coverage of what he said and how he said it.

Senator John Kerry gave a phenomenal speech tonight, too. He did everything he should have done four years ago. But that was then and this is now. Tonight he was talking on behalf of behalf of Senator Obama– and he skewered his friend Senator John McCain, citing the differences between Senator McCain and Candidate McCain. It was a forceful speech, well delivered. Definitely worth seeing, but on too many of the all news stations they were too busy talking to themselves than to show the speech live. (To be fair, CNN cut to the speech and MSNBC showed parts of it during the convention wrap-up segments). 

If you missed Senator Kerry’s speech, you can view it here or read the text here.

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Governors Patrick’s and Schweitzer’s Overlooked Speeches

Brack Senator Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver tonight will rightly be long remembered and highly praised. It may have been the best speech of her career. The keynote address by former Virginia Governor Mark Warner was, while not as historic, also noteworthy and will only strengthen his standing in the Democratic party. Other blogs will no doubt dive deeply into those addresses.

Yet there were two other speeches in Denver tonight that deserved greater coverage and far more attention than they received. While the chattering heads on the all-news networks were complaining about the failure of convention to lay out the reasons why Senator Barack Obama should be elected president and why Senator John McCain shouldn’t be, they were ignoring two speeches that did just that. Two Governors — Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Brian Schweitzer of Montana — eloquently made the case.

If the pundits had spent less time droning and more time listening they’d have heard the argument for Senator Obama articulately made by Governor Patrick. They’d have heard the skewering of the McCain campaign hypocrisies from Governor Schweitzer. Most significantly, had the networks given the speeches the attention they warranted, viewers would have a much clearer understanding of the difference between the presidential candidates.

(The video of Governor Patrick’s speech can be viewed here and the text here. The video of Governor Schweitzer’s speech can be viewed here and the text here (although fair warning: no written text can capture the unique delivery of Governor Schweitzer)). 

The speeches of Governor Patrick and Governor Schweitzer delivered the message the Democratic party needs voters to hear. Too bad the networks’ talkative journalists were too busy listening to themselves to hear it.

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Monday Night Good for Obama, Bad for Annoying Pundits

First off let’s be clear: the primary job of the chattering pundits on 24 hour news stations is to keep viewers tuned in until the next commercial break. Lifting up their ideological allies and savaging their political opponents is, for some of the networks, a secondary goal. Informing, illuminating and educating is a distant mission, one that makes the participants feel good when it happens to happen.

Given this reality, it’s not surprising that they spend a lot of time manufacturing conflict where none exists or fanning small embers of discord into roaring flames of chattering nonsense. An example is at play with the convention coverage. The biggest complaint the pundits had concerning Monday night was that the speakers didn’t attack Senator John McCain. This is nonsense. First off, there were some pretty strident attacks earlier in the evening by folks like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But more importantly, that wasn’t the purpose of Monday night. The first day of the convention focused on honoring Senator Ted Kennedy and passing the torch from the Kennedy dynasty to Senator Barack Obama. That the Massachusetts Senator attended in person made the moment even more impactful. Yet imagine the horror the talking heads would have conveyed if Senator Kennedy had used the moment to savage Senator McCain. The Democrats handled this moment well, ignoring the opposition and reminding Kennedy Democrats (who, incidentally, later became Reagan Republicans and are crucial for the Obama campaign to recruit) that the Kennedy clan has embraced Senator Obama.

The other purpose of Monday night was to (re)introduce Michelle Obama to America. After savage attacks from the GOP, she was in danger of being a liability to the campaign. The speech she delivered will be remembered as one of the turning points of the campaign, at once personal and inspirational. Yet if she had attacked Senator McCain that’s all anyone would have been talking about. It would have undermined everything else her moment in the spotlight was meant to convey.

The talking heads think in terms of seven-to-eight minutes — the average time between commercials breaks. They were hoping for a down and dirty evening full of venom in order to create the conflict that keeps viewers in their seats during the advertisements. Instead they got an uplifting evening that put a positive spin on the Obama candidacy. That might be boring for the news networks, but it’s smart politics. First, every campaign knows it’s important to establish your own positives before savaging the other side. Second, because of the campaign narrative through August, the Obama campaign needed to remind voters that Barack and Michelle Obama are people they can live with in the White House for four-to-eight years.

Monday night may have been frustrating for the talking heads, but it was a good night for the Obama campaign. And before the McCain staff thinks they are getting away easy — expect the next two nights to be unrelenting in their attacks on Senator McCain’s economic and foreign policy positions.

And if you want to avoid the commercials and, more importantly, the annoying drone of the pundits, watch the convention on C-Span. It’s far less annoying than putting up with the folks at Fox, MSNBC and CNN.

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Who Elected McCain President?

Presidential candidate Senator John McCain told Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili that Americans support his country against Russia. According to the Associated Press, Senator McCain said, “I told him that I know I speak for every American when I said to him, today, we are all Georgians

This is Senator McCain being presidential, of showing strength and leadership. But I’m sorry, don’t we already have a president who is supposed to speak for the American people on these issues? There’s no doubt a lot of activity going on at the State Department to resolve the situation. Maybe they should be allowed to speak for the American people?

True, it is a campaign season, and one can’t expect Senator McCain to remain quiet about an international incident. After all, his campaign is based on the fact that he can pick up the phone and call the president of Georgia (of course, his opponent, Senator Barack Obama talked to President Saakashvili, too).

But what’s hypocritical about this, is that Senator McCain just spent the better part of three weeks blasting Senator Obama for being presumptuous. Yet isn’t it a bit presumptuous of Senator McCain to be stepping into the shoes George W. Bush is still wearing to inform a foreign head of state of total support for his country’s position (this being the country that precipitated the flare-up by moving troops into a province on the first day of the Olympics).

I know Senator McCain is desperately trying to show leadership, but can you imagine what the spin masters in the McCain campaign would be saying if Senator Obama had said the exact same thing first? Can you imagine the apoplexy on the right wing radio shows if Senator Obama dared to speak on behalf of the American people in such a way?

Hypocrisy is not new to presidential politics and Senator McCain has demonstrated his mastery of the skill. But the timing of this is a bit amusing.  Especially since it comes from a military man who should understand the concept of the chain-of-command. After all, there can only be one commander-in-chief. Unfortunately, the one we got is the aforementioned George W. Bush. Nonetheless, the White House is no doubt actively seeking to work through a difficult situation. They might, just maybe, prefer to have one person speaking on behalf of the American people — perhaps maybe even the one constitutionally assigned that role.

Instead of trying to prove their ability to answer the phone at 3:00 am, one of the candidates might wish to display true leadership and point out that in times of crisis it’s important to make clear who is in charge of the country — even if that person isn’t up to the job. Although then the press might then accuse him of being weak. And we can’t have that. Not when there’s phone calls to make — and to take.