Wednesday, September 3, 2008


In Barack Obama’s first Presidential decision, to pick Sen. Joe Biden for his Vice President, he “hit one out of the park,” according to Bill Clinton, who has been there and done that. So what is Republican nominee McCain’s choice? A bunt? A pop-up behind home plate?

Is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a play for the Hillary Clinton vote? Even before the more controversial aspects of Gov. Palin’s nomination surfaced, the joke sprinted out of the block that at the Vice Presidential debates, Joe Biden would say, “I have served with Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine. Madam, you’re no Hillary Clinton.”

Palin is a former athlete, a moose-hunter and card carrying member of the NRA, and a pro-lifer who has put her motherhood where her mouth is. She is a beauty contest also ran, having been voted “Miss Congeniality.” She has five children, about whom headlines have already been written. Barack Obama felt the need to call a press conference and reiterate his position that “Families are Off-Limits.”

McCain’s tail will always be wagged by the right wing, that astonishing segment that not only disbelieves in Darwin, sex education, and birth control but also thinks the earth revolves around the U.S.A. McCain himself is stuck in the 1950’s politically, intellectually, and, it now comes clear, in the women he gravitates to, his wife Cindy, and his choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate. Maybe it’s just me, but the Governor of Alaska reminds me of another right wing icon of times gone by, Anita Bryant, who also gained fame as a beauty contestant, Florida orange juice spokesmodel, and gay basher.

Palin has been Governor of Alaska, a position she won with less than 100,000 votes, for a year and a half. Before that, she was an elected official of a small town somewhere off the snow-packed path of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. Such a thin resume for someone who might be a heart-beat away from the Presidency of a 72-year old with a history of cancer suggests McCain is devaluing the currency of experience. Give me a minute while I scratch my head. Do his pollsters and other crystal ball gazers tell him to go with the Barack Obama generation and message? Maybe McCain is turning the page back to the time when the Vice Presidency was “not worth a warm bucket of spit.”

McCain’s could have picked former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, to help nail down western states, as well as Michigan, where his father was Governor, Joe Leiberman, McCain’s caregiver, New York 9/11 Mayor Rudy Guilliani, or Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas who did well among Southerners in the primaries. What McCain can not resist is an impulse to shoot from the hip. And denial that any Vice President of his might actually face short odds of becoming President before McCain’s 76th birthday.

As Steve Bell, the brilliant cartoonist of The Guardian, correctly reports in his Republican Convention Sketchbook, “These hicks are not to be underestimated.”

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter


Professor Staff said...

After watching her speech tonight, I think the Anita Bryant hawking OJ analogy is perfect! Until the point she starting slinging cheap arrows, where she kind of reminded me of the twerpy kids in elementary who hang around with the school yard bully -- they talked tough but only because they drew their power (and cheap schoolyard insults) from elsewhere.

- Rob B

Dennis said...

Let's get serious, folks.

Sen. McCain, in seeking a woman for a running mate, might have chosen any of several highly qualified women to be his second in command. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former governor and EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Secretary of State and former national security advisor Condoleezza Rice are a few of the experienced candidates he might have chosen from. Instead McCain chose a first-term governor of an isolated state with a total population of less than the city of El Paso, Texas.

Let's lay aside for the moment all questions about candidate Sarah Palin's reproductive philosophy, Alaska's trooper-gate investigation and her putative opposition to wasteful federal spending. Gov. Palin's biggest liability is her near-total lack of anything resembling an informed foreign policy view. From

A clip search doesn't show any substantive comments from Palin about Iraq during her short term as governor of Alaska, in 2007 or 2008, or at any point prior to that. That includes instances when she was specifically asked about the war.

In an interview with Alaska Business Monthly shortly after she took office in 2007, Palin was asked about the upcoming surge. She said she hadn't thought about it. "I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq," she said.

...Seven months into the surge, she still either had not formed any opinion on the surge or the war or just wasn't sharing. "I'm not here to judge the idea of withdrawing, or the timeline," she said in a teleconference interview with reporters during a July 2007 visit with Alaska National Guard troops stationed in Kuwait. "I'm here to find out what Alaskans need of me as their governor."

"Obviously the governor of Alaska spends very little time on foreign policy," McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said yesterday. As a result we have a vice presidential candidate who is essentially an empty vessel into which her party will pour their own foreign policy positions. Can anyone say "cut and paste"? From Associated Press via the Anchorage Daily News:

"No doubt the campaign staff have her hooked up to a fire hose on foreign policy issues," said Stephen C. Donehoo, managing director of Kissinger McLarty Associates in Washington and a former military intelligence officer. "No doubt they fear a debate with Joe Biden that touches foreign affairs. My guess is Graham and (Joe) Lieberman are doing a lot of tutoring."

Graham and Lieberman are not the only ones working her over. As of Tuesday the McCain campaign had kept Gov. Palin under tight wraps, even cancelling her previously scheduled appearances with the Republican National Coalition for Life reception. But time was made for Israel's powerful and influential representatives to have premier access to the nominee. The New York Sun reports:

"Mrs. Palin did meet behind closed doors with leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee... According to one Republican source familiar with the meeting, Mrs. Palin was introduced to Aipac leaders here by Senator Lieberman... "We got a good productive discussion on the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we were pleased that Governor Palin expressed her deep personal commitment to the safety and well-being of Israel," a spokesman for Aipac, Joshua Block, said.

Nice to know that base is covered. But the news once again leaves one with the unsettling realization that in the absence of attentive independent observation of foreign affairs over time, tempered with critical thought, what we have in Gov. Palin is a blank slate upon whom others already are writing their views.

The McCain campaign insists she is a fast learner and an independent thinker, but foreign affairs - particularly of the Middle Eastern variety - are not matters that lend themselves to quick absorption and digestion. The history is too complex, the players too many and motivations on all sides veiled and layered with nuance. The Israel-Palestinian matter alone has frustrated the most dedicated, long-term efforts to resolve, and cannot be condensed into a crash course. And that is just one component of the Middle Eastern puzzle - which itself is only a piece of the larger geopolitical chessboard.

We may agree or disagree with Sen. McCain's worldview, but at least he has been watching world events long enough to have one. Gov. Palin, on the other hand, has been too preoccupied with the affairs of her own state and being a hockey mom to have anything resembling a comprehensive grasp of world affairs.

In the coming election we will either elect a man of color whom some racists already hate, or a 72-year old cancer survivor. In the harsh light of history, our next president's incapacitation must be seen as a deadly serious possibility . In the event of such a national emergency we must ask, who will formulate America's foreign policy and strategy?

Will it be a seasoned negotiator such as Sen. Joe Biden, who for decades has helped shape America's security and foreign policies, who is an adjunct professor of Constitutional law and who currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Or will it be a former beauty queen and sportscaster, currently mother of five (and counting) who governs a state with a population of fewer people than the city of El Paso? Oh - and by the way, like George W. Bush she also is an evangelical Christian.

Are we serious yet?

Annette Cotter said...

M. C. Hammer had a song "You can't touch this". And I know one simply cant touch the issue of the Down Syndrome Child. However, I feel compelled. As I watched this baby being passed from hand to hand and showcased for literally hours, I kept wondering if he wouldn't rather be in his bed napping, or eating, or did he perhaps need a diaper change. As a mother, it made me just a little angry. I believe there is a fine line between not hiding or feeling shame about a different child, and shamelessly exploiting a different child. In my estimation, Mrs. Palin and the repugs exploited this child and went way over the line. This morning, Pat Buchanan, big supporter of Mrs. Palin was listing her attributes... "attractive, articulate, executive experience...the Down Baby..." Lord! What have we come to? The circle of pundits went on to describe a whole new voting block of mothers of special needs children. Well, I say, these children probably need special healthcare, and their mothers would do well to look at the democratic and republican positions relative to healthcare. There, I did touch that....and furthermore, when Mrs. Palin says in a speech in Alaska "God wants us to build this pipeline"...I hear scary echos of the radical Islamist shouting with upraised fist "God Wills It." Militant christian/Militant patriot---it's a scary ticket. YES WE CAN. YES WE MUST!

Tina said...

There is talk about whether Obama and Biden will feel free to "pick on a girl." They can surely differ with her on lots of issues without being pit bulls (minus the lipstick). I think that the tabloids and the bloggers will reduce whatever credibility Palin has to naught. The Alaskan soap opera shows no signs of slowing down. Must confess that I bought a copy of the National Enquirer today at the grocery---the one that has McCain and Palin on the cover with a headline about her "dark secrets"--and if I bought one, so did a jillion other people. It's gonna be hard for her to maintain much gravitas as a candidate when she's sharing the pages with Britney and Paris....

EHT said...

I've had nothing to do for the past several days other than to watch all of this play out in the news media and one thing keeps popping up in my mind.....

No matter which side of the aisle you decide to sit I'm so glad that our Founding Fathers didn't have to be subjected to the "no experience" moniker.

A small band of men who birthed a country.....with little or no knowledge of how to do it other than the few who had a classical education and that wasn't even the most important ingredient that was needed. Sheer gumption is what it took.

dennis said...

Now that we've heard Gov. Palin speak at the Republican National Convention, we may be more sure of the character she adds to the McCain campaign. Although her words were crafted by Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully, Palin delivered them with enough piss and vinegar to make them all her own.

Pouring contempt on the community service work done by Barack Obama in his 20s, Palin by extension discredited the work of every other community organizer from Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony to Cesar Chevez* and Martin Luther King. Palin doesn't seem to realize that it isn't about the organizer, it's about the community. She also made other mocking references to Obama, a man she has not met or taken full measure of yet.

It's an extreme gamble McCain has made, to pluck Palin from obscurity and drop her into the most hotly contested political race in decades. Her red-meat speech and pro-life family have roused McCain's base from their torpor, but now they have a dilemma: do they capitalize on the moment and send her out to meet the world - or do they keep her on a short leash to prevent her lack of knowledge from being televised?

On the morning after her speech, political analyst Stuart Rothenberg said “It felt electrified last night... She’s now got a critical two weeks where she’ll have to do some talk shows.”

Norman Ornstein reports that McCain campaign strategist Steve Schmidt told him the plan is just the opposite. “They want to cloister her,” Ornstein said. “They’re clearly going to try to keep her away from the usual scrutiny.”

He wryly observed that McCain foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann had been absent from a scheduled appearance the afternoon before Palin’s speech. “And we know why,” Ornstein said. Scheunemann was apparently administering a crash course in international affairs to Palin. “This is somebody who got a passport a year ago.”

According to CNN, McCain canceled an appointment on the Larry King Live show after taking offense to a series of questions posed by reporter Campbell Brown to McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds over Palin's national security creds. Clearly, the McCain people are pretty touchy on this subject right now.

I have said this elsewhere and say it again here: Governor Sarah Palin has done well for her state and the Alaskan people, but she is out of her depth now. It seems certain that her campaign realizes this at some level as well, but she has so energized McCain's base, and the pro-life evangelicals who had been planning to sit this election out, that they have to keep her now. Whatever happens after the election is a roll of the dice.

One person sure to suffer emotional whiplash from all this is Palin's 17-year-old daughter, whose pregnancy has suddenly become a national gossip item. That's not fair, either to her or the father of her child. But politics, like life, isn't fair, and most people in the game generally know that before plunging in. It's difficult to understand the Palins literally putting their child on view before the world while she is learning that lesson. But that's a whole nother subject.

Paw Paw Bill said...

Regarding the "experience" issue, I am a great believer in the gifted rookie, as long as there are some village elders and coaches around to caution against reinventing the wheel. Thomas Jefferson was in his early 30's in 1776 when he authored the Declaration of Independence.


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