Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pondering Palin

UPDATED: Wednesday, September 03, 2008
I am beginning to think John McCain does read this blog. He sure seems to like my advice. From a DWSUWF post last week:
"Biden will help give Obama credibility and he will be a very effective campaigner for Obama. However, the choice does leave McCain an opportunity to make a play for disgruntled Clinton supporters by selecting a woman for VP. There are plenty of good choices, Whitman, Fiorina, Hutchison, or my favorite - Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It would be a smart move, but I doubt he will take my advice this time."
I've been pondering the Palin selection this weekend, and thought I'd just put down a few thoughts.

First, I never believed McCain would do this. But I am glad he did. Now, we have the potential of a real race. Palin could very well turn out to be a mistake. She could easily wilt under the kleig light glare of a national campaign. She may indeed have been inadequately vetted, which just means the real vetting is going to take place by the American people between now and the election. Which, by the way, is exactly how Obama was vetted during the primary season. McCain may indeed have made a rash decision, and she may prove to be a disaster to his campaign. But with a conventional Republican white bread choice, McCain was going to lose this anyway. Now the Republicans have a chance. Chuck Todd at MSNBC nailed it:

There is a tradition in this country of the "citizen legislator". It is a simple concept that those that govern us should come from among us, and that we should not be governed by an elite class of professional politicians. The idea is as old as the Constitution. James Madison from Federalist No. 57:
"Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States. They are to be the same who exercise the right in every State of electing the corresponding branch of the legislature of the State. Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession is permitted to fetter the judgment or disappoint the inclination of the people."
This notion is very much part of the American psyche and reflected in many movies, including James Stewart in "Mr Smith Goes to Washington", Chris Rock in "Head of State", and the more recent Robin Williams vehicle "Man of the Year". The practical implementation of this idea is barely visible now, as our federal government has devolved to a primarily professional political class of lawyers in Washington. And yet, it is because of this very American appetite for leaders that step out from the middle class mainstream that politicians like Sarah Palin and Barack Obama can still emerge.

Elections are the only vetting process that matters. Obama clearly did not/does not have enough experience to justify becoming President based on his resume alone. However, he put himself in the spotlight of a campaign in front of the American people and convinced them (at least the Democrats) that he is ready to be President. That is the way Democracy works. He overcame his deficient resume with the voters. If selecting our leaders was only about resume, we would not need elections.

Sarah Palin will now go through the same process. Her resume is not appreciably better or worse than Obama’s. But she will now have to pass muster under an intense media glare in a campaign pressure cooker over the next two months. Then voters will decide if she is qualified to be VP with a resume no better that Obama’s. I don’t know how she’ll do. I hope she does well. We’ll see.

This theme was explored by a couple of thought provoking comments I read at Donklephant.

Obama supporter Gerryf at Donklephant:
...Her inexperience doesn’t bother me if she has some substance, which wasn’t terribly in evident, but I don’t care if she has only been governor for 2 years – she has to have something going for her to be elected governor. Obama’s resume wasn’t too impressive and the Republican’s love to point that out (while blindly ignoring the fact he managed a massive national campaign against an entrenched favorite), but Obama is still standing. I think Palin will show us something more than what she has shown so far–the only question is will it be enough?...
Experience counts, but not just in ways a lot of people are measuring it. My reservations about Obama–and I had a lot of them–have been alleviated by his masterful campaign. A virtual unknown, he beat the Clinton Machine. He’s raised money like no one else. He has managed a huge campaign with staffers on the ground in 50 states and accounted for himself well. Even if you are a Republican, you have to admit that is pretty impressive. He’s got the stuff. Put in the same position, could Palin have done the same? I don’t know. I’m willing to see how she acquits herself in the next few months. What I have seen so far hasn’t impressed me, but she wasn’t trying to convince me at her coming-out party. Who knows, she may sit down with Biden and wipe the floor with him in a debate. I am already worried the Democrats are falling into the same trap the GOP did with this–counting days in office without measuring the person. Underestimating an opponent based on first impressions is perilous. A lot of people dismissed Reagan; a lot of people dismissed George W. The Dems need to take this woman seriously."
Good advice, but most Dems are not taking it.

Khaki another Obama supporter, also pointed to the campaign as the "experience" differentiator between Obama and Palin:
"Maybe not by much, but a year and a half as governor of the 48th most populous state and a couple terms as mayor of a town of 9000 is a lot less experience than Obama’s credentials. Even if the only difference is that Obama was pressure tested by the intense primary; Palin was “plucked”. I think the Obama camp’s criticism will stick because he’s mostly worked his way out of the “inexperienced” box. We’ll see."
I agree with the point that Obama's performance in the primaries trumps both his resume and Palin's resume. Palin has the same opportunity to prove herself to the American people, as did Obama. We'll see what she does with it.

I observed another interesting political dynamic happening as a result of this surprise pick. In most political discussions I noted over the weekend, whether watching news shows, reading articles, blogs, or even GerryF and Khaki's comments, Palin's experience is always compared to Obama's. It strikes me that politically, Obama loses this argument even if you conclude he has more experience.

Consider - Obama supporters cannot attack Palin’s experience without calling attention to Obama’s. Any such discussion always invokes a comparison between Obama’s experience (POTUS candidate) and Palin’s experience (VP candidate). There is just no way to come away from that discussion without concluding that, on the basis of resume, there is not that much difference in experience. Even if one concludes that Obama has slightly more experience than Palin, he loses the argument. Because - guess who is not even in the argument? The Republican candidate for President of the United States. In any argument that boils down to who has more executive experience between Obama and Palin, McCain benefits.

I don’t think McCain anticipated that this is how the pick would play out, but if he did - he’s a friggin’ political genius.

Special Note: I thought "Pondering Palin" was a clever title. So did a few other bloggers. Most before me. Decided to use it anyway, and link other blogs that use the same title. You'll find them in the body of the post.

UPDATE: 03-Sep-08
To that last point about Obama supporters pointing to Palin's experience and failing to appreciate that it actually puts the spotlight on Obama's resume - or lack thereof. The same thing applies to Obama himself.

Byron York at The Corner:
In an interview of Barack Obama last night, CNN's Anderson Cooper mentioned Sarah Palin's experience as a small-town mayor and as governor of Alaska. Obama, hewing to his campaign's talking points, ignored the governor part:
COOPER: "And, Senator Obama, my final question — your — some of your Republican critics have said you don't have the experience to handle a situation like this. They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience, as mayor of a small town and as governor of a big state of Alaska. What's your response?"

OBAMA: "Well, you know, my understanding is, is that Governor Palin's town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month.

So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years. And, certainly, in terms of the legislation that I passed just dealing with this issue post-Katrina of how we handle emergency management, the fact that many of my recommendations were adopted and are being put in place as we speak, I think, indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect."
Just for the record, Alaska's FY2008 operating budget is $11.2 billion, and the state employs approximately 15,000 people. Those certainly aren't huge numbers in federal terms, but they're a good bit bigger than the Obama campaign.
And Palin was running Alaska over the same approximate time frame that Obama was running for President. Hat Tip - McQ at QandO.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the link. I like your yin/yang by the way. If ever I was to get a tatoo...