Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sarah Palin - Why She Was A Very Bad Idea

I have to admit - I am not only stunned that the McCain campaign would make such a hurried and unvetted choice in their VP as Sarah Palin, I'm also stunned that the entire Republican Party has been so willing to overlook her shortcomings. And I expected them to overlook her shortcomings, just not to this extent. This nomination demonstrates in ways I could not possibly express in words just how screwed up presidential politics are in this country. 

Never mind that had a Democratic candidate with Clintonian (which is to say, moderate) leanings that had exactly the same experience and baggage, we'd have seen the right excoriate her for exactly the same things they pooh pooh now. That's part of post-Rove politics in this country, and if McCain wins *every* election we have will be suspect, every campaign will be nasty and partisan. 

What absolutely stuns me is the idea that because Sarah Palin is some sort of "everywoman" (as if Alaska was representative of the US population at large - they are not, any more than Hawaii is) and that this is somehow a "good" thing to have in our President. Sure, Palin is the VP candidate, but if elected, McCain will be older than Reagan was when he took office, and we all know that by the end of his term Ronnie was not exactly in charge of things. Nancy's astrologer was. 

Unless the entire country, about a fifth of which has been under the impression that the last time we elected an "everyman" to the highest office in the land things turned out just fine, has been hit over the head with large blunt instruments, I can't see how this idea has the slightest traction at all. Of course, the Republicans spent their entire convention pretending that the Bush years never happened, that somehow a hurricane that never turned out as badly as it could have made up for the insane bungling of the response to Katrina, and had an air of desperation mixed with senseless optimism that perhaps Bush's presidency had not, in fact, screwed the pooch for the next eight years of control of Washington. 

Every speech that was made in St. Paul acted like the Democrats were responsible for the condition of the country. And the conventioneers ate it up, like cancer patients grasping at the idea of every radical treatment being "the one". The Republican Party, of course, has been very good at taking the opposition's ideas and making it look as if it was their own, sort of like a Microsoft of politics. Unhappy with the way things are going? Kick out the people who've had absolutely no power at all over the past eight years, the people that the Republican leadership has not *allowed* power to, it's all their fault. And their constituency eats it up like it's holy writ. 

That explains why Sarah Palin got such a warm welcome - she's the radical cancer treatment with almost no chance of helping anything at all (other than getting elected, which as you'll see I don't think comes under the aegis of "helping"). 

Why? She isn't qualified. She has nowhere near the amount of experience in any governmental capacity needed to run a country. If you think that's not important, think hard, very hard, about whether you'd vote for Sarah Palin were McCain to die between now and the election. At the very least it should give you serious pause. Because when we elect people to the Presidency that have such a small amount of relevant governmental experience, people that we choose because we could see having a beer with them because that's all our tiny minds can conceive is important in a person who can launch a nuclear attack on a foreign country on with the push of a button, we get exactly what we deserve. And we got exactly what we deserved over the past eight years, despite the right's constant attempts to put lipstick on the pig. 

Most of us think that we'd do a pretty good job were we elected President, and this is the conceit that the Sarah Palin nomination falls into. Because the chances are that we *don't* think our neighbor would make a very good President, in fact we probably think that our neighbor is an idiot who can barely take out his trash and definitely shouldn't be trusted with collecting the recycling, much less international affairs. Sarah Palin isn't us, Sarah Palin is our neighbor. She is our neighbor because *we* are our neighbor's neighbor, idiots in their eyes who aren't to be trusted with the recycling. 

What we need in a President isn't to be one of the great unwashed masses. We need people who are (and in this country, I skate astonishingly close to an insult here) intelligent. People who have vision and understanding and compassion and empathy, but also have the smarts to not only know what needs to be done, but to find people who *do* know if they themselves don't know. Not President's who hire people because they can say the right things like "Guns good, abortion bad". Not former horse show executives, or VP choices that are so palpably wrong that the campaign won't let the press grill them. 

Clearly, John McCain is not one of the great unwashed masses, no matter how much he tries to paint himself otherwise. He was a mediocre student, an officer only because of his father's and grandfather's military service. He had what appears now to be the good fortune to have been a POW for several years, which is either a critical requirement for being President or completely irrelevant depending upon who his audience is (much like Iraq was responsible/completely unconnected to the 9/11 attacks). He parades his trophy wife around as though most Americans think that this is a) a good idea, or b) common experience. I'm not belittling his service, I'm simply pointing out the hypocrisy present in the rationalization that the Republican Party has been going through for months. They *hated* McCain, but he was pretty clearly the best chance the party had of making the election anything in the ballpark of "close". 

I'm sure that some percentage of you are pulling out the already tired argument that Palin has more executive experience than any of the other candidates. Please. There are college-level student body presidents with more executive experience than all four combined. That's just a way to distract the conversation further - something else the Republicans have been very good at ("Look! Gay people taking away your guns!") The issue isn't if you've presided over a state legislature - were that the case none of the current candidates would qualify. The issue is how well you know the people you are going to have to work with to get the myriad now-critical (some maybe beyond critical) issues that *must* be dealt with as soon as possible. The issue is whether you think that the last eight years have gone well or not. Hint: They haven't. 

On the other hand, if you're one of the people who thinks that abortion, a practice that is (thankfully - I may be pro-choice, but that doesn't mean I think abortion is a good thing) declining, or gay marriage, or school vouchers are the most important issue facing America today, there's not a lot I can talk rationally with you about. It's not that you can't have an opinion about these things, but the simple fact of the matter is that they are sideshows. The things that we must be concerned about are all related to changing the way we live to improve the chances of species survival. We live on a planet that we are not-so-slowly poisoning, whose resources are disappearing, whose capacity for supporting human life is straining. To refuse to acknowledge that need is to stick one's head in the sand. It's a very human reaction, but the consequences don't improve as a result (and you end up with sand in your ears to boot). The rest is all distraction, because there's money to be made and you're helping to make it for someone else. 

I don't know why I do political commentary on these blogs. After all, if you think Creationism should be taught in the schools, it's going to be very hard for us to have a rational conversation because the entire "rationale" for Creationism is based on the idea that the Bible has all of the answers (good to know that we haven't really needed to add to our knowledge base in the past 1500 years, the last time the Bible added any new material, not counting editorial or translation or ideology changes) and that evolution has a few rough spots. Critical thinking has nothing to do with the "dinosaurs lived with humans" crowd, and heaven knows we need *more* critical thinking, not less. We need intelligent people running things, not cunning people with the right parents, not oil company CEOs whose idea of argument is to call the other side names. 

Is Obama as experienced as I'd like? No, he is not. Is he experienced enough? I sure hope so. Because the alternative, given McCain's age and general health (running a campaign takes a toll like you can't believe), is *less* experience, and a world view born from life on the edge of the world. When the party faithful are suggesting that Palin has international experience because Alaska's outermost rocks in the ocean are pretty close to Russia's outermost rocks in the ocean, that should be a pretty clear clue that rationalization, not rationality, is guiding the process. 

Me, I'll be voting for rationality, intelligence, and the sense that one side is actually thinking about cleaning up the mess rather than just getting into office. 

I leave you with a prediction: Should Obama be elected, there will be cries to impeach him from the end of the traditional "100 Days" period onward. For things that pale in comparison to the crimes (yes, crimes) of the previous administration. Why we didn't impeach this last SOB was, I think, the problem that the Democrats consider the Republicans (party, not individuals) to be just like them. They aren't. The basic difference is whether the ends justify the means. We've learned for eight years that the ends do *not* justify the means, over and over and over and over. Sadly, it is those who think the opposite who have the advantage - you can't be punished for cheating if you own the game and your opponents have no choice but to play. That is why it is so critical that the game be taken away from the cheaters. 


Jon said...

Voting either of two most popular parties isn't good for this country. They have strangled this country.

Eric said...

What we need in a President isn't to be one of the great unwashed masses. We need people who are (and in this country, I skate astonishingly close to an insult here) intelligent. People who have vision and understanding and compassion and empathy, but also have the smarts to not only know what needs to be done, but to find people who *do* know if they themselves don't know.

<mythbusters>See, here's your problem.</mythbusters>

None of the people who fill that definition are in politics. So they are, by default, not an option.

Matthew said...

Palin is a stunningly fascinating figure in many of the same ways Bush is, but even more extreme, more duplicitous, more corrupt, and more prone to "leadership-by-gut". Little of this is being reported on in mainstream outlets so far, but hopefully she loses appeal with the know-nothing electorate based on things as superficial as the tenor of her voice and the trivial lies she seems to have no capacity to prevent herself from telling. A useful site: http://dailysource.org/palin

The experience argument is for me a red herring. We elect most of our presidents from among governors with little foreign policy experience or senators with little of the newly coveted "executive experience." The critical question should be with how they've conducted themselves with the responsibilities they've had, who they take their advice (marching orders) from, and how good they are at listening and discerning between competing arguments. McCain and Palin fail on all accounts. Obama and Biden look to be at least somewhat better by these goalposts and significantly less dangerous.

McCain likely wanted someone like Lieberman or Ridge for his pick. That he was strong-armed into Palin by the Rovian/neocon/right fringe of the party already tells us that he'd be President only to the same degree that Bush is President. A vote for McCain/Palin is a vote for Palin, period - a very frightening prospect.

But unless this country is even more deeply racist than I imagine, the economy is going to be in such a shambles by Nov 4th that Obama will be elected comfortably. Even if he's capable and actually inclined to make any of the disparate structural changes that are needed, I only worry the mess is simply too big to clean up...