Palin in comparison

Some days, not being able to post to the blog from work can be frustrating. Now that I’m home, let’s talk politics.
I was not one of the 38 million people watching Obama’s speech last night: I watched the speech on PBS, whose viewers weren’t counted in that number. As almost everyone has said today, it was a great speech. Indeed, it so unnerved John McCain that he pulled up the wrong name on his cell phone and accidentally offered the VP slot to Sarah Palin instead of Tim Pawlenty. (To be fair, newfangled gadgets like cell phones give McCain trouble in the best of times.)
As Michael Bluth would say, “Her?” I was hoping for a more obviously and hilariously bad choice like Mitt Romney or even the ridiculously unpopular Joe Lieberman, but figured the McCain campaign was too smart to think either one was really a good idea. Palin was an option I wasn’t even aware of, and I kept going back and forth on whether it was a politically shrewd move or a bizarre, impulsive mistake.
I’ve decided on the latter. One of the biggest themes of McCain’s campaign is experience, and by picking Palin they’ve given up any ability to claim that experience matters. Her political resume consists of being mayor of a small town, followed by two years as governor of a small state; compared to this, Barack Obama is a senior political veteran.
The whole thing is obviously a cynical ploy to win over disaffected Hillary voters, in the apparent belief that they will vote for any candidate with ovaries regardless of whether or not they happen to oppose everything Hillary stands for (as the pro-life, ultraconservative Palin does). And yet, if the campaign really wanted to reach out to Clinton supporters with a pioneering female nominee, McCain advisor Carly Fiorina was the obvious choice. Kay Bailey Hutchison was another possibility that has been mentioned today, although she’s pro-choice, and the social conservative wing of the GOP has made it clear that a pro-choice VP was not an option.
The vice-presidential debate should be interesting; all Joe Biden has to do is demonstrate that Palin is out of her league, something that should be an easy task for him given his extensive policy knowledge and skill as a debater. I would have much preferred to see him debate Lieberman or Romney, either of whom he would have utterly demolished, but this matchup will probably be worth sitting down with some popcorn.
However, Biden does have a bad habit of making offhand comments that come back to bite him (remember when he referred to Obama as “articulate”?) and it’s quite likely that, at some point in the campaign, he’ll get in trouble for some unfortunately-worded attack on Palin. Hopefully he’ll be careful about this.
(This could be part of McCain’s plan to attract Hillary voters: rather than nominating one of the experienced and qualified women in the GOP, pick a total lightweight and then accuse the Obama campaign of sexism when they point out that she’s a lightweight. This plan does have its downsides, though.)

5 thoughts on “Palin in comparison

  1. Mason Porter

    My thoughts went mostly in a cynical direction.
    I remember that during his 1988 campaign Biden was known for his foot-in-mouth comments (and that other candidates used that fact to their advantage when trying to deflect attention away from themselves at convenient times). The talk show hosts had a field day with that back in the day.

  2. Justin

    I never really understood the “experience” argument – McCain has lots of experience being wrong, Obama has experience being right. I guess the Rs also figured they weren’t getting anywhere on that route (though one should never discount their capacity for flagrant hypocrisy…).
    If you squint hard enough, you can kinda make Palin make sense as a VP choice. She’s a creationist, anti-choice (note: the number of actual pro-life US politicians is zero as far as I know), and managed to get into an abuse of executive power scandal in less than two years. And she’s firmly established as a “drill anywhere and everywhere” oil woman, which seems to be the only R policy the public somewhat approves of these days.
    I’m going with “calculated long-shot which will prove to be ineffective”, personally. I expected either Romney or Lieberman this morning. Can’t really say I’m disappointed, just surprised. A Fiorina pick would have run afoul of the radical cleric wing of the party – we know she’s pro-contraception. And if McCain could still thumb his nose at the agents of intolerance he’d surely take Lieberman instead.
    I am amused by ability to rephrase the famous line from ’88 to “I knew Dan Quayle, and Governor, you’re no Dan Quayle.”
    Mason, do you really think this makes a McCain win more likely than a straightforward Rich White Guy pick?
    On the immunity via accusations of sexism (which makes only slightly more sense than McCain’s “But I was a POW!” get-out-of-gaffe-free card), the easy solution is just to have Clinton be the primary surrogate attacking Palin and let Biden and Obama concentrate on slagging McCain. That’s what I expect to happen, outside of the VP debate itself.

  3. Mason Porter

    Justin: I do think this is a better strategy than a RWG pick, though of course AG makes excellent points about what they could have done to optimally employ such a strategy. (I just posted my unfiltered, shoot-from-the-hip reaction, as is my usual practice. I wasn’t trying to be intelligent or well-thought-out. :) )

  4. Arcane Gazebo

    Justin: Good point about having Clinton attack Palin. And I imagine Hillary will indeed have a few words given how Palin’s trying to ride her coattails after calling her a whiner back in March. Really, with such an unserious VP choice there’s no reason Obama or Biden have to talk about Palin at all. Meanwhile the surrogates can keep hitting the “heartbeat away from the presidency” line that I’ve already heard several times today.
    I think McCain needs to be making these kinds of Hail Mary plays–if he goes with the safe bets like Pawlenty he’s certain to lose. On the other hand, my guess is that McCain could have gotten away with picking someone less amenable to the religious nuts in the party, as so many of them are convinced that Obama is at least a Muslim and possibly the Antichrist. However, with all the Rove minions in his campaign staff he may feel that this is the way to close the enthusiasm gap with Obama.

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