Sunday, August 31, 2008

Obama and Palin: Both inexperienced

Do you remember back when it was not politically incorrect to call a Down’s Syndrome kid a “retard,” and occasionally two of them would yell at each other “You’re a retard.” “No, you’re a retard.” “No, you’re a retard.” and so on? Not only did I personally witness that, but I have heard enough people talk about it that I know it was not a singular event. Sad but true.

But, sadder, that’s pretty much how I see the current argument about who has too little experience, Obama or Palin. Both have relatively little experience. Obama’s supporters don’t care a fig that he doesn’t have it. They rely on his “judgment”. Even thought they favor electing an actual president with little experience, they sneer at the Republicans putting up someone with relatively the same experience for Vice President.

And, of course, hypocrisy in politics is so often mirrored by the opposition. The Republicans say that having a president with Obama’s lack of experience is dangerous, but somehow it is ok to nominate a woman with virtually the same limited amount of experience to back up a candidate who has already exhausted the average life span of American men. And who wouldn’t agree that if the Republicans win, due to his age she at least as good a chance of being sworn in as president as any VP ever did.

What amazes me is that partisans make these arguments without shame as if they make perfect sense. We should not be surprised that two people in their 40s don’t have that much political experience. You will not be the only one who sees that the emperor has no clothes. Kirsten Powers, an Obama supporter, was being temporarily lionized right at this moment by the right wing of the blogosphere for pointing out the hypocrisy of these charges from Obama’s supporter.

She was the mayor of a small town for a few years. He was a state senator for a few years. She has been a governor for two years. He has been a Senator for two years. She has executive experience, which she doesn’t. He has federal experience which she doesn’t. It seems pretty clear that even if you want your candidate to be the one with greater experience you should have to acknowledge that they are relatively the same in length. But, that’s not what you hear from the partisan warriors.

The truth of the matter is it matters not a whit if either of them has lots of federal or executive experience, although it would be nice if they did. Bush and Cheney both have tons of experience right now. Who would want to vote for them again? A few, not many. Biden and McCain both has tons of experience. But what conservative thinks he wants to vote for Biden because he has been in the senate for over 30 years. What Democrat wants to vote for McCain because he has a quarter century in the Senate and military experience to boot. Not a one.

What people really care about is whether the candidate agrees with them which feeds into what party they are in and whether they can trust them. If they do trust them, then that person’s failures are overblown and their attributes are lionized. If they do not agree with them, then they feel the candidate is anything from untrustworthy to a criminal who have not been caught.

I know as little about Sarah Palin as most people do. I’ve been aware of her for a few months and actually did think she would have been a good pick, particularly while Obama struggled for support from Hillary supporters. But, I let the pundits (who get nothing right with astonishing regularity) scare me off because of the Alaskan ethics investigation. It is never wise to listen to pundits.

Although I always acknowledge that I am likely to vote for McCain I was disappointed that he did not run as an independent in 2000 and 2004 and still think it was a mistake. I’m equally disappointed that he has run not only as a Republican but an avid one.

But, being likely to vote for him doesn’t mean I agree with him on everything or even most things. His star has been dimming for me lately with every dark voiced ominous commercial slamming Obama, who seems to me to be a pretty decent guy too and certainly not scary to me, as the right would like you to think.

I was prepared to be really disappointed if he chose Romney as his running mate. Romney may also be a really decent guy himself (how do you ever really know?) but I do not trust him and even see him as the quintessential used car salesman. The expression is certainly not original to me with regard to him, but that shows that I’m not alone in my opinion.

McCain’s pick of Palin revived my respect for him some for a number of reasons. Even though she is a popular choice in her party, he had to stand up to forces in his party that really wanted Romney at this point or someone like him. He showed he was comfortable choosing someone who is much younger and perhaps personally more appealing than he is. He showed that he could pick someone who has made her short career attacking Republican corruption, which takes the kind of courage McCain knows about.

The pick is not without some risks. Palin is not going to be able to answer questions about federal public policy issues without trouble unless she is the fastest learner on the planet and you know the media will be gunning for her with no reasonable expectation of fairness. And then there is the investigation, which, if pursued aggressively, will greatly hamper the campaign.

However, you have to admire the way she is handling the investigation. If you haven’t heard what it is about yet, this is apparently the skinny: Her sister was going through a bad divorce with a State trooper who supposedly even threatened to kill their father. Among the number of appointees her predecessor put in office just before he left and that she let go was her bro-in-law’s boss. There is no doubt that someone from her staff made inquiries into whether the brother-in-law was going to be fired or not. The guy she let goes feels it was because he wouldn’t fire her brother-in-law.

That’s one side of it, of course. Here’s the other. The investigator says that cooperation has been so good from the governor that he didn’t even need to issue subpoenas. His main piece of evidence that might be held against her is an audio tape of the guy who made inquiries from her office. But it was provided to the investigator by her own office. She claims that she has absolutely nothing to hide and knew nothing about it. Certainly, her cooperation at least suggests innocence. Compare that to the stone walling of almost every president under investigation (I’ll exempt Carter) and you have to be impressed.

Nothing would surprise me. She may be totally innocent (I don’t even think it would be a crime) or she may be guilty of at least bad judgment and the type of bullying we don’t like to see. If so, it would not fit in well with the reputation she has made for herself on pressing ethic investigations against people in her own party.

She seems like the type of person you want for a neighbor. She married her childhood sweetheart and they have five kids. When she had her last child this year and she learned he was going to have Down’s Syndrome she stuck with her pro-life values and had the child. Plenty of pro-lifers have abortions. Personally, I admire anyone who makes the hard choice she did.

The fact that she is young and personable and, arguably, beautiful, is not really important. The fact that she has an 80% approval rating in her state (go ahead – how many other governor’s have ratings like that) means that pretty much all but a small group of the most extreme partisan’s have thought highly of her over a two year period. That doesn’t mean everything, but it must mean something.

She also steals thunder from both Obama and Hillary. Suddenly, Obama really looks like a Washington insider compared to her. If he wants to claim that he has more experience than she does, it can only be for his Washington experience. But, just as he has that on his side, she has the executive experience he lacks. She also vaults into Hillary’s spot as the woman most likely to become the first female President.

If she wins VP, it will, of course be historical, just as it will if Obama wins. I don’t know about the rest of you, but even if my guy loses, I will feel very good that America has grown so much since my childhood that it can elect a black president. I know lots of conservatives who feel that way too.

However, having a women VP, particularly a young one, will raise a lot of other issues that maybe should not be raised. What will her relationship with McCain be like? If he treats her the way most VPs have been treated throughout history (and Cheney was a rare exception) and she goes to funerals and meets a lot of other politicians, will he be accused of paternalism? Remember, this is politics; it doesn’t have to be fair.

What will her relationship with Cindy McCain be like? Will that cause problems that would not exist if the VP was a male? You hate to think yes, but, remember, they are humans who will react to things like other humans. People who think that there is no difference between women to women interactions and women to man ones, live with their eyes shut. Will Palin have to go shopping with Cindy and pay court to her?

You don’t need precognition to suspect there will be rumors of an affair between her and McCain. In our culture it seems almost unavoidable even if there is not an iota of evidence. Will they hug more warmly than, say, a McCain and Romney would? Or, do they keep each other at a distance simply to tamp down on any insinuations. And that in itself will lead to insinuations.

Like all controversial picks, any woman or minority presidential or vice presidential pick is exciting whether you like them or not. Our media makes it so. It usually means fun for us political geeks because there are so many opportunities for partisans to unfairly berate them for every one of their choices or failures which will be counted much more heavily against them than if made by a white man.

Count on it.


  1. Anonymous6:00 AM

    Oh my god, what a weenie-waffle. She's totally unqualified for national office, end of story. Sheesh!

  2. Fair comment, but then to remain fair you have to add - but so is he, and he will be president.

    I ask this to all Palin bashers -- if she was pro-choice, and supported Obama, do you think you would mind her inexperience?

    I ask this to all Obama bashers -- if he was pro-life and supported McCain, do you think you would mind his inexperience?

    I know the answer to both b/c McCain supporters don't mind Palin's inexperience and Obama supporters don't mind his.

    But, I begin to bore myself with the repetion. Note to self: They know. They read your friggin post. Now, shut up, please.

    Thanks for writing, most intrepid of commenters.


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .