Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain's Surprise Delivery: It's A Girl!

In another surprise in an already surprising campaign season, McCain picked Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. I haven't been paying close attention to the potential candidates, so wasn't familiar with Palin prior to the announcement today. My initial impressions are:

1) She's a woman. McCain is hoping to garner many of the voters who were supporting Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency. It just might work. (Palin already seems to be playing well with many Hillary supporters and with Geraldine Ferraro.)

2) She's beautiful. Turns out Palin is a former beauty queen. She will make campaign posters a lot nicer to look at.

3) She's young. This will make it tough for McCain to credibly attack Obama for his lack of experience without it reflecting poorly on Palin. Her age also contrasts with McCain's experience, potentially creating some good synergy for their combined campaign. Her age could also be a liability in the same way the McCain campaign has been trying to make Obama's lack of experience an issue.

4) She's an outsider. Being governor of Alaska, Palin is an outsider to the DC establishment. This could be good for the McCain campaign as it may help distance themselves from the Republican establishment that's viewed as excessive and corrupt by many Americans. It doesn't hurt that Palin has taken on Republican politicians in her own state engaged in pork-barrel spending. On the other hand, Palin's "outsider-ness" could also make people feel uncertain about her being such an unknown, which could hurt the McCain campaign.

5) She's unexpected. The surprise pick of Palin today has focused all of the media attention and taken a lot of air out of the post-convention hype the Obama campaign was likely hoping for.

Bottom Line: Palin is a bold and risky move for the McCain campaign and one that just made this election even more interesting than it's already been.

Something remarkable about this election is that when it's all over, either a black man or a woman will have been elected for the first time in American history. This is something wonderful indeed.

P.S. -- Palin is also a mother of five and staunchly pro-life, having born a son this year after finding out he had Down syndrome. This will play very well for shoring up the evangelical and pro-life base among moral conservatives.

Below are some further thoughts on Palin from around the web:

BledarBlog called it for Palin back in June.

David Post:
[McCain's] choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate is appalling and insulting to the American people. Perhaps it will turn out to be a political masterstroke, "energizing the base" and garnering lots of disaffected Clinton supporters; perhaps not. But to my mind, as a voter, the sole criterion for evaluating a candidate's VP choice is whether or not the candidate has picked someone who can plausibly be viewed as presidential timber and, no disrespect intended to Ms. Palin, who was apparently a decent mayor of Wasilla AK (pop. 9,000) and who has been serving as governor of Alaska for all of two years, McCain has failed miserably on that score.
Post has more thoughts here.

Paul Mirengoff:
In my view, Palin wouldn't have been seriously considered for vice president but for her gender. But at least she appears to be a very substantial person with real potential for high office.
Tyler Cowen:
Electorally this is a very effective pick I think... though it is hard for me to imagine a President with five (young) kids.
Obama, the sodgy; McCain, the maverick:

Watching Obama’s display last night I was pretty depressed. Unlike some commentators (Bill Kristol, Jay Nordlinger) I found it the most conventional imaginable speech, as if the tired ideas of a Walter Mondale were dressed in a production by Zhang Yimou.

Meanwhile, McCain has picked a woman. I don’t know enough about Sarah Palin... but John McCain has once again shown he is willing to, in fact eager to, move in a positive and (relatively) unexpected direction. He is his own man. Obama - the agent of change - picked the most conventional of the conventional. But then his speech was the same way.

Speaking of walking the walking, although she opposes same-sex marriage, which they all do, Palin seems to be by far the most advanced of all four candidates on gay rights. She’s actually put them into law.
Joe Carter:
I am energized. I am a young, evangelical, conservative voter and I did not expect to be so energized by McCain's vice-presidential choice. However, Palin is a woman who has a right philosophy of life and family issues. She glows with the kind of youthful authenticity that gave the pre-Rezko Obama his appeal. She fights oil companies where it makes sense to do so but does not bow before the altar of those who forget that nature is ours to steward, not worship.

I am energized. My conservative friends who are politically savvy are energized. People unfamiliar with her who find out about her story and her political philosophy become energized. Wake up Republicans, wake up conservative evangelicals, it is a new day.
Ezra Klein:
This was, for McCain, a major decision. And we can learn from it. And here's what even his supporters must admit: Country did not come first. Polls did. The calculations are fully transparent. Understanding that he needed to broaden his electoral coalition, he picked a woman. Understanding he needed youth, he picked a young politician. Understanding he needed to emphasize his reformist credentials, he picked a onetime whistleblower. What he didn't pick was anyone able to help him govern, or capable of stepping forward in a moment of crisis. Palin is not an experienced foreign policy hand like Lieberman or a successful and experienced governor like Tommy Thompson. Today, McCain chose his campaign over his presidency. Over our presidency. Palin seems like a promising young politician, but McCain increasingly seems like a desperate one.
And lastly, Palin's dad:

I'd rather go moose hunting than be involved with politics.
He sounds like a wise man.

Glenn Reynolds has more here and here, as does Joe Carter.

Ann Althouse shares many thoughts. Mark Bergin has a first look at Palin from a Christian perspective.

Also, a collection of Sarah Palin videos. (HT Orin Kerr)


thinking said...

What a joke of a pick. It's insulting and shows astonishingly poor judgement on McCain's part.

There is no doubt that McCain put politics above country with this horrific pick. Does anyone with their right mind think she is in any way qualified to be President? Esp. when her running mate at the top of the ticket is 72 years old and a cancer survivor?

She's less qualified than Dan Quayle. She's less qualified than Geraldine Ferraro.

Now McCain has thrown away the issue of using experience as a selling point. As someone noted, Palin makes Obama look like John Adams in terms of experience and qualifications.

Plus her selection makes even more of an issue of McCain's age and health.

Oh yeah, on ethics, she's the subject of an investigation in Alaska about abuse of power.

Of course McCain may not have known that, as he made his selection after having met with her only once. Think about that: McCain chose someone to be potentially a heartbeat away from the presidency without even knowing that person well.

At the end of the day, however, in every presidential election, it always comes down to the people at the top of the ticket.

On that score, this shows remarkably poor judgement on McCain's part. As Halperin of Time said,

"On the face of it, McCain has failed the ultimate test that any presidential candidate must face in picking a running mate: selecting someone who is unambiguously qualified to be president."

And some evangelical conservatives need to wake up and realize there is more to being president and vice president than a few hot button social issues. It's simply immoral to ignore these other dimensions to the job.

I think some evangelicals would vote to elect any idiot if that person simply said the magic words of being "prolife" and "against gay marriage." Nevermind that the dirty secret in Republican circles is that many leaders do not want Roe v Wade overturned, for fear of losing the issue to garner votes and money. Nevermind that there are better strategies to combatting abortion, which are aligned more with Democratic party policies.

thinking said...

It's fitting that McCain, a guy who divorced his first wife after she was no longer good enough for him after she was in an auto accident, and then married a trophy wife, would pick as his veep selection a trophy candidate.

That's all Palin is: a trophy candidate.

Here's some of her wisdom: when interviewed by Larry Kudlow on CNBC about the vice presidential nomination a few months ago, she actually asked ""What is it exactly that the VP does every day?" She then went on to pontificate about her priorities:
"We want to make sure that VP slot would be a fruitful...for Alaskans."

I think after the initial novelty wears off, this pick will backfire huge on McCain and turn out to be a colossal failure.

Moreso than ever, I would really fear a McCain presidency, if only because this tissue thin candidate would be so close to the presidency.

Jason B. said...

Can anyone give me one reason that McCain would pick Palin over Romney -- that is, one reason that doesn't have to do with electoral politics, but has to do with which of them is better suited to be President of the United States?

This is why people are calling the decision cynical, insulting, and reckless -- because there are obviously better choices in terms of who is best suited to be President.

John McCain has stood in front of us claiming that he would rather lose an election than lose a war. He said this with the sole purpose of implying that Barack Obama would rather win the election than win a war. Yet for vice president, John McCain chose Sarah Palin over Mitt Romney; for vice president, Barack Obama chose Joe Biden over Hillary Clinton. Which of those choices seems more about winning an election? Which of those choices seems more about governing, i.e., about winning wars?

Anyone who thinks Palin's qualifications to be commander-in-chief are commensurate with Obama's (or Romney's) is not thinking clearly. Obama has been preparing to be President for a very long time. He has been studying foreign affairs for years, he has gone through more than 20 debates against all the other candidates taking every question, and he has built a massive team of foreign policy advisers and drills with them every day. He has many contacts overseas and has developed a great amount of goodwill toward himself abroad that will only pay dividends for this country.

Meanwhile, by incredible one can even figure out what Sarah Palin thinks about the Iraq War! (I guess it'll be hard to criticize her for positions she doesn't have! But of course, some nice neocon will surely hand her a binder full of talking points to memorize. Who will be Palin's Cheney?) Given THIS, what difference can 20 months of "executive experience" make?! Twenty months, mind you, is the same span of time during which Obama has had the (impressively successful) executive experience of running a national political campaign.

I strongly favored Obama in the primary, but I was considering not voting in the general election because while I prefer Obama on foreign policy, I generally prefer McCain's economic policies. But now I am definitely voting for Obama in the general election -- for now, not only do I prefer Obama's foreign policy approach, now I believe McCain has shown he can't be trusted even to put national security ahead of his and his party's ambitions.