Sunday, September 07, 2008

What the Palin choice tells us about McCain

Republican Presidential nominee John McCain is a 72-year-old cancer survivor. He likes to drag his poor mother around to campaign events pointing out to everyone that she is 94 – the implication being longevity is in his family genes. However, what he fails to mention is that his father died at the age of 70.

His choice for the person to serve as his Vice President should he be elected is of far more importance than for any for anyone who has run for the office before. His choice over a week ago was Sara Palin -- an unknown entity in 49 of our 50 states.

In approximately 57 days this nation will select its next President. In this period there is a lot to learn about Ms. Palin in order to make an informed choice in November. Yet, the McCain camp has forbidden the Alaska Governor from speaking to the press – the eyes and ears of the public. This says a lot about the contempt McCain has for the American people and lack of confidence in Ms. Palin.

More importantly, this choice tells us a lot about the reckless decision making we could expect from a President McCain. This is a woman he has met only once, his campaign vetted her just a few days before the announcement, she has been governor of a state with a miniscule population and an economy that looks nothing like the rest of the country, her brief tenure as mayor of a small Alaska town left it in debt, she has traveled out of the United States once and has no know foreign policy expertise, and her views on a wide range of issues are unknown to American voters. Given Senator McCain's age and health, this is a person who, if elected Vice President, could easily be in a position to assume the Presidency in very short order.

Was John McCain thinking about what would be in the best interests of this country? Not by a long shot.

Here is Andrew Sullivan in the London Times:

There is one reason the job of vice-president exists. In a system with a single executive, you need someone to fill in if the president is incapacitated or dies. In war time this is especially important. More salient: McCain just turned 72 and would be the oldest first term president in American history with four cancer scares and the awful residue of Vietnamese torture in his bones.

The pick is also the first presidential-level decision a candidate has to make. You learn a lot about the candidate. And with Obama and McCain, we have two men who have never been executives - just legislators, book-writers and celebrities. So the decision is the first time we can compare the two men on a presidential decision level.

In Joe Biden, Obama revealed his core temperamental conservatism. It was a safe choice of someone deeply versed in foreign policy, and with roots that connected to the working class white ethnics he needed. It wasn't flashy; and was even a little underwhelming; but it was highly professional.

What we have learned about John McCain from his selection of Sarah Palin is that he is as impulsive and reckless a decision-maker as George W. Bush. We know this not because of what we have learned about this Pentecostalist populist since she exploded on the scene last Friday morning (and God knows we have learned more than we ever wanted). We know it because of how McCain made the decision. He wanted his best friend, Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic vice-presidential candidate for Al Gore. That pick would have been remarkable for its bipartisan nature, would have impressed independents, and signaled a centrist presidency centered on foreign policy. It would have been bold while not being rash.

But McCain is in charge of a party that is now, at its core, religiously motivated. Joe Lieberman, for all his political talents, is Jewish, pro-choice on abortion, gay-inclusive, and domestically liberal. McCain faced an insurrection in his party base if he picked him. Without the evangelical base, he wasn't going to win.

So last week, McCain picked someone he had only met once before. I repeat: he picked someone he had only met once before. His vetting chief sat Palin down for a face-to-face interview the Wednesday before last. It's very hard to overstate how nutty and irresponsible this is. Would any corporate chieftain pick a number two on those grounds and not be dismissed by his board for recklessness?


McCain's major domestic issue in the election, moreover, is the economy and the rocky time many middle class Americans are having. All the polls show that he needs to offer something tangible to counter Obama's reconstructed Clintonomics and universal healthcare. By his own admission, he has never been that interested in economic issues. And his vulnerability is the sense that he doesn't get how distressed many Americans feel. So who does he pick? A governor whose state is essentially an oil company and whose major problem in the two mintes she has been in office has been what to do with a $5 billion oil surplus! She decided to send half a billion dollars' worth of checks to every Alaskan this summer. And people wonder why she's popular in her state.

It would be very hard to pick a governor in America who knows less about the struggles of most Americans in the current economy. Alaska's economy is currently like Russia's: booming because of commodity prices. And her one key policy issue in Alaska has been drilling for oil in the protected Alaskan National Wilderness Reserve - a policy McCain, against most of his Republican colleagues, has always opposed! Oh, and she's against protecting the polar bears as well. This is McCain's green conservatism: building pipelines, drilling in protected wildernesses and screwing the polar bears.

There are other obvious liabilities with Palin. To say the very least, her private life and family are colorful. The rumors about them do not stop coming, and the tabloid press has only just arrived in what can only be called Arkansas with penguins. Palin, moreover, currently has two ethics investigations into her conduct in the 18 months she has been in office - and one report is scheduled to go public days before the election. What was McCain thinking? And Palin's edcuation? Six colleges in five years ending in a degree in sports journalism from the University of Idaho. That's the background of someone who could be president of the United States at any moment after next January.

Who does John McCain think he's kidding? And what on earth was he thinking? This was a rash, impulsive, reckless pick. We have no idea where it's headed - and i wouldn't hazard a wild guess what we will have found out about Palin in a week's time. Maybe it will win some votes from evangelicals. Maybe Palin will reveal herself as something more than a former sportscaster who can deliver a speech. But it shows a deep unseriousness about governing the most powerful nation on earth at a time of great peril.

If you thought a president who went to war on flawed intelligence with no plan for the aftermath was reckless, then I have news for you. You haven't seen anything yet. Imagine the kind of decision-making McCain has just demonstrated applied to life-and-death decisions with respect to Iran and Russia.

Yes, you have permission to be afraid.


ogre said...

Similar vein to my recent posting.

McCain's admiral grandfather died at 61--came home in 1945 from the war and died the next day. Exhausted and worn out is the presumption--and the way it's been portrayed by Sen. McCain--from doing his job.

McCain's father died at 70 (on a military flight from Europe).

Women tend to live longer, and the attempt to suggest that his mother has bequeathed him her lifespan is, well, laughable.

He's a male, and his male line wouldn't suggest that he's likely to be especially long-lived. He's got a hellacious medical record that wouldn't either. 5.5 years of severe medical neglect, abuse and malnutrition... has an effect. And statistically, his recurrent cancer shouldn't make anyone feel that his mother's lifespan means much for him; he's not likely to get to live out his natural life before cancer gets him.

That may sound hard, but it's a personal observation; I watched my mother--who, based on her familial lifespans (and her mother's, who died of cancer at almost 90) ought to have lived to 90 or longer. She died at 63. Cancer, despite a far more gentle and judicious life than Sen. McCain.

Palin is thus a nominee who MUST be looked at as having a very high probability of entering the presidency due to McCain's health. And on that basis, she's simply not prepared. That McCain would make such a choice is irresponsible.

But that's a pattern of his. His memoir states that he likes to make decisions fast, and that he's often regretted his hasty decisions, but that he doesn't complain about them. In this case, McCain wouldn't be--we would be the ones suffering his hastiness.

goodwolve said...

He chose her because he "is his own man". Rove wanted Mitt Romney, he really wanted Lieberman (but the conservative "base" wouldn't stand for that), so he chose Palin.

It is a bit like a little kid in a candy store who's mom says to pick something healthy. The kid wants a Snickers, but the mom wants him to get trail mix, so he ends up with black licorice... something only a few people really like.