August 29, 2008

Re: Sarah Palin

Carroll Andrew Morse

Since Matt Jerzyk of Rhode Island’s Future has said it as directly as anyone, and since there’s no doubting his sincere belief that Barack Obama is eminently qualified to hold the office of President, I’ll use his reaction as an example of what's being heard from the Democrats on the selection of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee…

Can YOU imagine Sarah Palin one hearbeat away from the White House.
So let me make sure I understand. A 47 year-old man, who first won statewide office in 2004, but has no executive experience is clearly qualified to be President, while a 44 year-old woman who first won statewide EXECUTIVE office in 2006 clearly is not.

Is it the two years that make the difference? Or is the Democrats' problem with Governor Palin what Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton suggested, when he decided her origins rather than her current job were more important in criticizing the selection…

Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,
…i.e. if you’re not from a city, there’s no place for you in national politics?

Or is there some other double standard that I'm completely missing in play?

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Nice collection and analysis. it's always best when you can dispute a person with his/her own words.

McCain / Palin '08

Posted by: JackD at August 29, 2008 4:24 PM

" A 47 year-old man, who first won statewide office in 2004,"

Ummm.. don't you mean won NATIONAL office in 2004? He won "statewide" office in 1997.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at August 29, 2008 4:52 PM

John McCain's first important presidential decision was one driven by politics purely. It is an electoral gambit, and has nothing at all to do with governing. She is a trophy running mate. Does anyone believe that she would have been the pick if she were a man?

Compared to Obama's pick especially, this demonstrates that McCain is far more interested in winning this election than he is concerned about what is best for the country.

As for the electoral argument, to the extent this pick takes the experience issue off of the table, that is a disaster for McCain.

Posted by: Pragmatist at August 29, 2008 5:19 PM

John McCain's first important presidential decision was one driven by politics purely. It is an electoral gambit, and has nothing at all to do with governing. She is a trophy running mate. Does anyone believe that she would have been the pick if she were a man?

Compared to Obama's pick especially, this demonstrates that McCain is far more interested in winning this election than he is concerned about what is best for the country.

As for the electoral argument, to the extent this pick takes the experience issue off of the table, that is a disaster for McCain.

Posted by: Pragmatist at August 29, 2008 5:22 PM

But McCain has repeatedly beaten down the experience argument and said that whoever is in charge needs to be ready on day one. The VP is one step away from becoming the president. So either McCain believes that experience is crucial or that he believes that you learn as you go.

So yes, the double standard sits with McCain right now.

Posted by: george at August 29, 2008 5:27 PM

umm.. sorry to have to clarify, but I got thrown off by the term "statewide".

Obama won *state office* (state senate) in 1997 and served seven years, winning *NATIONAL* office in 2004 (in a *statewide election*). He has never held a "statewide office*.

Palin won *statewide* office (governor) in 2006.

Not trying to make any point about the value of their relative experience except to point out that United States Senator is not a statewide office and does bring with it at least some national experience (including foreign affairs), just as you say Governor brings executive experience.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at August 29, 2008 5:39 PM

She believes in the sanctity of life.
She fights govenment waste and porkbarrell spending.
She believes taxes should be lower.
She supports the second amendment.

No one endears his or him self more to me than a Republican who fights corrupt Republicans.

I predict she will quickly become a national force for the GOP. This is the best news we've had in a very long time.

Nit pick as they may, she's got this over Obama and Biden (and McCain for that matter) -- she's got 8 years of executive experience OUTSIDE Washington!

Posted by: George at August 29, 2008 5:52 PM

Clarification for any College Democrats who might be reading: obviously I meant his or herself in my comment above.

Posted by: George at August 29, 2008 5:55 PM

One of Hillary's biggest virtues was her ability to break the "glass ceiling."

Why doesn't the same apply to Palin?

What "experience" did Bill Clinton have before he became President? Bill Clinton had much the same experience as Palin, he was the government of a second tier state.

Hypocrisy on the left is nothing new.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at August 29, 2008 6:01 PM


The constiutency that votes in a U.S. Senate election is an entire state; it is therefore a statewide office. It is also a Federal office.


The selection of Palin demonstrates that McCain is more interested in the election than the country no more than the selection of Barack Obama says the same thing about the Democratic Party as a whole, unless there is some hard boundary in the vicinity of 2 - 3 1/2 years where a statewide office holder moves from being "inexperienced" to "expericenced". And how is Palin less qualified than someone like Tim Kaine who was given serious consideration by the Dems?

Posted by: Andrew at August 29, 2008 6:07 PM


I'm thinking Andrew means 'statewide' as in he was elected by the entire state and not just a portion of it. This relates to his ability to win a national election meaning the entire nation makes the selection. In that sense, every US Senator wins a 'statewide' race.

Posted by: don roach at August 29, 2008 6:26 PM

Err, "governor."

Posted by: Citizen Critic at August 29, 2008 6:34 PM

Andrew and Citizen Critic:

I take your points, but remain uncomfortable with the formulation. Andrew's post sets up the following comparison:

Palin=2 years statewide office PLUS executive experience

Obama=4 years statewide office WITHOUT executive experience.

That's just wrong and, though I'm sure Andrew didn't intend it, it sounds dishonest. It ignores that Obama's office for the last 4 years is a NATIONAL office with the attendant national responsibilities and experience.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at August 29, 2008 6:59 PM

The liberals can split hairs over what constitutes "experience". However you want to define it, McCain has it and Obama does not, and people don't elect vice-presidents.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at August 29, 2008 7:39 PM

Mr.Schmeling-Obama's senate experience of something under 4 years is diluted by his having been preoccupied by campaigning for at least 18 months-and I'm being generous here because he had to have done some serious prep work before that.
Gov.Palin wasn't diverted from her duties so she had 2 years of solid executive experience,and she was a mayor before that-okay,not a major city,but it still was executive experience in government.
I lived in Illinois for 8 years and the state Senate there is packed with the same types of hacks and unethical shysters that populate the RI Senate.I'm not saying Obama fit that mold,but the milieu was third rate at best.
Jerzyk has already started throwing dirt in his blog.What a surprise.he must have a photo of Keith Olbermann or James Carville on his wall.
Biden has picked up enough baggage in 36 years in the Beltway to sink a bulk cargo carrier.

Posted by: joe bernstein at August 29, 2008 7:41 PM

I think it's way too early to determine whether Gov. Palin's selection was a brilliant tactic or a foolish risk.

I don't really question her qualifications to step in for Pres. McCain should the need arise . . . she's been a Mayor and Governor and she's the mother of five kids -- you think she's gonna confront something in the White House that she can't handle?

I'm more dubious about her ability to navigate smoothly through the short-run national campaign that lies ahead in the next two months, given her lack of national political experience.

The first job of a VP candidate is to help the ticket win. The best VP candidates in my memory -- Mondale in '76, Bush in '80, and Cheney in '00 -- all had substantial experience in high-level jobs or campaigns.

Have Gov. Palin's political battles in her home state prepared her for what she now faces?

I certainly hope so, but I have no idea.

Posted by: brassband at August 29, 2008 7:53 PM

Ya know... Thinking it over, if you flipped the Republican ticket, you'd have me.

Posted by: Greg at August 29, 2008 9:54 PM

Hey, Palin has it all over Obama on foreign policy, according to Steve Doocy from Fox & Friends, an impeccable source if ever there was.
Steve's right - Palin's stronger on foreign policy because she lives much closer to Russia than Obama does.

Posted by: rhody at August 29, 2008 10:02 PM

Yeah Rhody, but Obama's real tight with William Charles Ayers. I'd say, keeping with your line of sarcasm, being that close to an anti-american makes him better qualified than someone who lives so close to a foriegn country.

Posted by: George at August 29, 2008 10:50 PM

Here is an interesting observation from an RI Future commentor:
"Let's face it - any white guy with Obama's experience would be a laughingstock"

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at August 29, 2008 10:56 PM


Check out the Corner at NRO today. Lots of excellent posts on the subject. Here is one I especially like:

""Simply great pick. The list is endless. Here’s just a few.

Every time the opposition claims she’s not experienced, it points right to the top of the Dem ticket.

She can’t be demonized. Dems succeed by stirring up hatred of their opposition, but it won’t work with Palin. It would be like trying to demonize Kerry Walsh or Misty May Trainor.

She’s made her own way – a classic American success story, with no help from the “establishment”

She’ll completely disarm Biden in the debates. He won’t be able to attack her without a significant backlash. And every attack he attempts will drip of condescending Washington blowhard insiderism

You can’t get more “outside the Beltway” than Alaska.

She’ll really galvanize the pro-life community and is somewhat uniquely able to not just “preach to the choir” but to speak to the other side. She chose life, fully knowing the hardships that can come with a Down syndrome child. She walked the walk. It will touch the hearts of those who have chosen otherwise, or are thinking about it. It could really move the debate forward in a very positive, uplifting way. I am pro-life, but am off-put by some of the aggressive tactics of the pro-life community. In contrast, I am touched to the heart by this woman’s real-life choice of life for her young son. I suspect I will not be alone.""

Posted by: Chuck at August 29, 2008 11:25 PM

Palin is an unbelievably good pick. Everyone I've talked to today has been anywhere from elated to giddy -- I mean like 100% approval. We don't get that on anything.

As for this from your original post:

"Can YOU imagine Sarah Palin one heartbeat away from the White House."

Yes! Which is why I'm thrilled by the choice. I've actually researched her in the past, but I though she was a real dark horse (and I was right). She has considerable real-life experience, which I think a lot of Americans -- especially women -- will be able to relate to. She didn't have to plagiarize her biography, unlike another VP candidate. She's the only candidate on both tickets with any executive experience. She also has 13 years experience in elective office (city council, mayor, governor). That's actually more than Obama. ;)

Let's put it all out there. Let's say that Senator McCain is elected President this November, and a year or two into his term, he has the "big one" -- then what do we have? Conservatives have "one of their own" in the White House, and American women have the first female President. That's not a risk, that's what I call an insurance policy.

On a similar note, John McCain turned 72 on Friday. If he is elected President, in 4 years, he would be 76 (I'm a math whiz, you know). I think it fairly unlikely that he would seek reelection in 2012, which puts Gov. Palin in excellent position to be elected President in 2012 (perhaps running against Hillary?). That just may be the reason why he chose her, because in many ways, she would continue where he left off.

PS As for the quote: "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency," the Obama campaign may need to be reminded that most people in America live in those small towns, not in New York or Los Angeles. I'm really enjoying this.

Posted by: Will at August 30, 2008 12:38 AM

Palin has more experience than Obama. She's managed budgets, executive agencies and held positions in the private sector.

I think it was ABC that reported Obama's total time in the U.S. Senate consisted of 140 working days when you subtract recesses and time on the campaign trail.

Given the similarity in experience between Sarah and Obama, the difference between how the two came to power is noteworthy. Obama kowtowed to people like William Ayers to move up the political hierarchy. Palin took on corruption in her party to move up the Alaska political hierarchy.

If Palin isn't qualified to be VP, then Obama is certainly unqualified to be President.

Of course, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden already told us that in the primary.

Posted by: Anthony at August 30, 2008 2:13 AM

Andrew et al.,

Perhaps you should read Ramesh Ponnuru at NR Online for an honest conservative take on Palin. "Governor for two minutes" etc. etc.

So your argument Andrew is that it is not legit to raise Palin's lack of experience because of Obama's? Ok, then, objectively speaking, is she ready?

No. On another note, has she ever -- even once -- made a single comment about the war in Iraq? The war on terror? NATO? China? Anything? Bueller? Bueller?

Obama may not have been on the national scene for long, but his views are out in the public sphere for all to judge. Oh, and by the way, he was right about Iraq from the beginning. And foreign policy expert McCain has 4,000 lives to answer for. Oh yeah, where exactly is Osama these days? Are we still celebrating a mission accomplished?

This was a disasterous pick.

Posted by: Pragmatist at August 30, 2008 3:14 AM


You're always going to find curmudgeons if you go looking for them. That someone like you is denigrating the pick is proof enough that it was a great pick.

As for:

"[Obama]was right about Iraq from the beginning."

That depends on what you mean by right. Obama wasn't even in the Senate when he made his anti-war speech. It'd be the equivalent of Theresa Paiva-Weed giving a foreign policy speech and being taken seriously (on second though, Weed has far more experience than Obama).

"And foreign policy expert McCain has 4,000 lives to answer for."

Then, by your own standard, so does Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, and every other member of Congress which voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. McCain was the one who demanded that the Bush Administration modify it's then failing policy -- and it worked.

"Oh yeah, where exactly is Osama these days?"

Probably in the same cave in Pakistan where he's been the last 7 years. Do you suggest invading Pakistan and starting World War 3. Please, do tell.

"Are we still celebrating a mission accomplished?"

I think most of the mission has been accomplished, and McCain deserves a lot of credit for pushing for success and not defeat. The mission is clearly moving from a combat operation, to one of stabilization and support.

Posted by: Will at August 30, 2008 3:46 AM

The ad that was run by McCain during the Democratic Convention about Hillary Clinton being left off the ticket by the Democrats telegraphed McCain's intention to put forward a woman,in this case Governor Palin. It's rumored that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson was also being considered.
There's a historical precedence for purely political considerations in the Vice Presidential selection usually with an eye towards winning large electoral states. So the heartbeat away from the presidency argument is not as important as some seem to think. Lyndon Johnson was elected as President after finishing the term of Kennedy and history sees his selection as VP to have been politically inspired. Gerald Ford of course had been a replacement for the disgraced VP of Richard Nixon and the country muddled through the time that Ford served as President after Nixon resigned. Ford had been forced on Nixon by the Republicans in Congress. Hell the country was strong enough to endure the eight years of the Reagan Presidency so we should not be as concerned about these Vice presidential choices in regards to the experience of lack of experience that they bring. What I find funny about the conservative reaction is their delight in the fact that Palin is "outside the Beltway" One of the comments here states that Alaska is as far from the Beltway as one can get or something like that forgetting that Sen. Ted Stevens of course is from Alaska and seemed to have also been familiar with the Beltway and the ways of Washington. Being familiar with Washington is of course what Governor Palin will have to do if elected. This is one area that the question of experience seems to more of a risk for McCain. The last two Vice Presidents (Gore and Cheney) were helpful to their respective administrations. Both men had knowledge of government and Washington.Maybe this is a choice meant entirely to help win the election and not one meant to help govern. I don't think unbiased observers could make that claim about the Democrats.

Posted by: Phil at August 30, 2008 8:44 AM

In modern times, the most common pathways to the Presidency have been via statewide office, either Senator or Governor. There is no historical basis for suggesting that being a Senator counts for more than being a Governor, just because the Senate job is Federal.

Look at who's actually been elected President from 1960 onward, the first time each President won an election. We've had 3 sitting Governors (Carter, Clinton, Bush II), 1 former Governor (Reagan), 1 sitting Senator (Kennedy), 1 sitting President via the Vice-Presidency via the Senate (Johnson), 1 former Vice-President via the Senate (Nixon) and 1 sitting Vice-President without previous statewide office (Bush I).

For the last half-century, American voters have not seen "Senate experience" as the most important quality a Presidential candidate can possess. (This point becomes even more obvious, when you consider how many Senators have lost to non-Senators).

If we expand out to Presidential & Vice-Presidential winners, the numbers are 6 sitting Senators (Kennedy '60, Johnson '60, Humphrey '64, Mondale '80, Quayle '88, Gore '92), 4 Sitting Governors (Agnew '68, Carter '80, Clinton '92, Bush II '00), 1 Former Governor (Reagan '80), 1 sitting President via the Vice-Presidency via the Senate (Johnson '64), 1 former Vice-President via the Senate (Nixon '68), 1 sitting Vice-President without previous statewide office (Bush I '88), 2 other non-Senator/non-Governors (Bush I '80, Cheney '00). American voters have accepted the idea it's good to add some Washington "balance" to a ticket, in the #2 slot, in the form of a Senator, but that line of reasoning doesn't have much application when the #1 guy is a long-time Senator.

Obama is in his 4th year as a U.S. Senator. The other Senate terms (not involving time as VP) on the list above are 6, 8, 8, 12, 12, and 16 years. Palin is in her 2nd year as Alaska Governor. The other Gubernatorial terms on the list are 2, 4, 6, 8 and 12 years. Both candidates, if elected, would become the low entries on their lists. To suggest that the Obama meets some kind of historically proven minimum experience requirement, while Palin is unacceptably inexperienced, requires invoking an ahistorical double standard.

Posted by: Andrew at August 30, 2008 10:45 AM

Obama WAS WRONG about Iraq.

If Obama had been elected president in 2000, we'd still be dealing with Saddam Hussein. If Obama had been elected in 2004, we would have handed Iraq over to al-Qaeda at the height of their power.

Despite Obama's "emphasis" on Afghanistan, he never held a single hearing on Afghanistan, even though his subcommittee had jurisdiction on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Maybe he never had the time, because Obama has only spent about 140 working DAYS in the Senate.

Would I feel comfortable with Palin walking in as president? No, not really. But she's more qualified than Obama and he's is the one running for president.


Posted by: Anthony at August 30, 2008 10:49 AM

Phil-Here's a thought-McCain doesn't need a coach/mentor to explain the workings of Washington DC-he could be a good one,though.Obama may have felt he needed one.

Posted by: joe bernstein at August 30, 2008 2:04 PM

Nice Summary, Andrew.

"There is no historical basis for suggesting that being a Senator counts for more than being a Governor, just because the Senate job is Federal."

Agreed. Is somebody arguing otherwise?

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at August 30, 2008 3:42 PM

If anybody here has seen "Pulp Fiction," I'd like to offer the advice Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel) gave Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson), something that applies to the conservative glee over McCain's VP pick.
"Don't start (phrase which Justin would prefer not be used in this forum) yet."

Posted by: rhody at August 30, 2008 11:11 PM

The Shock Of Palin
31 Aug 2008 10:22 am
Non-movement conservatives may well have this reaction:
I’ve voted a straight Republican ticket every year of my life since 1975, when I first came of voting age, but I was stunned and horrified by McCain’s choice of Palin. I simply cannot even consider voting for McCain after this choice, which speaks loudly of his own selfishness and fundamental frivolousness.
So I was shocked when I turned to the conservative blogs looking for others who shared my dismay and found a celebration going on. They really honestly believe that Palin’s “inexperience” and Obama’s “inexperience” are equivalent. I have had no luck at all in the past 24 hours trying to explain that Obama is quite obviously an impressive man (with whom I disagree on almost every major issue) with extraordinary qualities of organization, discipline and leadership. I see nothing in Palin’s record to suggest that she has any such qualities.
He is a man who has spent his adult life thinking serious thoughts about serious issues and having serious conversations about them with other serious, well-informed people; while Palin quite as clearly has done none of those things. He was the president of the Harvard Law Review; she was the point guard on her high school basketball team.
He has surrounded himself in his campaign with world-class people (with whom, again, I disagree on almost every issue); and though I am doubtless an elitist and snob for saying so, I doubt that she has even met a half-dozen world-class people in her lifetime.
While Obama might do a hundred things as President that I believe are bad for the country, I am confident that he would surround himself with experienced, informed, competent advisors and that he would make no world-destroying blunders. I cannot say the same about Palin and, in view of what this choice reveals about McCain’s character and judgement, I cannot say the same of him either.

The Palin pick says much more about McCain than it does about Palin (all it says about her is that she didn't have the good sense to turn it down). What it says about McCain is that he is more interested in politics than policy, more interested in campaigning than governing, tactical when he should be strategic, and reckless when he should be considered.
He is as big a gamble as president as Palin is as vice-president. This decision was about gut, about politics, about cynicism, and about vanity. It's Bushism metastasized.

- Andrew Sullivan

Posted by: Richard at August 31, 2008 12:00 PM

Andrew Sullivan supported Bill Clinton, John Kerry, endorsed Ron Paul, supports abortion and once attempted to promote the idea that race and intelligence were linked.

I don't think his views reflect the views of many conservatives or moderates, but many be indicative of a small group of libertarians.

Beyond that, I'd suggest to you that Sullivan's writings suggest a bias against people who aren't a part of the left-leaning intelligensia.

His statement about fellow Harvard alum Obama having demonstrated "leadership" by virtue of the fact the he was editor of the Harvard Law Review as a student is laughable.

Palin was chairwoman of the Alaksa state agency that oversaw the multi-BILLION dollar oil industry and pressured the oil companies to create new jobs.

She is governor of a state with a $40 billion economy, far larger than Rhode Island's.

What has Obama ever managed? I don't know the amount of Harvard Law Review's budget, but my guess is that it wasn't more than $100K.

How many jobs has Obama created? None.

Obama doesn't have any foreign policy experience, but he doesn't have any energy/economic development experience. Palin does.

She has significant energy experience and has created new jobs. Combined with McCain vast experience and history of being right on foreign policy issues, they make an incredible ticket.

Obama has neither the experience nor the judgment to be President.

Posted by: Anthony at August 31, 2008 1:54 PM


An accurate, though not necessarily complete, answer to your question above is "Richard".

Posted by: Andrew at August 31, 2008 4:23 PM
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