John McCain waited until after Barack Obama’s speech to make a superbly-timed announcement of his vice-presidential pick.
Unfortunately for him, he undermined what were his best arguments against Obama with that choice.
Sarah Palin is the first-term governor of Alaska, a large, oil-rich state with a small population, and she’s even younger than Obama. Her only political experience before beating the previous Republican governor, Frank Murkowski, in a primary in 2006 was being mayor of Walsilla.
Palin is a mother of five, including one son who’s off to Iraq and another, just born, with Down syndrome. She is staunchly pro-life and considered a Christian conservative, but, rather obviously, is a high-profile working mother.
She campaigned on ethics reform and is considered (much like McCain) a party maverick. She is also seen as a break from ethically-challenged Alaska Republicans like Senator Ted Stevens. However, Palin is under investigation herself for possibly having abused her office to get her former brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, fired from his job as a state trooper, according to the Wall Street Journal. She supports drilling as energy policy, and her husband is a longtime BP employee, but he’s a blue-collar type. Palin has also threatened to evict ExxonMobil and its partners from their drilling rights to publicly held oilfields.
This woman is quite a contradiction, seen at once as a sop to the religious right who have not quite come around to McCain and as outreach to disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters who value biological sex over a record on the issues.
Since the Clintons are being lauded for their support for Obama during the Democratic convention, perhaps the McCain camp decided that only the most blatant pandering would do. “Find me a minority!” – A friend of mine joked on McCain’s strategy.
When she spoke yesterday, Palin echoed Clinton’s words about “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.” I did feel a tiny spark of cheer just then. Even if McCain gets into office, he will bring a woman along into the second-highest office in the land.
But just any woman isn’t good enough for this Obama supporter through the primaries, and it certainly shouldn’t be enough now.
Palin has high approval ratings in Alaska, but no foreign policy experience (though Steve Doocy made the ridiculous comment that she does have experience since Alaska is next to Russia, ha ha) and only two years in office, thereby negating McCain’s favorite argument that Barack Obama is “not ready” to be president. By choosing Palin, McCain’s saying that she in fact is ready to be president. He’s also leaving open the (extremely sexist, but you know someone’s going to go there) route of the celebrity jibes, since Palin was once a beauty queen.
Guess there go the ads that compare Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Even though the attempts to at once feminize him and paint him as a shallow dilettante are offensive already, there’s no need to tempt some of the less scrupulous PACs on the Democratic side to turn those arguments around on Palin, though it could send even more of the PUMA-types running into McCain’s camp anyway. But does anybody really need the PUMA-types on their side?
So, suddenly, experience doesn’t matter. What arguments does McCain have left? Even Bush and the Iraqi government have suddenly embraced Obama’s 16-month timetable for leaving Iraq. McCain has to hope that the bump he gets from having a woman on the ticket will counteract his sudden inability to criticize Obama’s age and experience and strategy.
There is the idea that nominating Palin reaches out to the conservative religious types—but are arch-conservative Christians going to like having a woman in power?
And how is Rush Limbaugh going to deal with a vice-presidential pick who identifies as a feminist, even if she is a “Feminist for Life”?
Now, the most offensive thing I’ve heard on Palin so far was the comment on NPR today that perhaps Joe Biden will have to take it easy on Palin in the vice-presidential debates because she’s a woman and he might be seen as bullying. Not terribly feminist, if you ask me—if I’m tough enough to run for office, I’m tough enough to argue with the men, and this applies to all women. Hillary Clinton sure didn’t need anyone to take it easy on her—she roughed her opponents up right and left.
Palin is a mixed bag, for sure, a combination of good and bad for all concerned. She is a young, smart, successful woman, but one whose beliefs lead her to support policies that are not in the least pro-woman.
It has been pointed out before that many real people will be hurt and killed by policies that McCain has proposed. Is it worth four more years of war and possibly more pro-life justices on the Supreme Court to have a person with two X chromosomes on the ballot? How many women will suffer if we vote only to put a middle-class anti-choice white woman in a position of power?
Nice try, McCain. But this feminist isn’t biting.