Saturday, August 30, 2008

Northern Exposure?

In selecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for VPOTUS, the McCain campaign has made a bold and risky move. Ed Morrissey provides one of the better summaries of the relevant issues that I have found. Some quick thoughts:

For the GOP's socially conservative wing, she's pretty much all up-side. Can't say I'm overjoyed by this aspect of her portfolio, but it does shore up some pretty leaky hull plates on McCain's starboard beam. Still, I remain confident that a McCain/Palin Administration will be no more successful in bringing about the much-touted Theocratic Revolution than 8 years of Bush/Cheney were supposed to have visited upon us (even with long-standing majorities in congress which Mac and Palin are highly unlikely to enjoy). I am anything but a SoCon, yet I still can't bring myself to become terribly exercised about this, even as it leaves a rather acrid taste in my mouth.

I am very pleased indeed at the prospect of a woman rising to such a lofty height in our society, and much credit should go to McCain for so decisively putting to bed the Old White Guy monopoly on the top tier of the Executive Branch. Hillary came tantalizingly close, and while I think that having her as a President would have been a very unfortunate development for this nation, it would nonetheless have served as an inspiration for girls and women everywhere. Imagine the pressure that having a woman in such a high office would place on the retrograde patriarchal societies with which we must deal!

Palin's lack of experience on the National (let alone the International) stage can be seen as a genuine vulnerability. But, as many commentators have pointed out, that criticism cuts both ways; it would be awkward in the extreme for Obama supporters and surrogates to make too much of this matter of experience, given the degree to which they have strained to make this very weakness into a strength for their guy. Palin's resume is quite favorably comparable to that of Obama himself, only she brings to the table a level of executive experience (as mayor, then governor) which exceeds that of anyone else on either ticket (though it is a legitimate question whether McCain's military command experience serves as a suitable stand-in for executive credentials in government). Palin has a proven track record of working successfully for some very risky reforms within her home state, taking on the entrenched and corrupt bigwigs of her own party and scoring approval ratings which would be the envy of any governor in the Union.

Biden's much-vaunted experience, by contrast, inspires anything but confidence. He has been a deeply dug-in Washington Insider for decades, and has accumulated a very substantial body of work for us to examine. Therein lies his putative strength but also his greatest weakness. Imagine what mischief Saddam would have wrought if Biden's vote against Gulf War 1 had carried the day, and Kuwait had gone unliberated. Think also of what would have transpired if, having voted for the authorization for the use of force against a dangerously intransigent Saddam regime, he had then successfully de-funded the war effort. What would Iraq look like today if the US had adopted his breathtakingly ill-considered (and arrogant) scheme to partition that nation into separate sectarian regions, then pull out Coalition troops during the very throes of the AQI-ignited sectarian bloodbath, or if the troop surge in support of the spectacularly successful COIN strategy had been denied, as Biden voted. Biden seems an affable enough bloke, and I strongly suspect that he genuinely means well. But his track record is an albatross onto which Palin need only shine a steady light.

The steadiness of that light, however, is as yet an unknown quantity. While the great hubbub about the "bullying" of Hillary during the primaries will buy Palin a certain amount of slack in her VP debate and in her treatment by the press in general, that slack will be finite and she will be she should be. How she will hold up under the onslaught of a National campaign has yet to be determined, though timidity and indecisiveness have not been hallmarks of her political comportment thus far!

In any case, McCain's choice for his running mate is a fascinating one, and one which indicates that he is still someone who is willing and able to roll some great big dice and think way outside the box. It was a canny and courageous move which will make for an enormously entertaining race. Whatever the outcome, we will all owe the Big Mac at least that.

EDITED TO ADD: ...How Palin handles herself in matters of foreign policy is going to bear very close watching. Her socially conservative views, again, will have little bearing on the real (as opposed to histrionically predicted) policies enacted in the country, so long as there are veto-resistant Democratic majorities in both houses of congress (which is likely to be the case for a while). How she conceptualizes, articulates, and debates the key issues on the geopolitical front is going to have everything to do with my feelings on her selection. Foreign policy (especially as regards waging the Long War) is the crucial issue for me, since it bears on the fundamental role of the Federal Government: minding the security of the Nation's interests at home and abroad. If she's on-target there, I am wiling to overlook much.

My feeling on this is that she will acquit herself quite well in interviews, pressers, and the one debate (!) she'll have with her counterpart, and will swiftly ramp up to presidential levels of competence on the relevant issues; she strikes me as a quick study. But, as ever, I am prepared to be disappointed.

It will be amusing, though, to watch the MSM hop all over any perceived stumble by Sarah, after having given such a free pass to Obama's very public struggles up the learning curve.

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