Monday, September 1, 2008

The GOP candidates ...

Governor Sarah Palin is a surprising VP pick in more ways than one. However, her relative inexperience could lull people into underestimating her, which could be a mistake.

She has negotiated the extraordinarily corrupt Alaskan system for many years (first as mayor of a town with about 4000 to 8000 people, then, for the last two years as Governor of the state), which is commendable, and at the very least, suggests she's an extremely astute politician (perhaps the fact that she has relatively little to lose helped).

She has clearly brought good luck to the campaign, with Hurricane Gustav providing the excuse to get Bush and Cheney off the GOP convention agenda, which must be a huge a relief to McCain and distressing to Obama.

She is a pretty good speaker. An example of her effectiveness is this speech she gave after her gubernatorial election.

After taking office, she was responsible for signing the deal with TransCanada for a gas pipeline. The deal is interesting, because of some of its terms. For instance, it offers a $500MM subsidy to TransCanada. There is also some debate about whether building a pipeline to Alberta, CA was consistent with putting "Country First". This is likely to be spun by both sides. The GOP will sure tout her independence from Big Oil and her executive experience. The Democrats will point out she just shipped US jobs abroad and gave a handout to the oil companies (giving subsidies like this to oil companies is pretty normal, but seems extraordinary in a year when so many people are likely to be in foreclosure).

On the other hand, she apparently got her passport only a year ago. Has not really traveled around the country.

She has several right wing views that directly contradict McCain's. She believes creationism and is pro teaching of 'intelligent design' in school. She believes that all forms of stem cell research should be banned. She believes that global warming is not man made.

She takes an extreme view that abortion should not be offered to rape victims, and should only be offered if the mother's life is in danger. This is from an Anchorage Daily News article on the Alaska gubernatorial debate:

The candidates were pressed on their stances on abortion and were even asked what they would do if their own daughters were raped and became pregnant.

Palin said she would support abortion only if the mother's life was in danger. When it came to her daughter, she said, "I would choose life."

Sum total, if her daughter is raped, Sarah Palin intends to make her bear the rapist's child.

And this is from the Juneau Empire:

Palin, however, isn't interested in talking about her views.

"She would not seek out this issue. She feels like there are several other issues that are paramount to the future of the state," said Curtis Smith, spokesman for the Palin campaign.

Smith said Palin is opposed to abortion, but believes an exception should be made if the health of the mother is in danger.

That's the only exception Palin would make, though, Smith said.

"She doesn't make exception for rape and incest, only for health of the mother," he said.

There is slight nuance here. A health exception could include something that would consider the quality of health of the mother. A life exception is only if the mother's life is in danger. Palin herself advocated the latter. So, if a pregnancy would only, say threaten the mother's ability to bear more children, I assume her answer would be it should not be terminated.

By the way, she also opposes all forms of birth control, including hormonal treatment, condoning only traditional Bible approved approaches. She has advocated criminalizing abortion and banning birth control.

Many conservatives are echoing a view that Geraldine Ferraro expresses, that smart people can learn the issues on the job. However, consider the contrast between the reaction to the two candidates. In Obama's case, he was considered inexperienced despite literally pages of opinions expressed by him on virtually every major national issue dating back, in some cases, more than a decade. In Sarah Palin's case, there is almost nothing on most issues of note, apart from social issues and a few issues that affect Alaskan's. The most astonishingly creative explanation for her experience on foreign policy was Michael Barone who notes, "Alaska is the only state with a border with Russia. And it is the only state with territory, in the Aleutian Islands, occupied by the enemy in World War II."

As a campaign ploy, this is brilliant. It means that she can morph into whatever position McCain wants to occupy. As a former beauty queen pageant, she should have the poise to carry it off. However, it reminds me of the movie The Dead Zone. In the movie, Christopher Walken's character has a premonition about an up and coming star politician (Martin Sheen) who he realizes would plunge the world into a needless nuclear war. In this case, similarly, the US is faced with selecting a VP whose views on most subjects are completely unknown. In fact, in most of these cases, she has probably never thought about the issues at all, and will rely on her advisers. It will be a complete roll of the dice.

It was interesting to note Geraldine Ferraro's unwillingness to endorse Obama was telling of the resentment some Hillary supporters feel. In her case, she is still smarting for having been called a racist. However, the analysis she repeats in the interview, while factually correct, ignores a larger reality. Obama does get 90&+ of the Black vote (although, he got substantially less at the beginning of his campaign and it increased to nearly 100% by the end). However, not even ALL the black votes alone would have won him the election, when Hillary was receiving more votes than any other candidate in history. In fact, Obama led Hillary among every demographic under 45. Its only in the over 45 population that Hillary made it up, by winning both the majority of women and the majority of white working class men. The big divide in the election was age, not race.

It is this fact that McCain may be attempting to address by selecting an even younger and attractive running mate. It may, after all, be what helped Palin to win the position over her more qualified female conservative counterparts.

Meanwhile, McCain is busy reinventing himself. This site is liberal and so biased. However, a look at the sources suggests that even adjusting for the bias, McCain has clearly flip flopped on virtually everything imaginable. He has been very maverick is cavalierly moving from moderate positions to a completely right wing one. As Michael Kinsley so eloquently points out in connection with the experience issue, all this raises the question which John McCain should we believe? Either way, as Michael Kinsley puts it, one of them is, what's the word I'm looking for ... ahh, lying!

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