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Sarah Palin

Let’s make McCain’s veep thread formal. In one light, Sarah Palin appears to fill the upright-citizen-doing-public-service-right role well. If maintaining the appearance of independence is what you care about such that you believe bipartisanship to be an end in itself, then you should be disposed to like her. (You might not choose her to be your vice president, but what you might or might not do is irrelevant.)

But on considering the rest of her, the best I can hope is that my suspicion is correct: McCain chose Palin for her symbolic value, not her effective power, and, were McCain to win in November, neither the wonkish Al-Gore-type vice presidency nor the shadow presidency Dick Cheney has enjoyed would appear in his administration.

Palin’s record is that of advocating for Alaskan interests—as any governor should. But that advocacy will conflict with John McCain’s favorite ride at the fair, Congressional pork. Even after it became a national laughingstock, she favored Ted Stevens’s famous “Bridge to Nowhere,” but she eventually dropped her support—much to Ketchikan’s consternation. Likewise, in her brief time as governor she has already run up against McCain’s second favorite ride, ethics. Perhaps technically, no wrong was done in the attempts to get her sister’s ex-husband fired (and the guy sounds like a real winner, let me tell you), but the first step in abusing power is often taken in the course of doing a favor for a friend.

Worse, although she has fewer ties to the oil industry than George Bush or Dick Cheney and she has been willing to assert that it is not the public’s duty to ensure to oil companies’ profit margins, nevertheless she is decidedly in favor of environmental exploitation. Never mind that she hates bears so much that she uses their carcasses for furniture.

Photo credit Anchorage Daily News/MCT—Landov, via the New York Times

More significantly, she pushed hard to defeat a clean water initiative that conflicted with mining interests in Alaska. Similarly, she opposed protecting the 375 remaining beluga whales in the Cook Inlet because the protection might endanger the oil industry. While Palin may not yet be in the pockets of the oil, gas, and mining industries, she nevertheless invites them to dinner, serving wine, bear steaks, and chocolate soufflé. I recommend Grist’s summary of her environmental record, which will no doubt be developed in the coming weeks.

There is more to say about Palin, and I will surely spend more time doing so, but for now, an observation: Conventional wisdom is that the selection of a vice presidential nominee is the first important choice a presidential nominee makes. (I suspect that’s less true than it seems on the surface, but let’s abide by that fiction for now.) Barack Obama appears to have chosen Joe Biden as as a running mate because Biden complements him in terms of governance. Biden brings judgment and experience where Obama lacks. Moreover, if Obama wins the election, Biden can immediately become a well-known, well-liked, accomplished liaison between the President and the Senate, which will probably be as evenly divided next year as it is now. In other words, in addition to foreign policy chops, Biden brings Obama legislative maneuverability. By contrast, McCain seems to have chosen Palin because she complements him politically: He is weak in his appeal to social conservatives because they have always suspected him of being uncommitted to their values. Palin brings McCain a voting bloc because her commitment to “family values,” corporations, and other conservative planks is indisputable. However, because she is politically unknown and because her own accomplishments are similar to what McCain believes his accomplishments to be, she offers him little else.



Let’s make McCain’s veep thread formal.

How are we supposed to have a thread when you already talked about everything?

I didn’t say anything about family values!


Also, you didn’t say anything about the heroic travails of the wombs of the Palin family women.



is naming your child after van halen Trig Paxson Van Palin proof of questionable judgment?

Not proof, but it is evidence!

I know this is a longstanding tradition in American politics, but I think it is a shame that sex (and no even the sex she has) is the impetus for so much of the scrutiny Palin is currently getting. I’d much rather see that scrutiny land on her policies. More important by far, though, is what it says about how McCain makes decisions, and now Alaskans are questioning McCain’s vetting process. According to one prominent Republican:

Republican Gail Phillips, a former speaker of the Alaska House, said that she was shocked by McCain’s selection of Palin and told her husband, Walt, “This can’t be happening because his advance team didn’t come to Alaska to check her out.” She said she would’ve heard had someone been poking around.

“We’re not a very big state,” Phillips said. “People I talk to would’ve heard something.”

I think the the scrutiny probably would have come (and indeed already was coming) whether there were furitive babies or not. There’s enough to bludgeon the lady to death completely apart from family issues.

That’s probably true. It seems enough people in Alaska are coming out to make statements. And Caleb Crain has been doing yeoman’s work in compilation and analysis of the stories emerging. (And I don’t just say that because he linked here!) I haven’t had time yet to follow up, but there appears to be some solid reporting out today.

This might be what you were originally trying to say, but it seems like the pregnancy stuff is not so much the impetus for the scrutiny of her political career, but the delivery mechanism. A lot of these Palin scandals would be boring to low information voters, and they would never even register them. But now that the lurid stuff has their attention, they’ll also absorb the general sleaze in her political career.

Ugh, how lame is David Brooks? Did you see his last column on the Dem convention? It was the most petulant thing ever written by an adult.

His Weekly Standard roots show sometimes—that column was indeed awful—and other times he writes the fool. But he can also be a fair critic and a good reader of the moment, which allows him to turn in a good op-ed more than occasionally. I much prefer him to MoDowd.

well, part of it is the ad hominem nature of politics (which in his better moments obama talks of surpassing) but when a party has made sex (of any kind) part of the platform it’s hard to keep the sex lives of individuals out. especially when the governor herself has made such a big deal about her own sex-life…

but, from what i could gather on larry king (who interviewed james carville and rep. michelle bachman last night on the whole pseudo-scandal of bristol’s baby), it was the republicans who were forcing the issue. and when carville, like obama, wouldn’t bite, they then waved the gender flag and any honest critique of her lack of political experience (which palin herself touts—up until two years ago i was just a hockey mom) became patriarchy just trying to keep all women down.

one exchange went…

j.c. she’s not qualified to be a heart beat away from the president.

m.b. oh, i think she’s an extremely competent woman. look at her, how can you question whether she’s a competent woman…she was mayor of her town and now she’s governor. (a reference to the invisible woman and how men are going to try to pooh-pooh their experience and competence).

j.c. need i remind you that i went all out in support of a female candidate for president. i have nothing against women assume the executive role, it’s just that mayor of wasilla does not an executive make.

or something like that

Curtis Brainard at the Columbia Jouranalism Review has an excellent summary of current reporting on Palin’s environmental record. Especially informative are the connections between Palin’s policies compare and coming midnight regulations changes the Bush administration will be seeking.

This comparison between the two conventions is intriguing for what it suggests beyond the what is flashy: namely, the way the GOP convention shook out, Palin seems to have done very well at shifting attention away from McCain. Is it really possible for a veep nominee to continue to outshine the presidential nominee without hurting the long-term value of the ticket?

I notice too that Obama is beginning to emphasize Biden as an asset to governing, contrasting (not really that) subtly the difference between choosing a veep as part of the job and choosing a veep as part of the job application.