My good friend Wes left a comment on my entry reporting Governor Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) selection to be Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) Vice Presidential running mate in which he asked:
“What is your opinion on SenatorJohn McCain’s pick of Governor Sarah Palin for his running mate? I know this may be a loaded question, lol.”
It is a loaded question. Palin is certainly an intriguing and interesting choice. She has a pretty impressive (though short) resumé—in many respects, more so than Senator Barack Obama’s (D-IL) similarly short resumé. This is not a dig at Obama . . . as a 1st-term Senator he is really the ‘low man on the totem pole’ and doesn’t get to sponsor the big-name bills and such. That’s just because the Senate is based, mostly, on seniority, while executive positions (like the mayoral and gubernatorial roles Palin has played) get much more attention and can pad a political resumé much quicker.
Both Palin and Obama have been criticized (sometimes, humorously, by the other’s campaign organization) for their lack of experience or ill-preparedness for the office of President, but I really see ‘experience’ as a non-issue. Leadership is largely an innate quality—you either have it or you don’t—and an ‘inexperienced’ politician can easily surround themselves with ‘experienced’ aides and advisers and make good executive decisions just as well as an ‘experienced’ politician can. I’m much more concerned with basic qualities of leadership and, more importantly, policy (which will be the primary basis of my endorsements, which are coming later this month).
I think Palin helps McCain in three major ways:
- It reinforces his reputation as a ‘maverick’ who does his own thing and isn’t afraid to buck political convention. It also helps solidify his reputation as a ‘reformer’. Palin’s political leadership in Alaska really cleaned up a thoroughly corrupt state government within—quite literally—months of her taking office.
- It strengthens him some with the Republican base (the strong conservatives) who are not big fans of McCain, since McCain tends to be a centrist on some social and political issues. Palin is recognized as a strong social conservative and is more in-line with the Republican base.
- Perhaps most importantly to the McCain campaign, it gets him back in the news.
That third benefit shouldn’t be overlooked. Obama, whether you like him or not, has been the media darling throughout much of this political season and has received a disproportionate amount of general news coverage. I have written before about the mythical concept of journalistic neutrality, and I will defend a media outlet’s right to be biased, but it’s just been ‘over the top’ how much attention went to Obama and how little, in comparison, went to McCain or even to Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) during the Democratic primaries.
There’s been a lot of talk over the last few days about whether Palin was the right choice, whether she was properly vetted by the McCain campaign, revelations that Palin’s eldest daughter is an unmarried, pregnant teen, and so on. Personally, I think the McCain campaign is telling the truth when they say Palin was completely vetted and all these ‘revelations’ were known to the McCain campaign beforehand. In fact, I strongly suspect that the days-after-her-selection ‘revelation’ about her pregnant daughter was completely intentional. Why? It gives Palin, and—by extension—the McCain campaign the lead story on news programs, news papers, and news web sites. All publicity, as they say, is good publicity—especially when the media had largely been ignoring you.
So, all-in-all, Palin was probably a good choice. She is interesting, she has demonstrated leadership skill and a knack for rising above political corruption, and she gets people talking. I certainly don’t think her relative lack of experience in elective office (Wasilla City Council 1992-1996, Wasilla City Mayor 1996-2002, Alaska Governor 2006-present) is a real issue—any more than it is for Obama (Illinois State Senate 1997-2004, U.S. Senate 2005-present) or Clinton (U.S. Senate 2001-present).
It will certainly be interesting to watch the rest of the campaign. Thus far, the VP selections on either side (Palin for the Republicans, Senator Joe Biden [D-DE] for the Democrats) don’t really change the prediction I made almost two weeks ago. I still think, as we enter the home stretch, that McCain will likely pull ahead for a narrow victory over Obama buoyed by a strong advertising push (and you could probably count Palin’s selection as part of that push) and Obama’s failure to hone and clarify his message as people start paying more and more attention. That can still change, of course, especially based on what happens in the debates. Personally, I think the Biden/Palin Vice Presidential debate on October 2 will be the most interesting to watch, but the McCain/Obama debates on September 26, October 7, and October 15 should be interesting if they go with a more reasonable format than they have in the past (nobody really wants to hear each candidate repeat his talking points over and over; that does not rise to the definition of a ‘debate’).