Monday, September 01, 2008

Sarah Palin

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential candidate is an example of pure and transparent political cynicism. You can understand why he would have leaned towards a woman or a person of color as his vice presidential choice. Such a candidate provides an ideal way of deflating the Barack Obama bandwagon. It's also an ideal way of countering the notion that a vote for Obama is a vote for making history by electing the first African-American president of the United States. Now you can vote for a Republican woman as vice president and also make history though not quite as dramatically. What's so disturbing about the choice of Sarah Palin is the fact of her profound inexperience. Yes, she combated corruption in Alaskan politics. Yes, she opposed some of the biggest and most long-established moguls in the Alaskan government. But when you look at her qualifications and when you consider her position on fundamental political issues, she's not at all impressive. In fact, she's frightening. She is right wing in the extreme in a way that contrasts markedly with John McCain's self-styled moderation. She's taken a right-wing position on practically every issue you can name, from her opposition to abortion rights to her enthusiastic endorsement of and membership in the National Rifle Association to her belief that polar bears should be removed from the endangered species list to her advocacy for drilling for oil in one of the most pristine and beautiful natural habitats in the world. She's a right-wing evangelical. She favors the teaching of creationism in public schools. There are some who say she hasn't hesitated to use her position as governor of Alaska against people she dislikes--currently she is under investigation for trying to have her sister's ex-husband removed from his position as a state patrolman. Of course, the facts are not all out on this issue, but it is certainly worth keeping in mind. Sarah Palin has a profound lack of experience not only in Alaskan politics--she has been governor for only two years--but also on the national and international stages, where she has no experience whatsoever. The notion that this wholly unproven individual could suddenly be thrust into leadership of the free world is most disturbing.

McCain's choice of Sarah Palin is perhaps the most disappointing choice he has made in this presidential campaign. I don't support John McCain's candidacy for President and will not vote for him. I don't agree with him on many basic issues. But he has over the years acted and spoken in a way that suggested he has his own mind and that he has a streak of independence and integrity. He has consistently attacked Barack Obama for his purported inexperience in government. Now he chooses as his vice presidential running mate a considerably less experienced person who has never served in national government and who has served only two years in state government and whose positions are so far to the extreme right that we have to believe that McCain is not only pandering for the votes of disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters but that he is also pandering to the far right. Television newscasters and pundits have suggested that this appointment by McCain is a Hail Mary pass, the kind of gamble a candidate would take when he recognizes that his campaign and his prospects for the presidency are foundering. Yet McCain has been faring fairly well in the polls of late, and just before the Democratic convention he had pulled almost even with Obama. Of course Obama is now experiencing the kind of bounce in the polls that presidential candidates experience right after the conventions. But McCain is not out of the running. At least he wasn't out of the running until now. Surely Hillary Clinton supporters will not be deceived by this ploy. Surely no intelligent person who supported Hillary Clinton and all of her important positions on women's rights, on the war in Iraq, on healthcare, on the role of government in servng the welfare of American citizens would even consider for a moment voting for McCain because of the gender of the candidate he has chosen as his running mate. The choice of Sarah Palin should mark the realistic end of John McCain's hopes to be president of the United States.

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