GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin

I’ve read a lot of news, punditry, and blog opinions about John McCain’s choice of a running mate. I have so many thoughts on the subject that I don’t know where to begin.

I’ll start with this: Democrats must be very careful not to underestimate this candidate.

Ignore everyone (including myself) who calls Governor Palin an intellectual flyweight. In fact, having watched and heard how she comports herself during video interviews, she comes across as intelligent, articulate, charismatic, and direct. Voters who are swayed by personalities rather than by issues will like her.
WHY PALIN?

Some writers have opined that McCain’s decision to tap Palin for the veep position on the ticket was an act of blatant pandering to disaffected female Clinton supporters (aka the PUMA voters: “Party Unity My Ass”). To some extent, I think that was a factor in the McCain campaign’s decision, though not the most significant one.

Another rationale put forward to explain her selection — and which I think to be far more plausible — is that she is “red meat” for the Republican base. Palin has a staunchly conservative record: pro-gun, anti-choice, in favor of teaching Creationism in schools, anti-environment, pro-Big Oil, you name it. The ultra-conservatives and fundamentalist wingnuts love her. Rush Limbaugh adores her. ‘Nuff said.

It should be obvious that Governor Palin was not invited to the ticket in order to woo Democratic women voters or entice moderate swing voters. She’s there to energize the base and entice conservative swing voters.

I’ve read a few crazy theories — that McCain is setting up Palin to be gored by the press so that she can be replaced at the last minute and enable him to get the veep he really wanted and also enjoy a second VP-announcement bump in the polls; that the Republican establishment foisted Palin upon him so that the ticket could implode at the convention, and the GOP could replace McCain entirely and instead send a Romney/Pawlenty ticket to the general election — but I don’t give them much credence.

As expected, the Right Wing blogosphere and echo chamber immediately began trumpeting the GOP’s talking points about Sarah Palin. They love to crow about her advantage in “executive experience” over Obama and how she is a hockey mom with five kids, a reformer who likes to hunt and fish, etc.

Before I continue, let me point out that her résumé is mostly fluff and bullshit. Her “executive experience” consists of:

  • Being mayor/manager of Wasilla, Alaska. This is a town of approximately 8,000 people. According to its own municipal charter, her role as “mayor” was chiefly ceremonial; she was permitted to attend town council meetings but not to cast a vote. She did this nothing job for six years.
  • Fewer than 21 months as Governor of Alaska, the fourth-least-populous state in the country. With a population of approximately 658,000 people, that means she has fewer than one-third of the constituents than the Borough President of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Some wingnuts will try to impress you by saying, “She commands the Alaska National Guard! She has approval ratings of ninety percent!”

Don’t fall for this bullshit, either. Her role as the “commander” of the Alaska NG is hardly one that requires more than a passing glance of her attention, and it’s not as if she leads troops into battle, or stages daring midnight raids across the Bering Strait into Irkutsk. Likewise, don’t buy the snowjob that because her state has proximity to Canada and Russia that she therefore has “foreign policy experience.” Only a Faux News viewer would believe that.

As for her approval ratings, they were that high when she first took office in 2006, replacing a deeply corrupt and massively despised predecessor.

Within less than a year of taking office, however, her approval ratings are in the sixties and dropping fast as she becomes ever more deeply embroiled in a tawdry abuse-of-power scandal. The Readers Digest condensed version: Her kid sister married a schmuck of an Alaska State Trooper. The divorce got messy, and a custody battle ensued. Suddenly, Palin’s family “remembered” a whole bunch of grievances against the trooper.

To make the trooper’s life hell, Palin pressured the Alaska commissioner of public safety (who oversees its State Police) to fire the trooper. She apparently had several dozen conversations in which she applied political pressure to have her ex-brother-in-law fired. The commissioner refused. She fired the commissioner. (Wingnuts say she simply “asked him to accept a different job,” but that’s a dodge. She fired him.)

Eventually, an internal inquiry led to the trooper being disciplined but not fired. But Governor Palin’s criminal investigation by the Alaska State Senate continues. (The inquiry was convened by a bipartisan and unanimous vote.)

WHY PALIN’S NOMINATION IS A TRAP

The Obama campaign wasted no time declaring that by choosing Palin as his running mate, McCain had abdicated his “lack of experience” line of attack against Obama. Pundits and Democratic Party spokesmen and surrogates began crowing about how Joe Biden would eat Sarah Palin’s lunch during the vice-presidential debate in September.

Others believe that Palin’s selection was a “Hail Mary pass” by McCain, an act of desperation that signals fear and disorganization in the Republican candidate’s campaign.

Another school of thought — which I find more credible — is that giving the nod to Palin was a tactically brilliant move by McCain.

After all, the timing of the announcement all but eclipsed Obama’s convention acceptance speech from the news cycle before it had a chance to circulate. All day Friday, August 29, the media and the blogosphere were consumed with trying to answer the question, “Who the fuck is Sarah Palin?” It will certainly dull the Democratic ticket’s post-convention bump.

But I fear that none of this reveals the real thinking behind her addition to the ticket. Put simply, she’s there as bait in a trap for the Democratic candidates, and it’s a trap I can already see them struggling to avoid.

The trap has two parts, one for Obama, one for Biden.

First, the “experience” trap. It will be very tempting for the Democratic candidates — and for their surrogates, spokespeople, and supporters — to succumb to the temptation to try a bit of turnabout and point fingers at Governor Palin and accuse her of being unprepared to serve as president.

Don’t fall for this. Don’t take the bait, everyone, I beg you.

It’s a setup for a one-two punch. The Obama campaign is right when it insists that Palin’s presence on the Republican ticket should negate McCain’s attack lines about Obama’s perceived lack of experience — but only so long as the Democrats are smart enough to not bring it up again.

The moment we try to go after Palin’s experience, the GOP is primed to hit back with, “If she’s not ready to be veep, then your guy’s not ready to be president.” If Democrats hit that note first, they’ll have opened the door, and it will be a fair counterattack for the other side. And when that punch lands, it will hurt all the more because we brought it on ourselves.

Second, the abortion trap. Everyone’s been making noises about how Joe Biden will “drink Palin’s milkshake” during the VP debate. But only if he can destroy her arguments without stepping into the experience trap or, even more lethal, the abortion trap. Part of why Palin is on the ticket is to try to put an unimpeachable face on a hateful agenda that opposes abortion rights for women, even those who have been the victims of rape or incest.

Any attempt to tread into that minefield will mean walking on Palin’s turf. Count on the mainstream media to lob softball questions at Palin during the debate, and to set up Biden to fail. One question that will undoubtedly come up will relate to abortion. Palin will tout her “pro-life” credential: the fact that when she became pregnant at 43 and learned that her fifth child would be born with Down’s Syndrome, she chose to keep her child. It will be a move calculated to tie Biden’s tongue in knots as he tries to figure out how to respond without coming off as anti-disabled child or anti-motherhood.

Practice this response in the mirror, Joe:

“I have great admiration and respect for the choice that Governor Palin made. But even more important to me was that she had a choice. What she and John McCain don’t seem to understand is that a different woman, with different circumstances, with less money, without the support of a loving husband and a family, without health insurance, might need to make a different choice. And what I, Senator Obama, and the Democratic Party believe is that all women should, above all else, have that choice. I commend Governor Palin for her choice. I just wish that she trusted other women to make their own choices.”

Then, most important of all, Joe — stop talking. Just shut the fuck up and let the answer stand.

KILLING THE “EXPERIENCE” TALKING POINT

Wingnuts and supporters of McCain/Palin in particular like to taunt liberals and progressives with variations on this phrase: “At least she has executive experience and real accomplishments. What has Obama ever done?”

While I usually don’t believe in doing someone else’s homework for them, right-wingers are particularly stupid and helpless when it comes to gathering facts. (Opinions get spoon-fed to them by Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, and the rest of the fucktards at Faux News.)

But this article on DailyKos provides a great overview of Barack Obama’s record from his first four years in the United States Senate. Here’s an excerpt:

I was blown away as I started going through his record. I’ve already mentioned his bills on health care and energy. In addition he had introduced bills on Iran, voting, veterans, global warming, campaign finance and lobbyists, Blackwater, global poverty, nuclear proliferation, and education.

On Iran: S.J.RES.23: A joint resolution clarifying that the use of force against Iran is not authorized by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law.

On voting: Passed out of Committee and now on the Senate Calendar for Feb. 22, 2008
S.453 : A bill to prohibit deceptive practices in Federal elections Please check this out! This is a great bill. We need this. I can’t believe that this time voter intimidation is not already illegal.

On veterans and military personnel: S.1084 : A bill to provide housing assistance for very low-income veterans;

On global warming: S.1324 : A bill to amend the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuel sold in the United States; S.1389: A bill to authorize the National Science Foundation to establish a Climate Change Education Program; S.AMDT.599 to S.CON.RES.21 To add $200 million for Function 270 (Energy) for the demonstration and monitoring of carbon capture and sequestration technology by the Department of Energy. (This last one passed both the House and the Senate as part of the budget bill.)

On campaign finance and lobbyists: S.2030 : A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require reporting relating to bundled contributions made by persons other than registered lobbyists; and S.AMDT.41 to S.1 To require lobbyists to disclose the candidates, leadership PACs, or political parties for whom they collect or arrange contributions, and the aggregate amount of the contributions collected or arranged.

On Blackwater: S.2044 : A bill to provide procedures for the proper classification of employees and independent contractors, and for other purposes, and S.2147 : A bill to require accountability for contractors and contract personnel under Federal contracts, and for other purposes.

On global poverty: S.2433: A bill to require the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to further the United States foreign policy objective of promoting the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people worldwide, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.

On global nuclear proliferation: S.1977: A bill to provide for sustained United States leadership in a cooperative global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce global nuclear arsenals, stop the spread of nuclear weapons and related material and technology, and support the responsible and peaceful use of nuclear technology.

… Clinton is a frequent co-sponsor on many of Obama’s bills. So is Ted Kennedy. So are a number of Republicans. … Obama is a leader. With bigger majorities in Congress, much of his agenda should sail through.

I urge everyone to follow the link to the DailyKos piece and read it through. It was written during the primaries as a comparison of Clinton and Obama, but much of what it contains remains relevant heading into the general election.

IN CONCLUSION

For me, the bottom line with regard to Governor Palin is that the right-wing talking points aren’t going to fool anyone but those who wanted to drink the Kool-Aid anyway. However, I remain concerned that her presence on the ticket could be a game-changer, in that it might prompt the Democratic candidates or their surrogates to make an unrecoverable gaffe in the 60-odd days that remain until the election on November 4th.

So all I can say is, watch what you say and how you say it, folks. Don’t fall into the obvious traps.

And if you possibly can, do what I just did and send another $50 to the Obama Campaign.

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