Ann Friedman makes the critical point regarding the McCain campaign’s announcement that Bristol Palin “made the decision on her own to keep the baby”:
I mean, John McCain and Sarah Palin don’t believe women have a right to choose. It’s absolutely absurd for the campaign to emphasize the fact that Bristol “made this decision,” and then push for policies that take away that choice
Right. She made the decision on her own. Sarah Palin and John McCain would prefer that the state coerce young women into having children.
Monika Bauerlein is, of course, correct that it would be grossly sexist to bring up Palin’s youngest child or his disability with any implication that this makes her running for vice president inappropriate. To state the obvious, nobody would bring such things up about a male vice presidential candidate, just as when people bring up family issues to explain the gross underrepresentation of women clerking for the Supreme Court they never seem to question how Antonin Scalia has had a long career as an appellate judge with nine kids. Men are also capable of being caregivers, and the assumption that Palin should have the primary responsibility for caring for her children is just sexism, full stop. There are very good reasons to oppose her — most notably such rather more important things as her very reactionary political views and her lack of knowledge about most important domestic and foreign policy issues — but the fact that she has become a state leader while being a mother of five is emphatically not one of them.
And while I’m not suggesting that it’s on the same level, somebody also needs to have a long talk with Joe Biden.
Ari and Eric have have dug up some fun details about Sarah Palin’s first few months as mayor of Wasilla. Elected to bestow “change” upon the town, Palin instead went on a rampage, demanding — a la Jimmy Carter — that her stable of city managers resign and then re-apply for their positions as a test of loyalty. She drove three septuagenarian museum curators into disgruntled retirement, and she canned the librarian and police chief, both of whom had supported her opponent, a three-term incumbent.
Obviously, the choices made by a first-term, small-town mayor in early 1997 tell us very little about Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate nearly a dozen years later. Unless, that is, you realize that what Palin was up to in early 1997 bears a strong resemblance to the road she took toward firing Walt Monegan last month. Likable though she may be, Palin has established an obvious pattern of using public office to settle private scores and to retaliate against fellow public officials who have been deemed insufficiently helpful.
More substantively, Palin’s vaunted record as a budget-trimming “maverick” and a principled opponent of federal pork is unpersuasive at best. She has never opposed federal earmarks on principle, even for the patently absurd Gravina Island bridge. And while she hacked nearly $270 million from this year’s budget, the “principles” she deployed were inconsistent and at times of an evidently provincial nature. She left most projects in the Matanuska-Susitna valley — her home region — untouched (though she dismantled a funding proposal for a recycling center); and she allowed the state to fund a bullshit “academic based” conference to highlight the unique argument that shrinking polar ice doesn’t threaten polar bears. It’s true that she eliminated funding for a zamboni blade-sharpener — a budget item that was to state political comedy what the “Bridge to Nowhere” was for the rest of the country — but to describe Palin as “anti-pork” requires that we overlook the basic point that “pork” is simply synonymous with “projects I don’t like.”
Meantime, fiscal conservatives — and anyone who doesn’t enjoy setting a pile of cash on fire — ought to be wondering why “maverick” Sarah Palin just threw away $500 million in preliminary funding for a natural gas pipeline that will never actually be constructed. But this, too, is being held up as evidence that Palin is “standing up” to the corporate fat cats, an admirable gesture only if you believe that mavericktude requires blowing half a billion dollars for no substantive gain.
Of course, I realize that almost none of this will alter the mainstream press narrative about Palin and her spot in the race. Friends of mine who work in state government are confident that the national press is not going to tip over for Palin the way the local media have; I wish they were right, but so far, my skepticism has been amply rewarded. The concrete is drying on the “maverick” label; it’s going to be mooseburgers, go-go boots, hockey and Down Syndrome from here on in.
I’m currently reading Nixonland, Rick Perlstein’s brilliant cultural history of the United States through the lens of the rise and fall and rise again of Richard Nixon (I don’t know yet if he gets to the final fall). Perlstein documents how Nixon invented and refined a particularly effective politics of resentment — a kind of right-wing populism that harnessed suspicion of and anger towards “eggheads,” “elitists,” and of course the nattering nabobs of negativity.
In thinking about McCain’s preposterous VP selection, it strikes me that Sarah Palin is in one sense a perfect reflection of that politics. Palin is the kind of choice that appeals to people who are contemptuous of the very idea of expertise, political or otherwise.
Unfortunately this isn’t merely a symbolic issue. McCain has, from an actuarial point of view, about a 15% chance of dying of natural causes between 2009 and 2012. In addition to the strictly medical risk that he’ll die in office, a man of his age and health history (the kind of damage he endured as a POW often has severe long-term health consequences that manifest themselves decades later) has a significantly non-trivial chance of suffering some sort of incapacitating medical event over the next few years.
The notion that there’s perhaps a one in four or five chance that, if McCain is elected, Palin, who apparently knows almost literally nothing about foreign policy, will end up in command of the world’s most powerful military ought to give anyone who doesn’t buy into charmingly idiotic Hollywood fantasies about how neat it would be if Everyman (or woman) became president through a wacky series of coincidences considerable pause.
A couple of other notes on Palin.
(1) Apparently she’s been outside the United States twice: She visited Ireland, and she took a trip to Germany and Kuwait in 2007 to visit members of the Alaska National Guard. Note that this isn’t two foreign trips while governor: it’s two international trips in her entire life. If nothing else, Canada should be outraged.
(2) She was a beauty pageant contestant while in college, and finished second in the Miss Alaska pageant. This is exactly the kind of detail that endears her to Outer Wingnuttia, including professional feminist (cough) contrarian Camille Paglia, who will no doubt soon be committing crimes against the English language while addressing this topic on an internet site near you.
I appreciate Jerome Armstrong’s schtick (everything is good for the Republicans, bad for the Dems) but seriously, the idea that Palin is a “gamechanger” in a good way for McCain is laughable. If Palin ends up a net positive for the Republicans, I’ll turn in my Pundit (Blogosphere Division-Class C) License without a fuss.
It’s far too much to hope for, but it would be nice if this pick also helped the media to understand just how anti-choice the Republican Party is. I probably concede too much by thinking that John McCain just doesn’t care very much about abortion, and that his strong anti-choice record is a product of disinterest and political calculation. But the nomination of Palin ahead of the plainly more qualified Kay Bailey Hutchison is only intelligible in the context of the GOP’s anti-choice base. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what John McCain thinks about abortion; it only matters how he will act, and the culture of the modern GOP restricts him to only the most anti-choice options.
The choice of Palin over any number of vastly more qualified women on the Republican side also tells us a bit about how McCain interprets the candidacies of both Clinton and Obama. McCain thinks that Clinton and Obama are both, essentially, affirmative action hires; they rose to prominence not because of qualification or talent, but rather because the one is a woman and the other is black and the Democrats go for that kind of thing. The antidote? A woman; any one will do, since (in the Republican view) you’re already throwing qualification to do the job out the window when you eschew a gnarly white dude.
The Palin selection completely undercuts the argument about Obama’s inexperience and readiness to lead — on the theory that because Palin is a maverick and a corruption fighter, she bolsters McCain’s claim to be the reformer in this campaign. In her rollout today, Palin spoke a lot about change. McCain is now trying to steal “change” from Obama, a contest McCain will lose in an overwhelmingly Democratic year with an overwhelmingly unpopular incumbent Republican administration. At the same time, he’s weakening his strong suit — readiness vs. unreadiness.
The McCain campaign is reveling in the fact that Palin is a game changer. But why a game changer when you’ve been gaining? To gratuitously undercut the remarkably successful “Is he ready to lead” line of attack seems near suicidal.
It’s just a tactical complaint now, but I, for one, can’t wait until Chuckie comes to the full realization that John McCain is planning to put a disciple of Pat Buchanan in the vice-president’s chair. Sorry, Chuck; there’s no puzzle here. This was the danger of tying neoconservative fantasies to evangelical movement Protestantism; at some point in any alliance tough choices have to be made. The very best that neocons can hope for is that Palin is a George W. Bush-esque non-entity who, if she happens to ascend to the Presidency, could be shaped in a sufficiently imperial direction. That may be the case, but it may not…
…and regarding the bridge to nowhere, it seems to me there ought to be a presumption that when one can illustrate a point with Ozzy, one should do so:
Brad Plumer has the goods on claims that Palin was opposed to the Bridge To Nowhere. She favored it, in the fine Alaska Republican tradition of joyous lunches at the federal trough:
…it sure looks like she was fine with the bridge in principle, never had a problem with the earmarks, bristled at all the mockery, and only gave up on the project when it was clear that federal support wasn’t forthcoming.
Being opposed to ridiculous boondoggles only if you have to pay for them is, er, not “anti-pork.”
As two separate friends mentioned to me today, one thing to take from picking Palin is that McCain’s internal polling must be terrible. Just as Biden is a good frontrunner pick, Palin only makes sense if you think it’s worth a considerable risk that your pick will be a complete catastrophe because with a safe pick you’re going to lose anyway, so you might as well be “bold” and hope you catch lightning in a bottle. I’m not saying that’s a good reason, but they can’t be optimistic.
I’m supposed to be finishing my tenure file today and writing syllabi, but seeing as how my presence here as an Alaskan makes me undeservedly relevant for the next ten minutes, I’ll offer some a few local observations about Palin.
She’s likable and — for what little it’s actually worth to say this, given the political clown show this state has become — has been a decent governor. I don’t know how much this will actually matter to people in the lower and western 49, since “Alaska” has of late become synonymous with “corruption.”
Speaking of which, Palin’s being investigated for pressuring her Public Safety commissioner to fire her sister’s ex-husband, who is a state trooper; when the commissioner didn’t comply, she canned him. Or at least that’s how it appears, since no clear alternative reasons have been offered for his firing. Several of her staffers evidently made calls to the commissioner’s office, insisting that he get rid of the trooper in question; Palin’s husband — who, incidentally, resembles a B-list porn actor — is also alleged to have made calls to the same ends.
I don’t think this scandal (if we can call it that) will have much traction nationally, for the same reasons it doesn’t have much traction here. By most accounts Palin’s former brother-in-law was, to use a term of art, a douchebag — and though it looks like she might have abused her office, it’s not as if she was allowing oil executives to remodel her house. Unless we learn that Palin was threatening to have the commissioner’s scrotum turned into a dice bag, no one is going to be driven away from the ticket because of this.
The real strike against Palin is that she’s Bobby Jindal without the exorcisms. She’s fanatically anti-choice and believes my wife’s colleagues in the public school system should be teaching their kids to doubt the existence of dinosaurs. Which is of course why she’s with McCain right now in Ohio. She’s not going to yank any women from the Democrats; she’s there to mobilize the nutter base of the Republican party. But since the nutter base of the Republican party will be mobilized enough by the knowledge that Barack Obama drinks pureed fetus each morning before throwing himself prostrate to Mecca, I don’t see how Palin is going to accomplish anything more along these lines.
I know this won’t excite DJW, but she puts the lie to McCain’s support for alternative and renewable energy. Palin got a gas pipeline deal — which everyone knew would happen one way or another — but hasn’t departed from the Alaskan motif of sucking everything from the ground before the communists come to snatch our guns away and turn the entire state into a park. She’ll be a boon to the Drill Now/Drink America’ Milkshake sloganeering that McCain will continue to push until November.
Sarah Palin is profoundly, staggeringly ignorant about foreign policy. It’s impossible overstate this. When President McCain strokes out over some third-tier international crisis, the erstwhile Mayor of Wasilla will be responsible for bombing Iran, maintaining our century-long imperial project in Mesopotamia, and delivering the severed equine heads to Vladimir Putin’s bed. When it comes to foreign policy, this is one of the great throwaway VP picks in recent American history.
….for those who care to score these things, this is the funniest Powerline post ever….
I think Rob hits it below–the Palin pick can be seen as a way to try to attract disaffected women, like his attempt to float the possibility of a pro-choice running mate to sucker especially gullible media rubes. And like Rob, I don’t see it working. Especially after the convention PUMAs are a tiny constituency most of whom were going to vote McCain anyway. This undermines Mcain’s experience argument and it’s hard to see what else she adds to the ticket.
Now we need Noon to fill us in on the corruption allegations…