30 August 2008

holy %^&#: palin fever goes national

Banff, Alberta / Mile 2,160 – Obviously, we're going to have to shelve the Great American Road Trip for a minute and talk about Sarah Palin.

I'm shocked and oddly excited about McCain's choice, even though I'm not particularly a fan of Sarah Palin, nor do I think it was a smart decision on McCain's part. Maybe it's just because somebody I've actually met is running for the second-highest office in the land. It may also be a little bit of Alaska pride. Alaska often seems to feel, with some justice, like the neglected youngest child in the family (and it's spoiled like one too). Having the governor as a major-party veep candidate is sure to electrify the state, especially at a time when Alaska's national reputation has been sullied by scandals, indictments and the "Bridge to Nowhere" brouhaha.

There's no question that Sarah Palin is a gifted politician. She obliterated a sitting governor in the Republican primary and saved a corrupt and arrogant state party from itself. She promised cleaner government, and she has by and large delivered on that promise. (There is currently a scandal afoot re: whether her administration pressured a police commissioner to fire a trooper who was involved in a nasty custody battle with the Governor's sister, but I suspect there's more smoke than fire there. She's too smart to do something so transparently stupid... probably the work of an overzealous "Palin-bot," as they are called in Alaska.) And, as the media never fail to point out, she is hot. I never would have expected that the sentence "Don't look at the Governor's legs" would pass through my brain, but it happened.

That's about as much as I can say in her favor. My biggest beef with her... well, my biggest non-ideological beef with her... is that she also came in promising a government that would listen to the public, but her administration has been just as opaque and imperious as the one it replaced, albeit in a different way. She's mercurial, often needlessly confrontational, and attention-hungry, and it's not at all clear who she listens to or why. Granted, it's impossible for me not to evaluate Alaska politicans through the lens of how they treat my former employer and its clients, and she disappointed me on that front.

Taking off my erstwhile-Alaskan hat and putting on my armchair pundit hat, Palin's selection strikes me as a desperate choice by McCain. Faced with an opponent who is both the potential first black President and a reincarnation of JFK, it looks like he decided that a ticket of two old white men wouldn't cut it. Sarah Palin brings youth, diversity, and flash to the ticket. But with her experience limited to less than two years as governor of a small and idiosyncratic state, along with a couple terms as mayor of a small town, it's hard to imagine that voters will want her to be a heartbeat away from the launch codes. I also suspect that those Republicans who hoped for a "real conservative" to balance McCain will be disappointed when they look at her record in Alaska. Just before I left, she championed an expensive government handout-- a $1,200 "energy rebate" for every man, woman, and child in Alaska, which will be added onto a Permanent Fund Dividend that is already likely to top two grand. (Note: I am not opposed to energy assistance per se, I just think the government can do better things with that money than shelling it out to people in my income bracket and richer. I won't be getting the rebate or a PFD myself.) I also suspect that Biden will clean her clock in October's vice presidential debate.

Despite that electrifying-the-state business I mentioned earlier, the reaction in Alaska has not been uniformly positive. The outgoing Senate President -- a woman, by the way, and a Republican, who represents the Governor's home town -- said she thought it was a joke when she heard the news, and asked, "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?" The Speaker of the House -- also an R, but a man from Valdez -- helpfully observed, when asked about the Governor's qualifications to be veep, that "she's old enough. She's a U.S. citizen."

Perhaps what is most disappointing to me is that there is another Republican woman from Alaska who would have been a great choice. Everything I know of her, including many interactions with her in person, have convinced me that she's smart, principled, and sincere. (Obligatory disclaimer: she's been great to my former employer.) She's Lisa Murkowski, Alaska's junior Senator. But McCain didn't go that way, so we're going to see how Sarah does.


Uncle Kevin in Chicago said...

Very interesting post. Nicely done! I too am puzzled by his choice and the more I read about your Gov, the more puzzled I become. I really think the Republicans know that they are toast and they are starting to mail it in, ala Dole in '96. After awhile, he just stopped trying after realizing that he could not possibly beat Clinton. But I don't know why they think and/or act out of desperation. I see/hear too much racism in comments about Obama and I truly think that there is still a very real potential for the Bradley-effect to strike again (white people saying they can/will vote for a black candidate, only to pull the lever for the white guy when alone behind the curtain). I hope I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

Lisa would be viewed as too connected to 'the old boy' network and she would be trashed to death with nepotism commentary by the dems.

I am helping to host a big party for Thursday's convention wrapup..ah, my people...")

This is the first campaign I have been offically involved in. Tres exciting!

ed K said...

A good stick in your eye choice. Solidifies the right and the true believers. They can now march guilt free. She is as talented a scripted reader as Obama and everytime her inexperience is mentioned it is a sutle reminder that Obama is grossly inexpierenced. She drives the left media crazy which is the last thing Obama wants.

I am extremely disappointed with my parties choice, he would have been a great choice for VP. He is a poor nonscripted speaker, the only candidate ever I think I could take in a debate.

Who ever finesses the economy to the liking of mid america will win