‘The biggest gamble in American political history’

August 29, 2008 at 4:25 pm | Posted in U.S. Politics | 2 Comments
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Vice President Palin?

Vice President Palin?

That’s how Republican pundit Pat Buchanan describes John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin’s executive experience amounts to a year and a half as Governor of Alaska, which should render McCain’s ‘Obama is inexperienced’ jibe as rather useless. Her foreign policy experience is also non-existent, which will make for an interesting debate when she goes up against Joe Biden.

From the same Politico article linked to above, here are some of the supposed advantages of having Palin on the ticket:

In her short political career, Palin has become known – at least in Alaska — as a reformer. Long before the ethical problems of the Alaska GOP were front-page news in Washington, she was working to clean up the state’s government and her own party.

As a member of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Palin pushed an investigation that ultimately led to the state’s GOP party chairman to resign from the commission. Earlier this month, she endorsed Sean Parnell, who is still waiting to hear whether he has defeated ethically challenged Rep. Don Young in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

So in picking Palin, McCain accepts the framing of this election as being about change, and picks a genuine outsider who – superficially, at least – appears to offer a tough approach on ethics reform.

Anyway, enough from me. Here are some media/blogosphere reactions:

Pat Buchanan:

Biggest political gamble I believe just about in American political history…that is not hyberbole.  I can think of no choice of VP that approaches this.

Joe Scarborough (Republican host on MSNBC):

I can’t imagine a woman that’s been a governor for a year and a half, but to debate Joe Biden on Georgia, a remerging Russia, an emerging China and India, on the Middle East, my God, how does she do that?

Eric Martin at Obsidian Wings:

One thing it will offer the McCain campaign is a sense of historical importance – something they need in the face of Obama’s groundbreaking run.  Further, it offers something “new” from a Republican Party that is rightly viewed as musty and bankrupt of fresh ideas.  It will also serve as a bid to attract the dead ender clique of Hillary supporters (though I think entirely too much has been made of their clout in terms of actual numbers).


One major drawback: How can McCain’s main line of critique be Obama’s putative lack of experience, yet his pick for vice president is a 44 year old politician who has only been in the Alaska state house for little over a year.  Before that, she was mayor of Wasilla, Alasksa: population 8,000.  This is the person that will be one heartbeat away from the presidency – a consideration of particular importance considering that McCain, if elected, would be the oldest president ever to be sworn in for his first term.

Ross Douthat

This could, of course, turn out to be an enormous debacle if she isn’t ready for prime time. But for now, Sarah Palin looks like a perfect face for the sort of Republican Party I want to support: She’s a pro-life working mom; she’s tough on corruption and government waste without being a doctrinaire Norquistian on taxes; she’s more supportive of gay rights than the current GOP orthodoxy (while stopping short of backing same-sex marriage); she has a more conservationist record than your typical GOP pol, but supports drilling in ANWR; she’s an evangelical but she isn’t a southern evangelical … and if McCain loses, she can run at the top of a Palin-Jindal ticket in 2012!

Matthew Yglesias

It’s striking listening to the commentary about why this is a smart pick for John McCain that the arguments are all about how this will help him politically — attract women voters, get attention, disrupt Barack Obama’s “change” message, etc. What I haven’t seen is any conservatives making arguments about why Sarah Palin will help President McCain govern. He’ll call on her insights about . . . what?

Josh Marshall

It’s a daring pick but I think a very weak pick. I’m perfectly happy with it. Palin is in the midst of a reasonably serious scandal in her home state. Her brother-in-law is a state trooper who is in the midst of an ugly custody battle with her sister. And she’s accused of getting the state police to fire him. Recently she was forced to admit that one of her aides had done this, though she insists she didn’t know.

Andrew Sullivan

The first criterion for a veep – and I’m simply repeating a truism here – is that they are ready to take over at a moment’s notice. That’s especially true when you have a candidate as old as McCain. That’s more than especially true when we are at war, in an era of astonishingly difficult challenges, when the next president could be grappling with war in the Middle East or a catastrophic terror attack at home. Under those circumstances, we could have a former Miss Alaska with two terms under her belt as governor. Now compare McCain’s pick with Obama’s: a man with solid foreign policy experience, six terms in Washington and real relationships with leaders across the globe.

I really can’t decide yet whether this pick is genius or insanity, but it’s certainly very, very bold.



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  1. Nothing to do with the article, but I do like that pic!

    If it’s where I think it is I drove my mother’s Mini over it at reckless speed nearly 40 years ago – can’t remember what I was on at the time…

  2. Heh, for one worried minute there I thought you were talking about the pic of Sarah Palin. That would’ve been some story – albeit one you probably wouldn’t have wanted to admit to!

    But yes, it’s a lovely part of the world, even if its roads do encourage the kind of recklessness you describe. Let’s just put it down to the country air…

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