Palin’s supporters miss the pointSeptember 1, 2008 at 8:35 pm | Posted in Barack Obama, U.S. Politics | 2 Comments
Well, if John McCain wanted a Vice Presidential nominee who’d attract attention, he’s certainly succeeded; his choice of Sarah Palin has provoked the kind of enthusiasm, ire and plain old bemusement that Joe Biden was never likely to match. No one, it seems, has caught Palin fever more than our own Iain Dale. Iain is apparently so compelled by the ‘barracuda’ that he felt moved to devote most of his Sunday to her; not to wax lyrical about her political accomplishments, of course, but to admonish all who dare criticise.
His first two posts on the matter were the kind of predictably partisan arm-flailing you’ll get at this point in the election cycle: one scolding some unnamed left-wing antagonists who apparently hate her for not owning any Valerie Solanas books or whatever; the other trying unconvincingly to present this bonkers Daily Kos diary as evidence of a desperate conspiracy. Neither post should arouse anything more than an upturned eyebrow.
But when he gets onto the ‘experience factor’, you begin to worry about whether he’s inhaled a little too much helium. Catch this:
To Those Who Criticise Palin…
… for her lack of experience, I just have one word for them: Cheney.
The left regard Cheney as the devil incarnate. But even they couldn’t contest the fact that Cheney had huge experience of government and foreign affairs before he became Vice President.
I don’t disqualify Obama from being President because he has no executive experience or real foreign policy experience. Neither did Clinton. Neither did Blair. Neither did Mrs T. Obama has had time to prove himself qualified to run for the Presidency. He passed that test with flying colours long ago, and that’s why he won the Deomcratic nomination. Sarah Palin has yet to pass that test, and now has 68 days to do so. I don’t know whether she will or not. But to write her off in the derogatory terms her opponents have done hitherto is ridicul4ous and worse.
On face value, there’s nothing substantively wrong with this argument, but I link to it because it’s the latest example of a strange trend among conservative bloggers on both sides of the Atlantic – namely, their bizarre comfort with the prospect of losing ‘experience’ as a campaign issue.
In terms of years in public service, Barack Obama doesn’t have much more experience than Sarah Palin. Personally, I think four years on the Senate foreign relations committee prepares you better for the Presidency than simply living near Russia, but that’s just personal preference – and I was never going to support her anyway. I also agree that if you’re going to justify your support for the inexperienced candidate by insisting that judgement is more important, then you can’t just dismiss that argument when it’s applied to one of the Republicans. But here’s the rub:
John McCain is losing this election. He’s not losing by much, and victory isn’t irretrievable, but look beyond Gallup’s daily tracking poll and you’ll see him trailing in Iowa, Colarado, New Mexico and Nevada – states McCain must hold to win the election. As a result, he has to attack Obama, and no issue should be off limits. But by picking Palin as his running mate, the ‘experience’ issue – one of the strongest issues his campaign had – is now effectively off-limits. Any attack on Obama as ‘dangerously inexperienced’ would be swiftly rebutted with the line ‘Sarah Palin: a heartbeat away from the Presidency’, and whilst it’s unlikely that either party would emerge from the spat with a victory, it was an issue that McCain could’ve scored highly with.
So whilst I understand conservative bloggers’ desire to defend Palin by comparing her inexperience with Obama’s, they would do well to realise that the right is on the defensive. And for a campaign that needs to be on the attack from now until November, this marks a very inauspicious start.
Image from Flickr user asecondhandconjecture (Creative Commons)