Kicking the Palin “Experience” Meme Around (Again)

As we march on through day nine of the Sarah Palin Cone of Silence Watch, my old friend Ed Morrissey has offered to share a recent Fox News piece, featuring Greta van Susteren, which purports to highlight a few of the various aspects of Palin’s background which speak to her experience and readiness to possibly lead our nation. I dislike nitpicking with Ed, but we do it enough over the body politic that I’ve learned to live with the occasional eye-twitching and skin rashes which sometimes result. In any case, be sure to read Ed’s analysis and take a look at the video below, then we’ll try to make some sense of it.

[Editor’s Note: Due to problems with embedding the video, we are providing a link instead: here.]

There are three general themes to the experience argument in this piece. First there is her time at the helm serving as Mayor of Wasilla. Next up is her service as the Governor of Alaska, managing their budget and economy. And last is her position as the Commander in Chief of her state’s National Guard. We’ll take a brief look at each of these in order.

First, as to Mayor Palin, while her successor has some very pleasant things to say about her, we don’t need to dwell on it for too terribly long. (Particularly since we covered a lot of her history of change in Wasilla this morning.) Ed mentions that Wasilla is – “surprise” – the fifth largest city in Alaska. True enough, but this hardly changes the fact that it was a town of five or six thousand souls during her stewardship. Granted, by Alaskan standards I’m sure that makes it a metropolis compared to, for example, False Pass, (pop: 64!) but it still has less people in it than your average parking garage in Staten Island on any given Friday night. Comparing the state Wasilla was left in to its condition when she arrived, this certainly does technically count as “experience” but I’m not sure I’d be trumpeting it.

As to being the Governor of Alaska, this is certainly the strongest case and it absolutely does count as experience, though roughly one and a half years of a first term still fails to impress. The specifics under discussion, though, speak to handling the budget and economic affairs of the state and its citizens. It’s a job that has to be done, and it seems clear that she did it, so let’s not take that away from her. But at the same time, we can also fairly keep in mind that this is Alaska we’re talking about. It’s the only state in the union with zero sales tax and zero income tax, as they fund themselves largely on the profits of the oil industry. (Boosted in part, we must recognize, by the windfall profits tax on the oil companies unreasonable revenues which Palin helped drive through. Say… isn’t that a proposal of her running mate also? Oh wait… no… it’s the other guy.) The bottom line here is that she most certainly did that job for eighteen or twenty months, but when it comes to a scale of difficulty in managing a state budget, Alaska has to be on par with getting a job as the weatherman in San Diego, California.

What’s the weather going to be like tomorrow, Jazz?”

Errr… nice. Back to you!”

Come out to the Empire State and wrestle this dysfunctional state government into a balanced budget and we’ll really be impressed.

The last point is perhaps the most puzzling, that being Palin’s position as the official Commander in Chief of the Alaska National Guard. On its face, this an undeniably true claim. But what does it really mean? Ed makes note of the Governor’s visit overseas to check on her National Guard troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. An admirable action, no question, and I salute it just as I admire all of the entertainers, politicians and volunteers who take the risk of visiting the troops. In fact, Kathy Griffin has made twice as many trips over to both theaters to entertain our troops, as well as performing at Walter Reed Medical Center for the injured upon their return. Extremely admirable, but I can’t see McCain tapping her for veep over it. Are we meant to infer from Ed’s story that Palin is somehow responsible for decisions regarding the deployment, combat plans, daily operations and on the ground training of those Guardsmen while they are overseas? I hope that wasn’t the intent of the piece, as it would seem to fail the smell test.

It is also noted that she deployed troops recently to assist with possible hurricane damage from Gustav. That’s great, and I love seeing the states work together in times of crisis. We sent some from New York, also. But was there really much more going on there than signing a piece of paper authorizing the deployment? Those troops arrive and are put under the high level command of the State Government that they are assisting and the direct command of FEMA and the military officials on the scene. It’s not as if Palin was donning a flight suit and leading patrols through the flooded streets or even issuing orders as to which section of town they would be guarding. So, yes, Palin is the titular head (Settle down, you!) of the Alaska National Guard, but it might be a bit premature to begin comparing her to David Petraeus.

At the end of our analysis, it is clear that Sarah Palin has some, limited experience in matters of governance, and it will be up to each of us to decide if that amounts to a lot or a little. But if you have made your bones in political analysis for months on end leading the call of how inexperienced Barack Obama is, (which I maintain is a fair charge to level against the Democratic nominee) I still find that it requires a rather large pillar of salt to turn around and stake Palin’s claim to being a heartbeat away from the presidency based on her own length and breadth of service.

As a closing note, I’ll simply say, “See? We can still disagree without being disagreeable.”

EDIT: Ed responds.

And since Obama has no experience at all in governance, and since he’s running for the Presidency itself, what exactly does that say for Obama? He won’t be a heartbeat away from the highest executive office in American politics, he’ll be in the White House if he wins. Attacking Palin’s “limited” executive experience boomerangs directly on Obama’s complete lack of same. Also, the longer this goes as a debate between Obama and Palin, the stronger it makes John McCain.

I happen to agree with Ed. If I were here trying to make a case for Barack Obama, I’d feel rather silly. The point is, I’m not. As I said in the comments below, I still feel that neither Palin nor Obama could carry Bob Barr’s spikes to a golf match. McCain and Biden, on the other hand, have more than sufficient experience to inspire confidence at least in terms of the experience question. None of this, however, has yet changed my considered opinion that McCain made, at a minimum, a very questionable decision in going with Palin and I would not be comfortable with her as the VP. Both of these campaigns continue to push me further and further toward Bob Barr.

  • Silhouette

    Palin will not affect the election more than substantive issues. The more dems attack her, the more the retort is “look how bad Obama is too”.

    You might want to focus on how good Obama looks, on things that matters to the majority of people who vote.

    Oil, economy, housing crises, global warming, alternatives, health care…

    Take your pick. If Obama could convince the public that he has a handle on just one of those issues over the GOP, he will win this Fall.

  • Jazz

    I would focus on how good Obama looks if I actually thought he looked good. Neither he nor Palin could carry Bob Barr’s spikes for a golf match when it comes to experience. McCain and Biden, on the other hand, both have the experience and bona fides to give me confidence.

  • ChrisWWW

    Thanks for all your excellent roundups on Palin.

  • cfpete

    Sorry to go off topic, but I just want to comment on that add above with Hugh Downs.
    Are the rest of you seeing that add?
    What has happened to Hugh Downs?
    I only comment because I was flabbergasted to see him on an infomercial shilling for the same “miracle cure” in the add above.
    He is also associated with another company ripping off non-profits:
    New York Times

    The guy has been on TV almost since its invention.
    Did he not save a dime?
    Does he really value his reputation that little?

  • Jazz

    Not sure about that, but just to clarify, Joe doesn’t control which specific ads pop up there. That’s a remote function from the company who purchases the space.

  • Jim_Satterfield

    And since Obama has no experience at all in governance, and since he’s running for the Presidency itself, what exactly does that say for Obama?

    State senator of an area with more population that Wasilla has nothing to do with governing? Three years in the United States Senate is nothing? I hold by my current low opinion of Morrissey as nothing but an RNC shill.

  • ChrisWWW

    Precisely. By that reckoning, McCain is just as unfit to be president. Will Ed ask McCain to swap places on the ticket with Palin?

  • Jazz

    In the defense of said shill, he did go on to specify “executive” or “governing” experience, and in that light, it is somewhat depressing to note that she’s the only one of the four with any. Obama, McCain and Biden have never held those specific types of office. Now in total “governmental” experience, she comes in dead last out of the four, which I’ve maintained from the beginning, with Obama coming in a distant third behind Biden and McCain.

  • daveinboca

    State senator of an area with more population that Wasilla has nothing to do with governing? Three years in the United States Senate is nothing?

    Obama as a State Senator had much less EXECUTIVE responsibility than any mayor, who has to juggle countless problems in a job, no matter how small the constituency. And as a US Senator, he has not sponsored one bill nor even convened the Europe Sub-Committee of the Senate ForRelCte that he chairs. The guy is basically an absentee legislator, because he bagan his POTUS campaign about three months after landing in the Senate. Palin was two years as governor & a successful mayor, both EXECUTIVE positions.

    At the very least, it’s a wash, but Palin is obviously more experienced for the management & executive requirements of being president.

  • cfpete

    Speaking of Bob Barr, how about a post on Wayne Allyn Root.

  • casualobserver

    Serving time in either the Illinois or US Senate has to be further qualified by what he accomplished there. Setting the record for “Present” votes is certainly one of his accomplishments, but I’m still struggling to find the other things.

  • Jazz

    I can do one on Root, sure! Not nearly as much material there unless you like sports book betting, but I’ll find something I’m sure… 😉

  • EastBaySteve

    I don’t think it is politically wise for Obama himself to argue about experience vis-a-vis Palin because, regardless of the merits of the case, it would diminish him. This doesn’t mean that the media has to calibrate its thinking to the lowest common denominator. Let’s talk about experience relevant to the kind of judgment and understanding we expect in a president. Obama has a clear record of making policy arguments, and a deep engagement with both the legislative and judicial processes of government (State Senator, US Senator, Harvard Law School, Audacity of Hope–mainly a policy book, debates, public speaches, etc.). What does Palin’s brief tenure as Governor of a small state shown us? I used to work in Los Angeles Unified School District and it has more students than Alaska has people. Would a superintendant of LAUSD for under 2 years be qualified to be president or vice president? Not in my judgment.

    The republicans know how to play the media game. They know that the media is almost certainly too lazy to make a critical comparison of Obama and Palin, so they can get away with image-based politics. The media easily gets pulled into a “both sides do the same” narrative using the shallowest of reasons. Ed demonstrates this in spades (if I understood Jazz’s summary correctly) and Jazz did little better. We need critical thinking rather than lazy equivalencies.

  • onleyone


    i don’t have the info in front of me, so i won’t argue the fine details. i agree with you on sen. obama’s experience in the u.s. senate — he has spent most of the time campaigning, it’s easy to see. from what i know, his stint in the illinois legislature was undistinguished though not dismal.

    i am astonished that anyone could use [palin’s] mayorship of wasilla as a positive: suspect firings, begging millions of dollars in earmarks from the feds, $22 million dollars in debt, with a large part of her tenure in wasilla overseen by an administrator? and honestly, all of the above, plus — what, 6000 people at time? the small town where i live now is 5100. if anyone suggested that our mayor run for (vice-)president, they’d be laughed out of town. i can’t at all see how its “obvious”. at least obama has a real sense of how state/fed govts work. no, it’s not as much as i’d like either, but it’s something.

    i would vote for bob barr in a split second, if i thought he was truly a changed man.

  • casualobserver

    Notice how the left can never mention one specific accomplishment of Obama, even when the point of the thread calls for precisely that.

    Name the legislation that bears his name, name the legislation where his named is recorded as a sponsor, name the percentage of Illinois Senate session legislation that he even studied enough to bring himself to cast a yeah or nay vote.

    If “being around” legislative branch activity is the critical determinant, every Senate Page of three years or more is just as qualified to be President.

  • onleyone


    haha, dunno what planet you live on if you think bob barr is a “leftist”. (i can only guess you were generally referring to the last two comments, including mine. you’ve really got the backhand third-person insinuation thing down pat, you should do talk radio.)

  • onleyone

    for anyone who has difficulty googling, here’s a results page on legislation barack obama has sponsored or co-sponsored. i hope that helps any commenters here who might have questions on this easily accessible information.

  • jwest

    Voting for Bob Barr, Ralph Nader or any other obscure third party is the moral equivalent of voting “present”. It’s just a dodge of responsibility in making a decision between the two people who can be elected, so that whatever happens in the future, the shirker can claim “it’s not my fault”.

    This tiresome attack of Palin’s experience brings into view aspects that haven’t yet been discussed.

    It has already been established that Joe Biden has no executive or command experience. Some think that his congressional and senate career should be enough to give him a pass on qualification to the presidency, but stop to think about this for a moment.

    Regardless of knowledge on any particular subject, a president must have the ability to make decisions. Unlike legislators, who have trained themselves to consider the political implications of each word and action, a president has the responsibility to be the final word on subjects that he/she knows will bring enormous negative political fallout.

    Even if the will is there to make the hard decisions in the face of bad publicity, does Biden have the ability to actually say yes or no, go or stay, now or never? The world is replete with examples of accomplished diplomats, high level corporate executives and other functionaries who, when finally called on to make a definitive decision that is life or death, freezes up at the critical moment.

    If the job of president had the option of always having the time to check with a few more “experts”, or to form a new commission to re-study the problem, then perhaps someone with no decision-making experience would be acceptable. Biden, along with his community organizing running mate, is simply not qualified to seek the office.

  • cfpete

    Thanks Jazz,
    I know most readers probably will not care, and the comments will certainly be light.
    However, it would be nice to see some opinions not held hostage by the DEM/REP talking points.

    I will be on the lookout.

    On another note, anyone want to get into a UF/MIAMI argument.
    I am primed and ready. GO Gators!!!!
    Life is not all politics, or is it?

  • cfpete

    I call bullocks.
    Voting third party would not be so inconsequential if the two major parties didn’t do their damndest to keep out third parties.
    Filling rules – you Libertarians better follow them to the letter – REP/DEM – file beyond the deadline – who cares.

  • Jim_Satterfield

    I think the two party system was an unforeseen consequence of our electoral system. It was easy to fall into. I’d like to see some kind of proportional representation take the place of winner take all elections since I think that’s the only way to give third parties a chance.

  • onleyone

    i’m afraid life really IS all about politics. yup, just politics! sorry, cfpete.

    we COULD talk about POLAR BEARS! that would be polarizing, AND fun. 😉

    but seriously (and sorry for all the caps there): i’d love to hear any and all opinions on russia these days. anyone here in-the-know on the caucasus, or on the country’s ambitions in the arctic?

  • onleyone


    i wholeheartedly agree. i like ideas from many different schools of thought, and the present system offers pretty much either/or. once or twice, i’ve seen it suggested that a mccain-obama ticket would be interesting.

    there really should be separate votes for pres and vice-pres; why not make ’em work together out of the same office(s)? then we’d really see what bipartisanship and “reaching across the aisle” was all about. if the administration still screwed up, then it would very clear that all involved parties are responsible.

    running the country should be the job of Americans, and democrats or republicans only incidentally. the labels too often get in the way.

  • jwest


    I was in Moscow the first week of May and was in the reviewing stand for the dress rehearsal of the National Parade in Red Square. (Got some crummy pictures too, but don’t know how to imbed them in a comment)

    Moscow is awash with money and the feeling there is one of optimism and national pride. The era of conspicuous consumption that we experienced in the late ‘90s pales in comparison to what is occurring in the wealthy sections of town.

    The Russian attitude toward the former Soviet satellite states is one of entitlement. They don’t view them as independent, but just temporarily out of the fold. Everyone in the business community views the Russian Army as the pipeline acquisition department of Gazprom. Most of the upper levels in the companies are former KGB or early retired command to field grade military.

    There is unanimity of opinion that foreign interference in their internal affairs is not only unwanted, but insulting to the national pride. By internal affairs, I mean anything concerning the territories comprising the former Soviet Union.

    Other than that, they are great to do business with.

  • jwest


    Elections are like your family sending you for Chinese food.

    You’ve got column A or column B.

    It doesn’t matter that you like the food at the Italian restaurant down the street, if you don’t make a choice here, the kids won’t eat.

    Put your big boy pants on and pick one.

  • onleyone

    so it’s the rise of a bourgeoisie, eh? hmm. thanks for your take. interesting, as far as their sense of “entitlement” as regards their former satellites; that was also the impression i have gathered over the intertubes. this so-called ‘concern’ they express for the people of south ossetia rings pretty hollow. it’s about ownership pure and simple, as the political chest-pounding and muscle flexing by putin et al suggest.

  • casualobserver

    onlyone……….sponsored and PASSED.

    and let’s use, not wikipedia……….

  • Jazz

    For what it’s worth, while Jim Satterfield makes some good points, I absolutely do find jwest’s comments on third parties offensive and elitist. Far from being a vote of “present” so you can “bitch later” it’s actually a very principled stand. In the case of Bob Barr, if you happen to feel that the GOP has abandoned all pretense of caring about limiting the size and scope of government and having responsible spending (which the GOP has abandoned and the Dems never had) then a vote for Barr is absolutely NOT voting present. It’s a vote to indicate one of the very reasons that I left the Republican party in 2005. jwest’s comments are a two party, partisan mentality which assumes that anyone who doesn’t agree is a loon or whatever. I have no time for that. The GOP is in shambles and the Dems were never any good for paleoconservative values. And those who choose to say, “Well, the GOP is still at least *closer* to what we want than the Dems” is just doing nothing more than saying, “Well, the people burning down the houses on the next block are better than the ones burning down the houses on my block, so I guess I’ll run over there with some gasoline and a bic lighter and join them.” Insulting, offensive and wrong.

  • jwest


    I’m sorry if you think reality is insulting, but the truth is the truth.

    By voting for any third party, especially in a tight and critical election, you are choosing to sit out in a huff because neither of two real candidates matches every attribute you want in a president.

    Tough luck. You either participate in a meaningful way or you don’t.

    Sure, if it’s obvious Obama is going to lose in a landslide, go ahead and make your protest vote. But if this is a close contest, you are leaving your duty to help put the proper person in office by making a symbolic gesture.

    Just like being a president, sometimes you have to choose between two not-so-great options. This is not the time to pass the ball and sit on the sidelines.

  • onleyone

    CO: fair ’nuff. but i didn’t link to wikipedia.

  • RememberNovember

    Less than half of the US Presidents in history have been Governor- next argument!
    And Sara Palin is running for VP, or did yo forget that McCain has been on the trail and is the presumptive nominee or is he just a figurehead now?- what executive experience has he had?

  • RememberNovember

    again I reiterate, OBAMA is running for President, and McCAIN is running- WHAT EXECUTIVE EXPERIENCE DO EACH OF THEM HAVE?

    Stop comparing Palin to Obama you nutjobs. One is a vetted nominee, the other is a short straw pick out of a hat.

    Otherwise we can get into what foreign international experience does Palin have stacked up to Biden’s.

    Having and island populate by US eskimos 3 miles from an island populated by Russian Eskimos doesn’t count.

  • onleyone


    obviously, i agree.


    since most voters don’t vote for third parties, i see no problem in going that direction in non-swing states. when’s the last time maryland went republican for prez? or alaska went democrat?

  • jwest

    I guess that question (McCain executive experience) is for me.

    In the context of the presidency, executive experience equates to decision making. By decision making, I am referring to being the person who has the final say on matters of consequence.

    McCain was trained for 4 years at one of the premier schools dedicated almost exclusively to decision making in matters of consequence – the U.S. Naval Academy. This school, along with West Point, are revered around the world for producing graduates who can make life and death decisions quickly, accurately and with honor.

    I didn’t find that syllabus at Harvard.

    From his earliest experiences in the Navy, he was given further training and escalating responsibilities in leadership and decision making.

    I haven’t checked the community organizer training programs, so if they’re the same, let me know.

  • jwest

    They’re letting the people of Maryland vote?

    This is disturbing news.

  • onleyone

    tell me about it. 😉

  • Ricorun

    jwest: McCain was trained for 4 years at one of the premier schools dedicated almost exclusively to decision making in matters of consequence – the U.S. Naval Academy. This school, along with West Point, are revered around the world for producing graduates who can make life and death decisions quickly, accurately and with honor.

    Considering McCain’s record in that institution, it amazes me you actually want to go there.

  • jwest

    Unlike Harvard, both military academies are adept at kicking out anyone who the staff feels they could not follow personally into battle.

    Even the bottom of the class has what it takes to lead men into the most difficult situations.

  • kathyedits

    McCain and Biden, on the other hand, both have the experience and bona fides to give me confidence.

    McCain has experience, but he doesn’t have the judgment or temperament to be president. He’s a hothead and his judgment is terrible.

    Even if you just look at the disparity in experience between McCain/Biden and Obama, I really don’t get what you’re getting at, Jazz. McCain and Biden are both long-term U.S. senators, and Obama is also a U.S. senator, first term, and before that was a state senator for, I believe, three terms. It’s the same exact experience — the difference is that McCain and Biden have more *years* of that experience (DUH, they’re a lot older than Obama, too).

    If being a member of Congress does NOT give you experience in governance; if being a governor or a mayor is what gives you governing experience, then how can either McCain or Biden be considered to have governing experience?

  • daveinboca

    Hmm…    I seem to remember something about Palin serving a couple of years as governor of Alaska, a state with the population of another small-pop state named Delaware.   Running a state for two years would also count in my simple-minded playbook.   Actually making decisions & managing a lot of different agencies & administrative situations.   And having a 90% popularity rating for the first year as gov…..   Seems you are straining at that gnat & swallowing the Obama camel a bit, despite your statement to the contrary.

    Barr & Nader are true lightweights, and Palin is probably Obama’s equal in foreign policy experience, since both have practically none [being a subcommittee chairman on the SenFonRel Cte isn’t experience—–my wife worked for Paul Sarbanes as a legislative aide for several years & he was functionally illiterate on the Middle East though he chaired that subcommittee in the SenFonRelCte.  I talked to him a couple of times & he really tried not to get involved in any Arab-Israeli issues & knowingly kept himself ignorant—-and he chaired the subcte for a decade.] ————– Original message from “Disqus” : ————–