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Posted by on Aug 29, 2008 in Politics | 33 comments

The Wisdom of Choosing Sarah Palin


That was the title of the post I did on Joe Biden after Barack Obama chose him to be his running mate for the Democratic President/Vice President ticket. I figured, I might as well have a mini-series or two-parter and use the same title for Arizona Senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s VP selection, Alaska Governor and fellow Republican, Sarah Palin.

Let me start with a round-up -because I have been responding to e-mails, tweets, comments and phone calls literally since about 10 am.

Vanity Fair, today, by Dee Dee Myers (this is an excerpt but please read the whole thing, it’s not long):

It’s such a transparently political decision, a double-X Dan Quayle. McCain made the decision to double down on his credentials as a take-no-prisoners reformer. But he did so at the expense of the more important qualifications for a running mate.

It’s not political to say that John McCain turns 72 today. That he’s a cancer survivor. That he spent six years being tortured and abused in a Vietnamese prison camp. Those are the physical realities of his life, and pure and simple, they demanded that he chose a running mate who is ready, really ready. That he put country first. Today, he failed that test.

Worse, when Sarah Palin falls short—and I hope I’m wrong but I think in important ways, such as her debate with Joe Biden, she will—some people will conclude that women can’t cut it. That’s unfair to Sarah Palin—and it’s certainly unfair to the rest of us.

From the Politico, Palin Dissed Job:

Larry Kudlow of CNBC’s “Kudlow & Co.” asked her about the possibility of becoming McCain’s ticket mate.

Palin replied: “As for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question.”

That the VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans? Er, um, that’s not country first, Sarah. But you know, she wasn’t the nominee choice then.

Here’s a phenomenal in-the-moment BlogHer post with comments (but read this one too) that express emotions and opinions that range from ecstasy to anger. Do not skip it, because 99% of the comments are by women – maybe 100%. In today’s world of social media, there is no excuse for generalizing about how women feel when you can read and/or ask for those firsthand, yourself. And even then, I am sorry to say, a lot of media and bloggers get it way wrong anyway – but I figured I’d try so that there’s no excuse based on me.

A more partisan set of comments can be read at this Rightpundits post (but check out this one for the video of her speech today as well as a transcript of McCain’s comments today, all accompanied by the second gendered remark – “sweet,” that I’ve heard today; the first was on NPR‘s special coverage when a guest commentator said, after the speech, that Palin brings vivaciousness to the campaign) (if you are wondering what a gendered comment is, think of it this way: would you say that Mitt Romney brings vivaciousness to a campaign? I didn’t think so) which has many photos of Palin and a couple of videos – one with her and Glenn Beck.)

The quotes in this Ohio Daily Blog post by Jeff Coryell track with the Rightpundits’ video of Palin speaking – having studied linguistics, and having blogged about my concerns for Ted Strickland’s speech patterns, I empathize with this critique:

Jonah Goldberg (discussing pros and cons):

    The way she talks. She has something of a native Alaskan’s accent/speaking style. When I heard her speak last month, I was stunned by how parochial she sounds, not substantively, but stylistically.

Eric at Plunderbund does a nice meta of Ohio blogs and the comments have good chat too.

At Huffington Post, my blogging, BlogHer buddy Morra Aarons has a must read item that recalls what happened to the last Gen X female Republican Governor who had babies and mom-duties while serving her state – Massachusetts’ Jane Swift (who was eventually defeated by…Mitt Romney). This episode reminds us of the damned if we do, damned if we don’t bind around women: men use their gender all the time to succeed – think McCain and the might of the military for one – security, protection, and because he was a POW, we see his vulnerability, suffering. But if women express parental concerns, which society still so closely aligns with being a woman, we’re viewed as weak and penalized for placing the work above the child, OR the child above the work. Accordingly, in my comments at Plunderbund, I warn against allowing GOP proxies to have their cake and eat it too by suggesting that Dems are hypocritical if they bring up the working mom versus country first bind. There are many women who write about this better than I do but the fact remains: the bind exists and we have to be honest about. I’m not sure how I feel – whether a mother can be president and place country first and children second – for sure, if there is another parent, yes.

But should she have to? Does she want to? Those are even more important and tougher questions – not to many very personal and on a case by case basis. They’re also the emotional ones people ask when they go to the polls, a la Drew Westen.

Lisa Renee is fielding a variety of views on the choice while trying to remain the fount of info and debate that is Glass City Jungle. But like Eric, I would love to hear how she feels, herself – because of who she is. I hope she will share too, but if not, it’s understood that she isn’t.

Here’s one item on the investigation related to her sister, her brother-in-law and allegations that someone in her administration ordered that the BIL be fired in relation to the divorce and when that didn’t happen she fired the commissioner of the office involved.

Last but not least, and there is so much out there, someone sent me actuarial spreadsheets that I’m told indicate the chance that John McCain could die in the next four years. Honestly, I do not know how to read such things, but I imagine this friend who sent this to me isn’t the only one looking. The friend tells me it says McCain has a 15% chance of dying in the next four years, but I’m not sure how you get that.

The Republican Jewish Coalition says standard stuff but includes this:

As governor of Alaska, Palin has enjoyed a strong working relationship with Alaska’s Jewish community. She has demonstrated sensitivity to the concerns of the community and has been accessible and responsive.

FYI, there are 3,425 Jews in Alaska (there are nearly 80,000 on the East Side of Cleveland) or 0.5% (that’s not 50% but rather 1/2 of 1%) of Alaska’s population (there are between 1.5 and 3% Jews in the U.S. general population).

No comment yet from the National Jewish Democratic Council.

So – what do I really think about Sarah Palin? It’s hard to know – I know extremely little and certainly not much if anything beyond what I’ve read or seen. But I thought a flow of my Twitter tweets as I heard them speak and the NPR folks comment on Diane Rehm might give a good idea:

Eleanor Clift [on Diane Rehm] – can she pass threshold test of her being an instant president – McCain can no longer attack Obama on experience

Gov. Palin has “no stance” on foreign policy – heartbeat away? this is going to be a long 67 days to Nov. 4

curious to see how The White House Project hails this, will depend on Palin’s record on issues that matter, impact women

ok- I have GOT to say, I am so sorry, but I have to say: for all the terrified of terrorist threat people, Palin must incite EXTREME anxiety

Palin is unknown, internationally & nationally; if military operations are CRITICAL, I don’t see how McCain people can be ok with this pick

at the McCain event right now, they just brought out teen cheerleaders -for real saying Go McCain! total fratboy

apparently McCain uses cheerleaders a lot before he comes out omg…

catch the fearmongering – McCain knows we live in a dangerous world

do VPs really help shake up DC?

I actually think that Huckabee’s senior adviser Charmaine Yoest had something to do with this pick

here’s what Yoest wrote McCain was hugely problematic for this contingent

Ha! now he mentions women’s suffrage – he didn’t even have a statement on the actual Women’s Equality Day

what’s this pick do for affirmative action? people standing there watching her go past them, thinking, she got it because she’s a woman UGH

do snow machines use a lot of gas? [she said that her husband races them; no wonder she wants to drill more]

there you go already – sorry @acarvin guest just said, as the first thing Palin does is bringing “vivacity” – would never be used for a man

you know the upside is? as women, we CAN show that we do NOT go for candidates because of gender, END OF STORY

she kept her pregnancy a secret for fear of how people might react to her having a Down child?

remember when Edwards got flack for running while Eliz had cancer, and two young kids? how does the VP play w/five kids including newborn?

how does the family values thing fit in – that is not a facetious question – she will have to put country first, no?

does she actually reflect conservative women’s values? how will they feel – that is most important, yes?

I will, without question, have oh so much more long-windedness to expend on this topic. But for now, I stick with my assessment earlier today: this choice is an enormous miscalculation of who votes, who votes for whom, and why.

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle,