Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin, "inexperience", and how to look like a donkey in criticizing hers

In emailing a friend yesterday-- who was excited about the selection of Gov. Palin-- I added that her "inexperience" was actually an asset.

We've already seen evidence of this in the first 24 hours...

(Full disclosure: I'm not a Republican but am relatively excited about Gov. Palin as a choice-- and in fact, I can't imagine a better one that was on McCain's radar. Moreover, as a political observer, I think it is a brilliant pick.)

On her experience: as a former mayor and current governor, she has more executive experience in government than the other three combined. Failure to understand the practical importance of this shows an ignorance of what executives do.

But here's where her experience is important in terms of rhetoric.

First, if one thinks this is a big deal, then one must have the same critique about Obama. This is where I think her experience is an asset. If you raise the point, you look like an idiot. And if you don't raise it, people are thinking about it even moreso, and so it diminishes Obama further.

Moreover, to the extent that this is a concern, a Biden-Obama ticket makes more sense than a Obama-Biden ticket.

Despite these two relatively obvious points, we've already seen people stumble into the trap-- e.g., the editorialists in this morning's C-J...

Governor Who?

Not necessarily a bad title, but insulting in light of what follows...

Count us among those who are baffled by the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to run for vice president.

Sen. John McCain celebrated his 72nd birthday yesterday and is a cancer survivor. The most important factor in selecting a vice presidential candidate is fitness to assume the presidency -- a more pressing concern than usual in Sen. McCain's case.

And so he opens the envelope yesterday and announces that the winner is -- a small-state governor with about a year and a half in office?... is insulting to women to suggest that Gov. Palin's experience and vision are remotely equivalent to Sen. Clinton's....

But Gov. Palin's selection occurred at a time when the country faces severe challenges at home and abroad. Let's hope that Sen. McCain is taking all of this seriously.


At August 30, 2008 at 7:04 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

I'm not sure I follow your logic. Never mind that Obama or other Democrats cannot criticize Palin for inexperience—the salient point is that McCain cannot now criticize Obama's lack of experience. That was one of his best arguments against voting for Obama, and now he cannot use it.

I think McCain's choice of Palin signals that his campaign is in trouble. I suspect that McCain wanted to pick a more experienced politician (certainly not one he's only met once before), but the other possible choices turned him down. I read somewhere that McCain wanted to ask Lieberman to run with him, but his Republican strategists talked McCain out of this because Lieberman is pro-choice and that would have alienated the Republican base. Anyway, it appears that McCain made a last-minute choice, if not a panicky last-minute choice. This will end up in the same category as McGovern picking Eagleton (at the last minute without a proper vetting process), or Perot picking Adm. Stockdale ("What am I doing here?"). In each case, solid, credible national politicians turned down invitations to be running mates—because they knew the respective candidacies were doomed.

At August 31, 2008 at 12:13 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Again, let me preface this by saying that I'm not a fan of McCain's...

Of course, McCain can still criticize Obama's lack of experience. Obama is running for President; Palin is running for Vice President. And anyone who tries to condemn Palin's experience implicitly downgrades Obama's. And the point that occurred to me: by choosing someone who is relatively inexperienced, it ironically brings even more attention to Obama's experience deficiency-- by getting us to talk about it more!

And to repeat another punchline here: one could argue that Palin's experience is stronger than Obama's-- given her executive experience. Why is Obama's experience preferable to hers?

I heard the conjecture about Lieberman as well. But I'd be surprised if McCain's political instincts are that lousy. Choosing a pro-choicer would have been as politically suicidal as Obama choosing a pro-lifer.

I also don't see any evidence for a quick or careless pick. Nor can I imagine any reason for McCain to panic. (Mondale picking Ferraro certainly fits that bill!) The race is basically even-- and where does Obama have to go, but down? I don't know much about Palin, but a comparison to Stockdale is insulting and a comparison to Eagleton seems quite improbable.

I think the most challenging thing one can say about McCain's choice is that he picked Palin because she's a woman. But, ironically, for most Democrats, the pursuit of diversity is a completely legitimate end in itself, so they should be applauding that as well.

At August 31, 2008 at 2:16 PM , Blogger William Lang said...

McCain cannot criticize Obama for being inexperienced now that he has demonstrated his own lack of regard for experience by choosing Palin. And the bottom of the ticket is no less important than the top of the ticket, since McCain is a 72-year-old cancer survivor. The first important act made by a nominee is their choice of a running mate. Voters might compare the decision of Obama with the decision of McCain: Obama made a conservative (meaning non-risky) choice, while McCain took a political gamble. And I think Obama might be blunting the experience issue anyway, by showing such control and strength in his convention speech.

At August 31, 2008 at 5:19 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I see that point, but think it's (easily) trumped by the other points-- especially since she's the V-P and Obama is the P.

And the choice of a V-P is not (even close to) the first important act of a P candidate.


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