Monkey Tail Politics

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I haven’t been posting too actively lately. Not because I haven’t had anything to say, and not because I haven’t had the time to say it. Mostly, it’s been because I’ve had a ton to say, and whenever I waited (for whatever reason) a bit to say it, it felt too trivial to post after the fact.

Next week, we have four concerts on consecutive nights, so there will be steady blogging, for sure. Therefore, I’ll take this opportunity (hopefully, in a timely fashion), to share a few thoughts on Sarah Palin as John McCain’s choice for VP.

I could likely type for the next few hours (literally) and not scratch the surface of all the thoughts I have on everything that’s swirling around this choice. I’ll try really hard to boil it down to a few points. For your sake, I hope I achieve that goal. 😉

If you know me, then you know that I’m still a 6-year-old at heart (seriously). So, I’ll start by summarizing what this pick has done to many (dare I say most?) Democrats:

Oh the monkey wrapped his tail around the flagpole, to see his…

The alternative image I have is that of a Whirling Dervish, but I really didn’t want to insult Whirling Dervishes the world over.

Basically, many Democrats/Liberals (and some Republicans/Conservatives) have fallen into a number of obvious traps in their responses to the announcement of Sarah Palin (that’s Governor Palin to you!) as the Republican nominee for VP.

She’s been attacked so many times (in so few days) on so many issues, it would take me the aforementioned hours just to document the various attacks, let alone analyze the meaningful ones. So, I’ll restrict myself to a very few broad categories of attacks.

  1. McCain picked her only because she’s a woman, thinking he can pick up disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters
  2. She should have declined, because she won’t be able to be a good mother and good VP at the same time
  3. She has no foreign policy experience (some knock all of her experience) and McCain is not likely to make it through to the end of his term

To reiterate, many more attacks on many more levels, but for this post, we’ll stick to the above.

Starting with #1 above. Because there was/is a perception out there that some meaningful number of disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters might be in play, McCain pandered (that’s the essence of the charge) to them (all women?) by hurriedly, foolishly, unvettingly (sorry, I know that’s not a word) and irresponsibly picking Sarah Palin.

The irresponsible part comes in under the guise of questioning McCain’s judgment, in the first crucial decision that he’s had to make in this race. How do they weasel out of that charge if/when she acquits herself? Will they be forced to recognize his bold/visionary choice, or is that simply impossible, even though they were obviously caught by surprise and reacted before they knew much about her…

Let’s analyze this a bit. There were 18 million Clinton supporters. They weren’t all women, and they weren’t all located together, in one giant swing state. Most polls show that the majority of them have strongly committed to Obama (is anyone surprised?). Those numbers have (and should have!) swelled after both Clinton’s spoke at last week’s DNC. The catharsis was complete.

For one minor example, Hillary Clinton carried NY State in the primary. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that some reasonable number of the 18 million supporters are in this very large state. Does anyone think McCain has the slightest shot of carrying NY come November? Even if a goodly number of Clinton’s supporters vote for him? I don’t think so either…

Next, for some people (not just women), the right to choose is so critical (no, I’m not suggesting they don’t care about other issues) that they would never consider voting for anyone who is staunchly pro-life. Presumably, a reasonable percentage of Clinton’s supporters fall into this camp (also probably more heavily weighted toward her female backers). So, when McCain chooses a staunch pro-life advocate, do his critics really believe he is stupid enough to believe that a pro-choice woman will vote for him just because he picked a woman, especially one who is so outspoken on the issue?

Believing that is insulting all around. It insults McCain’s intelligence (specifically, my point above). It insults his integrity (implying that he would be willing to endanger the country and sell his principles, for the hope that women would be fooled into voting for him just because he selected a woman). It insults Palin, because it requires the assumption that she is a bad pick, without any facts (at the time that the accusations started rolling).

It also insults the insulters, because it makes otherwise (often) intelligent people make very stupid statements (and assumptions), in a rush to be on the record, and to sway the electorate toward their candidate. The fact that many of these insulters are theoretically journalists, and quite a number of them prominent women (Sally Quinn, Maureen Dowd, Campbell Brown), just demeans them all the more…

#2 will be quicker. I’ll give one example for now. Sally Quinn wrote a lengthy, and nearly 100% nonsensical article. I would enjoy taking it apart, line by line, but I will save that for tomorrow (hopefully), just for my own personal enjoyment. It’s hard to choose one specific line, but for now, I’ll stick with this one:

Her first priority has to be her children.

Wow, really? I saw Sally Quinn interviewed last night on TV. Clearly, she wanted to make sure that this line wasn’t taken out of context (heaven forbid!). So, she wanted to make it clear that she fully supports working mothers (how wonderful). She even said she’s friends with many of them (how quaint, to associate yourself with real working moms…).

However, she draws the line at VP. You can’t effectively raise your family and take care of the nation’s business. Period. One rung below (one additional heartbeat from the Presidency) is fine (since she specifically calls out Nancy Pelosi as having five children as well). Thankfully, Nancy had the good sense to wait before entering politics. If Nancy got a call at 3am from one of her children or grandchildren (who cares how old they are?), she could obviously ignore them for the benefit of country. Hoo rah!

Is this really a position that prominent women want to espouse publicly? I’ll have more to say on this a little later on.

#3, she’s inexperienced, in particular when it comes to foreign policy. Another silly trap. Do they really want to get into an argument on this, when their candidate’s leading personal weakness is lack of experience, in particular on foreign policy? They think that they can Jujitsu the matter, by claiming that McCain ceded his lead on this issue by picking Palin. So, are they admitting that McCain is eminently more qualified to lead us internationally, but that’s he introduced a potential risk shoud he pass on prematurely?

OK, I’ve gone on long enough. Let’s take each of these issue and deal with them from a realistic point of view, not the insulting one.

#1 is easy, and obvious. McCain had much bigger problems with the Republican Base than worrying about picking off a handful of Clinton supporters. It’s well known that many people in the Republican party don’t think he’s conservative enough. Would a meaningful number of them vote for Obama? Not a chance (just like a meaningful number of Clinton supporters won’t vote for McCain!). But, would a meaningful number of them stay home on election day? Perhaps. It’s happened before.

So, he picked Sarah Palin to appeal to the base. She has a proven record on many of the issues dear to conservatives. I find it ironic that the other obvious choices (all men) would not have bolstered the support of the base as completely as Palin has and will. It has little to do with the fact that she’s a woman, and everything to do with her beliefs and accomplishments to date.

#2 is easy as well. It’s not only ironic, but actually moronic (is that more irony?) 😉 that women who feel that choice is the defining issue of our time (at least with regard to women’s rights), are thrilled to be on the record as claiming that Palin doesn’t have the choice to be VP when she has children to attend to.

Where to begin? Does she have the choice to be a bad mother if she wants to? Is it possible that her husband is a great father who can devote himself to the children, so that even if she chooses to be more of a VP than a mom, the kids won’t suffer? Is it possible that they have an additional support structure (paid for, or supplemented with relatives and friends) who could/would pitch in and help with the family?

No, it’s simply not possible. It’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to choose to kill her unborn child, purely for the purpose of pursuing a career (come now, don’t say that’s never the reason for an abortion!), but it’s an outrage for her to want to serve her country, at the highest level, if other women deem that she’s not capable of handling her motherly duties at the same time.

Man (or should that be Woman), this is one of the biggest loser arguments in the history of arguments…

#3 is no slam dunk, on either side of the argument. The fact that it’s murky should have Democrats avoiding it, but dive in they must. So, Obama claims to want to avoid all politics as usual, and wants to bring populism back to Washington. He disclaims the old guard. That is, until he realizes that he’s being effectively pegged as a foreign policy neophyte.

At that point, he actually does a mature thing, and appoints a Washington insider to the ticket. That insider brings with him a wealth of foreign policy experience. Good for Obama. It’s hardly what he was selling up front, but I applaud his ability to recognize a weakness, and correct it.

That said, it’s a direct admission that he indeed does lack the foreign policy credentials to have chosen a fresher face as his running mate. While we can all be glad that he will enjoy Biden’s counsel, in the end, it is Obama who would be the President, and we have no guarantees that once elected, he will accept Biden’s advice. After all, Biden voted for the war that Obama claims he never would have. What if Biden advises him that a future war is in our best interests?

More importantly, Palin is being knocked on foreign policy because she might become President (after all, people might disagree with McCain’s stances on the issues, but they’re not going to successfully argue that he’s ill-prepared from an experience point of view). If that’s a reasonable argument, then shouldn’t we be looking at Biden from the perspective of what if Obama passes away prematurely, and Biden ascends to the Presidency?

In that case, exactly what kind of change will Biden bring to Washington? After all, Obama is being swept in on the basis of one word, change, and whatever it means to each person who hears it! Obama can’t (and won’t, and would be foolish to) define it. Change, for the sake of change, isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Attacking Sarah Palin on the issues would have been the correct strategy on the part of her detractors. She stands in stark contrast to their beliefs, so basing the bashing on the issues should have been trivially easy (and the smart ones, like Biden himself, are doing just that). Picking on the themes that have been the highlight of this post was incredibly stupid. It accomlished exactly one thing, to galvanize the base even further in support of McCain/Palin. If you didn’t notice that at the RNC last night, you didn’t watch…