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2008.08.29

Comments

megan kay

It's exciting to know that no matter what happens, we're going to have a 1-2 team in the white house that isn't made up solely of white, Protestant men. It's not like he was going to pick a progressive, but to pick someone who isn't a white man is progress in itself.

Jacquie F

I was all fired up about this and I was hoping you had something enlightening to say. Thank you!

I'm so conflicted about this. She's my governor. I didn't vote for her in 2006 and I will not vote for her ticket this fall. (Alaska would have gone McCain without her--that's how they roll.)She isn't the worst pick in the world as she has been refreshingly not corrupt. I think a potted plant on the republican ticket would have won the governorship, though. It doesn't really take much up here. She has proven that she actually cares about her constituents in various ways.

Is this choice pandering? Probably, but she has been a "better" republican than most. Her views are really no different than any other conservative schmuck. Her environmental policies are not exactly good for anybody but the oil companies. Choosing her puts the spotlight on Alaskan politics and Alaska in general. This state has been featured on several reality shows that, while true, fetishize this state. I love the deadliest catch as much as the next person, but fish politics are pretty hairy and divisive. Don't even get me started on the Alaska experiment or Tougher in Alaska.

One thing that bugs me are the attacks on her for doing this while having 5 kids at home. Like she isn't smart enough to figure out how to be a politician and a parent. She isn't experienced enough, but unlike Obama, she doesn't really engender hope and change the way he can.

Forgive the rambling. Too much rattling in my head.

Lisa S.

Her environmental policies are not exactly good for anybody but the oil companies.

Yeah, and they're downright bad for polar bears.

Palin doesn't pass my personal litmus test -- which is environmental -- but I am superhopeful that if nothing else, she's changing the terms of the conversation. It would be nice if this was the year where people stopped assuming women were some monolithic bloc who could be placated with a few sops.

*

It's exciting to know that no matter what happens, we're going to have a 1-2 team in the white house that isn't made up solely of white, Protestant men.

Yeah, I was joking with someone that this is a bad year for you if you're a bigot. And frankly, I'm okay with that!

Alexandra

I'm thrilled at the Palin choice because government spending is the most important campaign issue for me and I've loved the way she's taken on corruption in the Republican Party. I'm thrilled by the way this bizarre election season is injecting some actual "possibility" into our democracy again. I slightly less thrilled about the valid points that some of her detractors have made about her experience and suitability for a place on the national ticket. I'm resigned to her position on social policy (I'm a pro-choice Republican and live with the "one foot in each camp" problem every damn election). The Republican Convention has earned a spot on my TiVO, if just to assess her mettle and anticipate the three-ring circus of a Biden debate.

Polly

I'm of two minds about it. Although I'm a Democrat, I have a lot of respect for McCain, and I'd like to think that this is representative of his delightful willingness to tick off the troglodytes of his own party.

OTOH, with her lack of experience, it does remind me of how Bush the Senior used to appoint people to all appearances solely on the basis their demographic profiles, which was how we wound up with such lovelies as Dan Quayle and Clarence Thomas in top government positions. I mean, there are Republican female politicians out there who are not novices, and it doesn't even sound like McCain knows her that well.

hannah

The more I think about it, the more inspired a choice it seems to be. Palin has a lot of the same assets Pawlenty had- she's got religious right bona fides, she's down with the working class... but she's also a total Outsider (shores up McCain's "Maverick" image) with the same kind of people skills McCain has... AND she's a woman. McCain's biggest strength is that he can make people forget where he stands on issues and get them to vote for him anyway because they like him, and Palin seems awfully likeable, too.

Shotrock

I know many women who supported Hillary, because they agreed with her on the issues and thought she was more experienced than Obama. All of them are deeply insulted by the apparent Republican belief that the real reason they supported HRC was shared reproductive equipment, and that all the McCain campaign has to do is stick a vayjayjay on the ticket and they'll come running.

There are Republican female politicians out there who are not novices.

Yes, but most of them are pro-choice (why we've never had a Bush/Whitman or McCain/Snowe ticket). One that is not is Kay Bailey Hutchinson. She would have been a perfect VP candidate (I say this as a yellow-dog Democrat) -- made the pro-life evangelicals happy and many right-of-center moderate women happy as well.

A few other things that Kay is: extremely intelligent, experienced and assertive. She's the Republican HRC, and in fact both KBH and HRC have tremendous respect for each other. And looking at McCain's choice of an an inexperienced woman who is very much NOT his equal indicates that he sees strong, intelligent, assertive women as a threat to him.

Regarding the old bucket of warm piss analogy: I disagree. A post on another blog had a great substitute analogy: picking a veep is like picking who will be the legal guardian of your children should you die. The odds are highly in your favor that you'll never need such a thing, but the reason parents agonize over who to name is the realization that this could be the most important decision they'll ever make regarding their children's welfare.

And it just looks like McCain didn't do too much agonizing, you know?

marion

Shotrock: KBH is officially pro-choice...by which I mean that she doesn't think that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and she has supported embryonic stem-cell research. The McCain campaign floated some trial balloons with the base about possibly picking a pro-choice candidate and was more or less shot down. I think that KBH is very intelligent and experienced too, but she wouldn't have connected with the GOP base the way that Palin is apparently doing, which McCain REALLY needed to do if he wanted to stay in the race.

Also, in my neck of the woods, the universal belief seems to be that KBH doesn't have a passion for being VP, but DOES have a passion for being governor when Rick Perry's term is up in 2010. You may be hearing different things - would be interesting for those in various parts of the state to compare notes.

Anyway, I agree on the issue here being that most female GOP politicians are pro-choice. However, I also think that if Bobby Jindahl had been elected governor of Louisiana in 2003 instead of 2007, he'd be McCain's VP pick right now, no question.

Purely from a poli sci perspective, leaving the issues out of it, there were no "ideal" VP picks for McCain. McCain needed to:
*Reach out to the Republican base, which isn't crazy about him
*Manage to seem electable to the independent voters outside the base
*Defuse the issue of his perceived out-of-touchness and his wealth
*Inject some energy into the campaign to counteract the issue of his age
*Find a way to be as interesting as the Obama campaign
*Combat the perception that the Republican ticket is offering grumpy stick-in-the-mudness

And who did he have to do this with? Jindahl wasn't going to leave Louisiana after just a year. Pawlenty is well-respected, but not viewed as being powerfully dynamic. Lieberman isn't a Republican. Ridge is seen as being generally squishy by the base; the pro-choice angle is the least of his issues. Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have no experience as elected officials. Giuliani is seen as being too moderate. Romney is too similar to McCain in the elements he's trying to downplay (wealthy white guy with no real blue-collar roots) and isn't the most consistent guy (to say the least). Rob Portman is too associated with the Bush administration. There's Kasich, but he's not well-known either. Huckabee was never going to be the choice.

Anecdotally, the GOP base seems THRILLED by Palin. I have no idea if this will pan out, but I'm seeing lots of comments along the lines of, "I was still trying to convince myself to vote for McCain before the pick; I've just sent a donation and am planning on volunteering" since Friday morning. Independent voters? We'll have to see on that, but I think the fact that, 12 hours after an African-American was nominated as a major party Presidential candidate for the first time ever, all anyone could talk about was McCain's pick was a short-term coup for the McCain campaign. She's definitely not old or grumpy, and she's blue-collar. (Note: I make no judgment on her beliefs and stances here - think of this as a political-consultant approach to the question.)

Palin's attractiveness as a VP candidate was not totally unrelated to her gender, especially given the Hillary-related issues about which we all know. But I think Obama's appeal isn't unrelated to his ethnicity and the promise that he can have a significant effect on the racial scene in the U.S. simply by being elected. I think voting for a candidate solely because of his/her gender or ethnicity is ridiculous, but we don't live in a gender-blind or color-blind world, and given that certain ethnicities and a certain gender do all too often bring with them subtle or overt obstacles and challenges, I'm not unhappy when I see those obstacles and challenges being flipped upside down into being advantages.

I do think, though, that if you don't like Palin and want to discourage someone from voting for her, trying to be cute about it is the WRONG tactic. I've already seen various references to her as being an empty-headed beauty queen, an MTV veejay, etc. etc. I don't think that's going to discourage anyone from voting for her and McCain who might have done so otherwise, and it looks somewhat nasty and petty, at least to my eyes. If she's too inexperienced, too anti-abortion, too pro-oil, too whatever for you, pointing those facts out is (IMHO) very effective. Paul Begala had a good point earlier when he said that, while both Palin and Obama aren't overflowing with experience, 18 million primary voters picked Obama - John McCain picked Palin. If the criticisms of Palin are all couched that way, they have the potential to be effective. If they're more along the lines of "Hah, hah, the pretty girl is soooo stupid!" and "That's not her baby - it's her oldest daughter's!", people will tune them out the way they tuned out the vituperative anti-Clinton stuff. There is a vein of misogynism out there that's been tapped into with this pick, just as it was with the Hillary candidacy. That does NOT mean that only misogynists could oppose Palin, or Hillary - just that, IMHO, opponents have to be extra-careful to distinguish their valid points from the ravings of the "icky gurrrrls" crowd, if only to avoid being discredited by perceived association.

(The allegation about the baby is a real one that's floating around out there. In addition to finding it highly unlikely that such a thing could be pulled off by the sitting governor of a small-population state, I'll point out that very few pregnant teenagers give birth to kids with Down's Syndrome, whereas a relatively high number of mid-40s pregnant women do. But YMMV.)

Alexandra

Marion, that was an insightful analysis of the Republican field, and frankly more useful to me than much of what I'm reading in the Washington Post.

Polly

I do think, though, that if you don't like Palin and want to discourage someone from voting for her, trying to be cute about it is the WRONG tactic.

Word, marion. I just find that kind of approach offensive--let's judge women by their looks! But only if they're Republican! I hated the whole, Barbara Bush looks old! thing when Bush Sr. was elected. It's hypocritical, it's ugly, and if we're all supposed to be feminists here, shouldn't we find something else to harp on? Like, you know, Palin's support for intelligent design?

And while this isn't going to matter to the pro-lifers, it really annoys me that they feel she was so very brave to give birth to a child with Down's syndrome at a time when she and her husband had a combined income of $200+K a year, when they obviously have help at home (she went back to work three days after giving birth), and when she was already this elected evangelical who would take some serious flak if she had an abortion. Under those circumstances, I would have had the kid, too--it's when you're 16 or 19 or 22 and unmarried and making $20K a year with no one to help out at home that the decision to have a child, disabled or not, becomes a genuinely brave (or perhaps foolish) choice.

marion

Glad you enjoyed, Alexandra. It's nice to come here and read thoughtful, measured critiques about Palin that don't have anything to do with her looks. Yes, in the words of Craig Ferguson, she has the "sexy librarian" look going on. That doesn't automatically make her an idiot. Her positions may make her (in your/the electorate's opinion) wrongheaded and a bad choice to lead the country, but try to dismiss her solely on her looks and the fact that she's just served a couple of years as governor (after serving as mayor and the head of the state's oil and gas commission), and you may be very unpleasantly surprised. Remember that your opponents want you to underestimate them.

It's hypocritical, it's ugly, and if we're all supposed to be feminists here, shouldn't we find something else to harp on? Like, you know, Palin's support for intelligent design?

Exactly. (Sigh.) Oh, and on the subject of Palin's views environmentalism and energy, here's something I found somewhat interesting: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/politics/5974744.html . Given everything I've been hearing over the last couple of days about how Palin is such a green, untested risk compared to the other three candidates, this quote especially stood out: "Between Biden, Obama and McCain, Palin is the only one who can spell 'energy.' The rest of these guys are completely clueless." This isn't to say that Lisa is going to like Palin's environmental views any better after reading the article...but it does touch on a subject that most of the national media appears to be overlooking.

And I do think the "working class" angle played a significant role in her selection, especially after the issue of McCain's perceived out-of-touchedness reared its head again recently. I'm not saying it was the only factor leading to her choice, but let's just say that I thought McCain wouldn't be forming the all-rich-guy ticket by choosing Romney (for one).

marion

On another, less weighty note: Can we all do our best to shut down this "Palin named her daughter after a character on 'Buffy'!" meme? Because the daughter in question is 14, and BTVS's character Willow didn't air on television until the spring of 1997, so unless Palin is precognitive, she had another source for the kid's name (such as, oh, Willow, Alaska).

(That having been said, yes, Palin totally could have named her youngest daughter after Piper Halliwell on "Charmed." The kid even looks like a younger version of Holly Marie Combs.)

I don't think any of this is evidence of sexism, as I think a male candidate with daughters named Piper and Willow could have faced the exact same reaction, but in case anyone here decides to go out and try to keep the Palin critiques on an intelligent level, I thought I'd throw this in.

Lisa S.

I can't believe anyone would honestly snark on what someone named her kids. Maybe these are my nascent pearl-clutching tendencies surging to the fore, but my feeling is that minor children of adult political candidates are off-limits. I wouldn't like to see people sniggering about the names Malia and Sasha, and I don't like it when people snigger about Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig.

If you're going to be critiquing Palin, do it on merit, man. Anything else is just tacky, mean and dumb, and certainly won't woo people over to your position.

hannah

Well, the only person I've seen who came close was Maureen Dowd. But I am not sure Maureen Dowd isn't tacky, mean and dumb.

Tracy

Also, in my neck of the woods, the universal belief seems to be that KBH doesn't have a passion for being VP, but DOES have a passion for being governor when Rick Perry's term is up in 2010. You may be hearing different things - would be interesting for those in various parts of the state to compare notes.

Don't know which neck of the woods you're in, marion, but it's pretty much foregone here in Texas that KBH is running for governor in 2010. There are already state lege candidates publicly jockeying to fill her U.S. Senate spot when she runs.

I am not sure Maureen Dowd isn't tacky, mean and dumb.

I'm pretty sure she's three for three.

marion

Tracy: Sounds as though we're in the same neck of the woods. :) The people in my area expect her to win handily; we'll see if that comes about. It will be interesting to see who ends up running for her seat. I know that Bill White wants to be governor too, but I think the aftereffects of the Rita evacuation may hurt his case. 2010 should be interesting even if Kinky doesn't run again...

On Palin:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/30/AR2008083002377.html

If the article is to be believed, Palin's selection 1) was in the works for quite some time and 2) had relatively little to do with her gender, relating more to the fact that McCain saw her as a kindred spirit. Now, the article does make McCain look awfully good, and I'm sure there's some spin involved, but if it's to be believed, it's Palin's rep as a crusader, rather than her two X chromosomes, that elevated her so far, so fast. Which, unrelated to how I may feel about her politics, would make this seem to me to be more genuine progress than a pick made primarily by gender. If we really are at the point at which a 70something long-time male politician can meet a 40something (pregnant!) female politician and view her as a kindred spirit rather than as a novelty, that's a good sign.

Also of note, from another article:
Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a close ally of Obama's, criticized Palin as a "risky" vice presidential pick during a news conference earlier Sunday in St. Louis.

"It shows he is perfectly willing to abandon the modern middle and wrap himself around the radical right in this country," McCaskill said.

Now, see, that's a smart way to criticize Palin. Don't obsess about the pick being "risky" because she's a woman with little previous national exposure - focus on the fact that she's pretty darn conservative and intended to appeal to the Republican base rather than moderates. McCaskill knows her stuff.


Josh

I wrote 3 different comments about Palin and deleted them all.

Let me try this one: I hope the discussion remains on her resume and qualifications. Because I think it would be great to have a serious discussion about it without gender ever coming into it. I don't think she's ready and it has nothing to do with gender at all. Being a small-town part-time mayor and serving 1/2 a term as governor of one of the 5 smallest states in terms of population isn't enough in this day and age, IMHO. (Of course, I also hate her policy positions...)

But I think the more interesting thing is what this pick says about McCain. because I don't believe for one second that this has been in the works for some time, I think it was a last-minute audible. the vetting has just been too poor. But if it was in the works for a while, it's almost worse. If this was planned, then the vetting was totally incompetant, which should reflect on McCain. If it wasn't, then what does it say about McCain's decision-making when he makes his first presidential decision like this?

ginger

Hey, I make fun of Palin's kids' names - but I make fun of the names of children of rock stars, actors, and other public figures. It has nothing to do with her candidacy, and everything to do with her status as a public figure.

That aside, the more I hear about Palin the more I marvel that she was tagged. I am inclined to believe the kindred spirit argument, because it's definitely not a selection based on experience, electability or "safety". I really wonder what his handlers think.

About the office itself - ultimately, McCain is the survivor of a highly lethal cancer with a high lifetime probability of recurrence, he's survived some experiences that tend to age one prematurely even with excellent medical care (combat injuries, cancer, torture and imprisonment), and, at 71, he's already a little long in the tooth. His choice of running mate is pretty important to his campaign and to the country.

marion

Adding this:

http://www.slate.com/id/2199322/

The speech Sarah Palin gives tonight at the Republican National Convention will, I predict, be wildly overpraised. It may even put to rest media speculation that Palin is unqualified for the vice-presidential nomination. How do I know this? Because Palin, who remains largely an unknown quantity, is getting beaten up in the press for various trivial shortcomings.

I'd say it's not a pro-Palin or anti-Palin article - it's more a critique of the media. Not of media bias, or "media bias" - just of the storyline that the media was creating. And, given that Wolf Blitzer apparently just said something like "A star is born" after the Palin speech, I'd say that at least some commentators are following Noah's script. In case anyone was wondering why Joe Biden was just quoted as saying that he thinks Palin's competent to serve as VP, it's because he realizes that allegations otherwise won't end up doing him any favors.

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