Since the immediate CW on Sarah Palin seems to be WTF (inexcusable!), I thought I’d take a look. I know it’s not local, but the hairs went up on the back of my neck when I saw the first wave of reaction.
First, start with James Wolcott’s rundown of the other main candidates. They sucked. Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge were the most Serious choices, and they were apparently ixnayed by management (can’t remember where I read that, but I’ll update when I find it) for being too moderate. Don’t know what happened to Eric Cantor.
That leaves as your “strongest” candidates Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. Romney was a one-term governor of Massachusetts. Pawlenty is partway into his second term. Neither has any political experience outside of state or local politics, unless you count being CEO of the Winter Olympics. Neither is/was overwhelmingly popular as governor, although they held their own. Neither is particularly charismatic. I guess you could include Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, but the former isn’t a politician at all and the latter isn’t a politician and was a disaster at HP.
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know that much about Palin as governor, so I’ll have to outsource immediate opinion to erstwhile Alaskan Dave Noon at the generally left-wing blog Lawyers, Guns, and Money, who vouches for her personal appeal (and it appears she has a gift for political theater), competence, and lack of corruption (heretofore the only famous thing about Alaskan politics, especially their Republicans), and casts a skeptical eye on the nascent Troopergate scandal.
His biggest criticism of her is that she’s a radical social conservative (but not so radical that she’ll give the middle finger to her state supreme court; more) and ready to drill the fuck out of Alaska for oil, but that’s clearly part of her appeal to the McCain campaign. Her choice to carry a child with Downs syndrome to term will carry her a long way with the Christian right, and as far as following one’s conscience it’s admirable.
So, think about it. Lieberman and Ridge are out. Romney has just a couple more years of political experience than Palin, and his foreign policy experience amounts to running for the Republican nomination. Oh, and he’s unlikable. Pawlenty is in his second term as governor–a job that Palin might actually be better at–and doesn’t seem to have any experience of any kind outside of Minneapolis. Plus there was that bridge collapse.
The NYT’s roundup/bio is even more convincing. Is it a good idea? I have no idea. Do I understand the logic? Yes. Will Biden own her in the VP debate? Maybe, but I’m the only person in America who watches that.
Do I think the fact that she’s an attractive woman with a nontraditional pedigree and work history from a state no one thinks about has something to do with the fact that Steve Chapman and others are bugging out? Um, yeah, kind of. For the record, the women at Slate’s XX factor are highly impressed, including the incomparable Dahlia Lithwick, whose word carries more weight with me than virtually any other political commentator writing today. Am I going to get sick of the acronym VPILF? Yeah, real fucking fast.
YMMV–I’m not the most informed person to be listening to about Palin and am playing catch-up like most of America. Chill, was I think my point.
Update: Shorter Eric Zorn: Alaska’s awful tiny. Oh, okay then. Please let us know how big a state you have to be governor of in order to be Vice President.
Update II: Wonkette, both the posts and the comments, is the abyss. Really, really ugly.
Update III: Joan Walsh makes a good point–she’s also there to balance out McCain’s nonphallus-related weaknesses, which is to say almost everything except foreign policy, not to mention his wealth and presumed detachment from the interests of working-class etc., which the Democrats are hitting pretty hard.
Update V: In the comments, Albert Williams (implicitly) asks–why not Kay Bailey Hutchinson? According to Ezra Klein, because she’s pro-choice, which also nixed Ridge, Lieberman, and Jodi Rell.
I’m coming around to the idea that this is a fuck-up, for a number of reasons: he doesn’t know her and vice versa, which makes him look incompetent and hasty, and like he doesn’t have the balls or autonomy to take a different sort of risk with Lieberman, by accounts his first choice; it’ll piss off Pawlenty and Romney, who got took; even if she’s cleared in the firing scandal, there’s this; and there’s the whole bridge to nowhere thing.
I’m still willing to buy the idea that she’s an ok governor who’s getting called up to the Show too early–I’m not saying she’s confidence-inspiring as a veep pick, just not sure how big the actual difference is between her, Kaine, Romney, Jindal, Pawlenty, etc. But it seems like the actual disaster is the process.