Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Further Look at Sarah Palin

Senator John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate was smart, perhaps brilliant, from the standpoint that it was totally unexpected and has obviously shaken things up in both parties, perhaps even more so in the media.

The announcement and its timing took the air out of Barack Obama's acceptance speech and the culmination of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), effectively reducing any 'bounce' in the polls that the Dems might have otherwise enjoyed. There was a reported bounce in most polls, but it was a couple of points less than the norm for candidates coming out of their conventions, and McCain's pick, announced last Friday just hours after the close of the DNC, had a lot to do with that.

Palin's selection was a master stroke from a "Madison Avenue" perspective. She is very appealing in both her look and her story. There certainly are any number of others, including several women within the Republican Party who are far better qualified, but that obviously wasn't what the McCain camp was after.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of Obama's credentials, or how one compares them to Palin's, the fact is that the prospect of her taking the seat behind the Oval Office desk is not a particularly comforting one. Of course, the fact that the White House has been run by a totally inept idiot for the better part of the last eight years should actually give us heart. While overall, the Bush Administration has been an unending cluster fuck, which many Republicans still inexplicably embrace with pride, we can periodically wipe the flop sweat from our collective brow in the knowledge that we haven't all been blown into a pink mist - yet. So, I suppose, in the presumption that Ms. Palin would be "handled" by McCain's surrogates in much the same manner as Mr. Bush, in the event of her ascending to the top spot after, say, another unfortunate 'pretzel' incident that in this (hypothetical) case ends badly, would help ease our angst - and, presumably, hers.

Another element to consider in McCain's VP selection is that now we have two - count 'em, two - Republican nominees who must be handled with kid gloves. The Reps must be mindful of treading lightly over racial matters, but now the Dems must walk on egg shells over both McCain and Palin. The Dems must not besmirch McCain owing to his POW status. Every time a democrat sets out to criticize McCain, their attacks are always prefaced with recognition of McCain's ordeal and praise for his heroism which is proper, but has the effect of taking the edge off of anything they say afterwards.

Now they can't go after Palin regarding, well, about much of anything. Obama and, especially, Biden must be very careful in how they attack her. They can't refer to her being a member of the fairer sex except in praise. They can't touch her family situation. They must be very careful in challenging her evangelical proclivities which are, by the way, significant. And they cannot diminish her "executive" experience as the president of the PTA. They can't even bring up her lack of experience and knowledge regarding international affairs because, as has been aptly pointed out, Russia is so close to Alaska. Palin and McCain can stand up and challenge Obama and Biden to "Bring it on. Give us your best shot," but do so in the full knowledge that any perception the voting public may have that Dems are piling on, or hitting below the belt will have negative repercussions for them (the Dems.)

I can tell you that being the mayor of a town the size of Wasilla is hardly a full time job. My brother is a friend and former associate of Stan Hooley, the executive director of the Iditarod which has its home base in Wasilla. In that capacity, Mr. Hooley is the second most well known resident of the town next to Her (former) Honor, the Mayor, Ms. Palin. During her mayoral tenure, he met with her on a number of occasions. While she had an office, she did much of her work at home while tending the kids, cooking supper, cleaning her guns, etc., which is fine, even admirable, but that does indicate that the mayor's job in Wasilla was not so demanding that she had to be present in her office everyday.

Joe Wright, the current mayor of Beech Grove, Indiana, a town of around 10000 residents spends more hours in the day tending to his laundromat business than he does on the business of Beech Grove. My brother in-law ran for (and lost) the BG mayor's job to Wright last fall in the knowledge that it would take little time away from his business and that the job offers great health insurance benefits.

The current mayor of Southport, Indiana, a smaller community of around 3500 residents, puts in about 12 to 15 hours a week in that capacity. The gist of this is, let's not make too much out of one's having been the mayor of a small town. In most cases, it's just not that big a whup.
Palin's quick rise to the Alaska governorship is impressive, and her actions and approval rating are, likewise, not to be sniffed at. I would suggest however, that taking on the power structure in Alaska is not quite the same thing as bringing about significant change inside the Beltway. She, along with fellow "maverick" John McCain might shake things up in D.C., but I wouldn't hold my breath. Even if they succeed to some extent in that regard, one must consider whether that is necessarily a good thing. After all, what things do they intend to shake up, and just how do they intend to shake them? What will be the end result? Will any changes they manage to make result in a more efficient, more responsive federal government? Or will it simply create more entanglements, more red tape and more political wrangling?

It has been repeatedly noted that Palin flip-flopped on the 'bridge to nowhere' ("She was for it before she was against it,") but not much notice has been paid to the fact that as mayor of Wasilla, largely through the efforts of paid lobbyists, she managed to obtain over 25 million dollars in federal "earmarks" for the town; just the kind of thing that is supposedly anathema to McCain.

Also as governor, she championed a deal which now brings in a payment of $3200 for each and every citizen of Alaska from the oil companies' profits. This arrangement was originally set up in 1982, but Palin formed a coalition with Democrats and some apparently reluctant Republicans in the Alaska legislature to up the ante to the oil companies.

Alaskans pay no state income tax largely due to the revenue the state gets from big oil. Hmmm. How is that fundamentally different from Obama's campaign promise to tax the oil companies' "windfall" profits? It's okay for Alaska, but not the rest of us? Am I reading that correctly, comrade?

I would venture to guess that had Palin been the Democratic VP choice, the Republicans would have jumped on her just as hard or harder than the Democrats have done. They would have picked over her thin resume in much the same way as is now being done, and it's likely that one or more self-righteous, Bible wielding, evangelical preachers would have risen up in condemnation of her daughter's licentious behavior.

Today, politicians are looked upon in much the same light as celebrities by most people and especially, the media. What did the McCain people expect? It has been no less vicious with Obama. His life has been scoured, picked and prodded up, down and sideways, with all manner of distortions, half truths and outright lies bandied about since he announced his candidacy. Now, that is all topped off with Jerome Corsi's disgusting book, The Obama Nation which has taken all the above noted crap, added more, and condensed it under one convenient cover. This book sits near the top of the New York Times best seller list.

The political arena is not a place for the faint of heart. The scrutiny of Palin is still in its first phases. Many more will follow. It ain't gonna get any easier. All of you folks who claim such indignation at how Palin has been treated are a bit much. Again, what the hell did you expect?


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