Posted by: renegadeknight | October 1, 2008

McCain’s Disturbing and Irresponsible Choice

John McCain’s now disturbing choice of Sarah Palin as his VP nominee seems so out of character. A man who said he would rather lose a campaign than a war and who has so often put his country above politics did just the opposite. He chose a policy lightweight to energize his campaign, but at the same time put the country at risk. Actuarial science tells us that the chance of McCain dying in the next four year is approximately 1 in 5. We’ll discount that, since McCain seems to be vigorous for his age and assume he inherited his mother’s longevity.

Regardless of McCain’s actuarial status (I’m not a big fan of such things), the state of global security puts him at risk. No doubt terrorists are regularly plotting against the president, and McCain should recognize this. If he were to die, regardless of the cause, we would be left with the most inexperienced and woefully ignorant president ever.

We’ve recently discovered that Sarah Palin can give a great speech, but her policy knowledge is laughable. First, realize that she was elected governor and mayor on the basis of her personality — charismatic, charming, and tenacious. She destroyed politicians that got in here way and then lucked out when Frank Murkowski, who had been one of Alaska’s senators for years, became a very unpopular governor. She was able to run against him in the primary on the basis of ethics reform. She won, and given Alaska’s nature as a one party state, she easily won the general election.

But what of her policy knowledge? Well, we first discovered that the governor can only name a single Supreme Court decision, naturally Roe v. Wade. Governor Palin’s great when she’s able to stay on her talking points, but her recent interview with Katie Couric showed how woefully unprepared she is to be president.

First, the interview with Couric provided us with the “I can see Russia from my house” Tina Fey joke. It was hilarious and over the top, but it’s essentially what Palin claimed. Because Russian bombers will often patrol near Alaska, and we scramble fighters to intercept them, she has some sort of foreign policy experience. The President and the Pentagon don’t consult her, even if they were to use Alaska Air National Guard jets to intercept. She has no say in defense matters.

But then she claimed that there were trade missions with Russia from Alaska. Indeed there are, but she’s never been on one and never met with any Russian representatives. Heck, for all of this talk about Russia, she’s never been to the one island in Alaska where you can actually see Russia just a stone’s throw away.

A McCain campaign spokesman deflected the foreign policy issue noting that Governor Palin has the same foreign policy experience as former Governors Reagan, Carter, and Clinton. Indeed, but let’s turn to her domestic resume.

Let’s look at the exchange she had with Katie Couric on the economy:

Katie Couric: Why isn’t it better, Gov. Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

Gov. Sarah Palin: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the — it’s got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

Just look at that interview.  It’s depressing how little she knows about economic policy.  Surely a Governor should be able to discuss domestic policy rationally?  Heck, what about complete sentences and complete thoughts?  She was just jumbling together various talking points hoping to skirt through an answer.  It’s just patently unacceptable.

That’s just our first look into Sarah Palin.  We’ll see how this debate against noted foreign policy heavyweight Joe Biden goes tomorrow.  Of course, the way the McCain campaign has been spinning it (and the media ate it up), if she doesn’t come out drooling on herself and can manage to speak in something beyond baby talk, it’ll be a major victory in surpassing expectations.  Hopefully the American people will see it for what it is.

It is painfully clear at this point that she has never spent a moment ruminating about serious policy issues. No doubt she has her aids brief her on the decisions that come up as governor and then takes an “A or B” approach in choosing.  She’ll have that same option if she should ever succeed to the presidency, but we’ve seen how much of a failure an administration based on “A or B” choices has been.  Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush…all policy wonks by various meanings of the term.  Reagan was certainly not the academic policy wonk like Clinton, who would deeply study report after report on a subject, but Reagan understood issues and understood how to achieve positive results.  Likewise, Bush was a foreign policy expert who understood that issues have more than two or three choices.

Most importantly, none of these presidents were so horribly uninformed on the issues.  Each of them could speak at length about whatever issue they were questioned about.  Heck, even Dan Quayle, for all of his verbal gaffes, had some policy understanding.  He’d spell potato wrong or horribly misquote a famous saying, but you could always figure out what he meant.  Even though he came across as a dunce for these infamous gaffes, there was still a feeling that Quayle was informed on the issues and was able to sit down with lawmakers and discuss issues.  That Katie Couric interview doesn’t even lend me that impression about Palin.

McCain’s choice of Palin to be a heartbeat away from the presidency is just plain disturbing and irresponsible.  He has put a wholly unqualified person on his ticket just so that he can (possibly) win the campaign.  What happened to country first, Senator?  There were many other conservatives, that the base would have loved, who were qualified to be Vice-President or even President.  Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Mike Huckabee are just two.  McCain has a strong record of leadership, but he just plain failed here.

Disturbing and irresponsible indeed.



  1. Welcome to the site Renegade (kind of like a Maverick right? hehe), were very glad to have you aboard. Ive missed arguing with you.

    First I want to thank you for offering to give up the Mccain’s going to die argument, I know the vast influence you have on the Democrat party so I will expect to never hear any spinsters try to cleverly insert the argument while pretending to discount it again. lol

    Second I wonder if you consider the Democrat primary voters to be irresponsbile? Obama is hardly a great foreign policy thinker and lacks any real experience. Indeed he essentially conceded this point by picking Biden to “shore up his foreign policy credentials”. It seems to me from an experience point of view Hillary would have been a vastly more responsible pick, would you agree?

    Third I think saying she has done no serious policy thinking at all is very unfair. Listening to her talk on energy issues and about corruption clearly rebuts your point.

    Finally I really dont think you can seriously call Bill Clinton circa 1991/92 a foreign policy wonk. I seem to recall him citing callingout the national guard to deal with Cuban rioters as his entire foreign policy resume and him railing against Bush for supporting MFN status for China. A position he quickly embraced upon being elected.

    Wow this was long I should have made it a new post! Again really glad to have you aboard.

  2. Ah, the Dark Defender, my dear friend, I think you mistake a few of my points.

    Answering your reply:

    – I do not think it is fair to criticize the Democratic primary voters here. McCain had a choice – he could have picked anyone. The voters were simply voting for the best all-around candidate in their view. I can see how you think there’s an analogy, but I do not think the situations are actually analogous.

    Regardless of Obama’s perceived lack of credentials, I think the difference is that Obama has committed himself to learning and developing and clearly spoke very well against McCain in the debate.

    On the other hand, it is apparent that Palin either has not or is incapable of learning and studying serious policy questions. Her answers are downright miserable and sound like something a high schooler in a civics class would say.

    Obama is much like Bill Clinton. You point out that Clinton was no significant policy wonk on foreign policy; this is true. But he was the very definition of a policy wonk — he studied and read policy reports endlessly (though Clinton was definitely an expert on domestic policies). This is what Obama does, but what Palin apparently does not. Her answers have just been gibberish! There’s no policy study going on; and if there is, it’s even worse, because it means she can’t grasp it!

    Palin is certainly to some degree qualified on energy policy. So far as negotiating pipeline deals anyway. We’ll see if she actually discuss energy policy without talking points tonight. Thus far there hasn’t been any indication she can discuss policy extemporaneously without talking points.

    Also, while Palin is good at talking about ethics reform, she’s a bit hypocritical on there. The Republican legislature is investigating her, and in typical Bushian fashion, she’s strong-arming it.

  3. I do think its fair to take the People to task for their choices in fact, I think its something we do far to little of. I recently read “How stupid are we?” (id link to it but sadly cant in a reply, look it up on amazon its a good book) which really makes that point, we cant just blame our politicans, we make decesions with consquences as well. So yes I think its very fair to wonder if the Democrat primary voters were acting irresponsibly. I agree with you that Obama talks a good game, but it doesnt really make him a foreign policy wonk or especially qualified that he is capable of saying “I agree with John Mccain”, I think on foreign policy he will very much be an A or B President as you put it and seem to fear.

    As for Sarah being stupid which seems to be your implication, I agree her recent interviews have been miserable. But based on her track record and pre-Mccain handler interviews you cant fairly conclude shes stupid. I cant find the whole interview but this clip should at least prove she has a real understanding of energy policy.

    Does she on foreign policy? No not really, but why would she?Shes been busy running a state, and that has little to do with her job. Yes Obama talks a better game but hes been running for President since he was elected to the Senate of course he can talk a good game.

    Im really not worried that Sarah wont be able to grow into the job if she gets it, she has shown she can become expert on her job and pop quizes from the MSM doesnt change that opinion.

    Will she rely on her advisors, as Obama will? Yes will she have to be given options sure, so will Obama. I just dont see a lot of difference between them in this area (or past presidents), I think instincts are whats important. And im not impressed by Mr. No Preconditions before meeting a guy calling for genocide’s instincts.

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