Saturday, August 30, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Corner Ramesh Ponnuru mentions some pros and cons of the Palin pick, and focuses on the cons. Specifically:

Inexperience. Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain’s age raised the stakes on this issue.

As a political matter, it undercuts the case against Obama. Conservatives are pointing out that it is tricky for the Obama campaign to raise the issue of her inexperience given his own, and note that the presidency matters more than the vice-presidency. But that gets things backward. To the extent the experience, qualifications, and national-security arguments are taken off the table, Obama wins.

And it’s not just foreign policy. Palin has no experience dealing with national domestic issues, either.

I think that all of this is correct, on balance.

Let me reiterate the experience issue: it was McCain’s most potent attack on Obama and regardless of what I have heard and read from some Republican-leaning circles about the relative experience of Obama and Palin, the bottom line is that at best it is a tie, and that in reality, Obama’s experience (being a member of the US Senate, representing a major state with a population of well over 12 million) trumps being a governor of a state with a population of less than 3/4th of a million.

I know that some will disagree, but regardless of how one scores it, McCain has damaged his ability to play the experience card. While it is technically true that Palin is ready from day one to assume the office of the presidency (as she is a citizen over 35 years of age), but her resume is actually quite slight.

Ultimately, of course, it may not matter. As has been pointed out, the political science is pretty clear: VP candidates rarely have a positive effect on a campaign, although they can have a negative one. Even if think in historical terms, despite all the talk every four years about how a given veep selection will help a ticket electorally, the only real example that I can conjure of that happening was 1960, when LBJ’s presence on the ticket clearly helped JFK win Texas in a very tight election. And, of course, Alaska was hardly a battleground state to begin with.

For McCain, the issue really isn’t what Palin brings to the table, per se, but what it ultimately says about him and his decision-making abilities. If she is ends up not being ready for prime time, that will negatively redound to McCain. Given that she comes from a very small (population-wise) state that is geographically isolated from the lower 48, and has a very unique governing context (the oil revenues), the chances that she is fully prepared for the national stage is legitimately in question.

As such, this was a roll of the dice and we really don’t know where they will land.

I will say this: it was a much more interesting pick than, say, a Pawlenty or even a Romney.

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8 Responses to “Ponnuru on Palin”

  1. Rita Says:

    Palin’s pick is an insult to women!

    Do men really think that women are so stupid that they just want a woman in office, rather than a qualified woman in office?

  2. Captain D Says:

    I’m looking at Alsaska’s oil revenue a bit differently I guess.

    Isn’t domestic oil exploration something most americans think we should do more of?

    Isn’t the price of oil a hot issue right now?

    Isn’t oil infrastructure pretty much what the state of Alaska is?

    Why is governing Alasaka – and dealing with the oil infrastructure as a part of daily governance – a bad thing, in terms of experience?

    Sure, it’s not the same as being a senator from one of the established mega-states. But am I really just stupid for thinking that governing a state that sits on some of our biggest oil reserves is relevant experience in the context of this election, specifically regarding oil exploration at home? Am I just stupid for seeing a link there? Is it really ludicrous to think that she has a small amount of experience, but what she has is extremely relevant to the energy conversation that is so much on people’s minds these days?

    Should I hit myself in the head with a brick?

  3. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    I am bit more skeptical that being governor of an oil state necessarily means anything in terms of actually formulating good oil/energy policy. Heck, Bush and Cheney were in the oil industry, and I am not sure that that has much of an effect on the current energy situation.

    My point about oil revenues is that Alaska can have low taxes because the government gets a lot of money straight for oil–and therefore she doesn’t not have normal fiscal policy experience. It is an unusual context and I not sure that it really is a plus in terms of real policy experience.

    I don’t mean to sound dismissive or overly blunt, but being the chief executive of an oil state is very much like (to steal the Ann Richards line about Bush 41) being born on third base and thinking you hit a triple. Energy policy is easy when you live on top of a bunch of oil, so I am not sure that it matters all that much (but I could be wrong).

  4. Ratoe Says:

    For McCain, the issue really isn’t what Palin brings to the table, per se, but what it ultimately says about him and his decision-making abilities. If she is ends up not being ready for prime time, that will negatively redound to McCain.

    This is the key point. If anything, the choice shows that MCCAIN isn’t ready for prime time–forget about Palin.

    McCain has already shown that he has extraordinary little grasp of any major policy issue facing the country (save, perhaps, military).

    Here is a guy who has been on a Senate committee for years that regulates telecommunications, yet he doesn’t know how to check his own email.

    Here is a guy who doesn’t know basic historical context relevant for diplomacy (e.g. his repeated comments on Iraq’s borders, connections between Al Quaeda in Iraq and Iran, the emergence of the Awakening Councils, some non-existent country he calls Czechoslavakia, etc…).

    Here is a guy who practically brags that he knows nothing about economics.

    EVEN BEFORE the Palin pick, McCain has shown that he is a lightweight and not ready for prime time.

    The pick of a VP is arguably the first major executive decision that a nominee makes (it is also important to remember that McCain doesn’t have any real executive experience to evaluate).

    Even from the standpoint of McCain’s own logic about the issues facing the country, picking this person makes no sense. Has she been an important voice in the national discussions about terrorism, etc…? No. Are there scores of other Republicans who have?? Yes.

    What happened to the “wisest Americans” (Petreus, John Lewis, Meg Whitman) who McCain wants to act as counsel as President? Were they considered? What does Palin bring to the table that they don’t?

    This choice just further reiterates that McCain is simply not ready to be president.

  5. Ratoe Says:

    Energy policy is easy when you live on top of a bunch of oil, so I am not sure that it matters all that much (but I could be wrong).

    I have seen other commentators make similar arguments and I forgot to add that Obama would be smart by characterizing her as kind of a wacky, “Arctic Chavez.” Giving “free” money back to citizens is the same game that Chavez plays. Obama could leverage this point without falling into the “experience” trap.

    He can also link her anti-science views also to portray her as a nut

  6. PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » NJ Bloggers Poll on Palin Says:

    [...] balance, as I noted yesterday, I think that the experience issue is one of McCain’s best lines of attack, and it is now [...]

  7. Howard Says:

    Oh stop whining Democrats … for the past 1 1/2 years, you’ve been trying every trick in the book to shove an inexperienced, empty suit, Barack Hussein Obama, down the throats of Americans. Sure, maybe you sweetened the bad taste by adding pretty speeches, big swooning crowds, and fireworks … but, you still tried to shove him down our throats, at every opportunity. Democrats, it was a lot easier to highjack the primary election than it’s going to be with the general election. Looks like America is going to elect McCain/Palin for President and V.P.. And, that means: No Wright, no Farrakahn, no Ayers, no Rezko, no mean Michelle, and, NOBAMA !!!

  8. Pauli Says:

    I don’t know if Obama lacks experience so much as just good old-fashioned lack of judgement plus mystical wishful thinking, as evidenced by his false narrative on the Kennedy-Khrushchev talks.

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