Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Palin Effect

A socially liberal Republican friend of mine claims he is undecided between Obama and McCain, but is impressed with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for the following reasons:
  1. She has more executive experience than Barack Obama or Joe Biden (or McCain, for that matter).

  2. She took on the corrupt Republican establishment that has run Alaska for 40 years and BEAT them. She has a record of reform and commitment to ethical standards. Has Obama ever criticized Chicago's corrupt Mayor Daley?

  3. She shows for the thousandth time that McCain is not a Bush clone.
My response: based on the comments of Anne Kilkenny, Palin's neighbor in Wasilla, Alaska, it seems that Palin practices the same brand of cronyism, bullying, and corruption that have been the hallmarks of Dick Cheney's tenure as VP. It is unfair to commend Palin for her commitment to ethical standards, and the jury is still out with respect to the investigation of her abuse of power in a state trooper firing. The revelations in this article in today’s New York Times do not bode well for Palin.

On Palin’s executive experience: she may have served in an executive capacity for more years than Obama, but Obama has executive experience in successfully managing a campaign organization of more than 2500 paid employees and hundreds of thousands of volunteers. He doesn't get to defend the US from Russia like Governor Palin :), but certainly his years as a State Senator, US Senator and Presidential Candidate are at least on par with the Governor who is in charge of a state with 647,000 citizens, about the size of Las Vegas. Also, if you look at the way Palin has acted as a Mayor and Governor, I would certainly not say that the content of her experience is commendable, although she has shown some admirable tendencies toward bi-partisanship, like McCain.

While a purely rational response to Palin will whiz past voters who make their election decisions primarily on emotions and personality, Frank Rich lays out his best argument against Palin, by showing how her selection reveals the worst characteristic of John McCain: his impulsiveness.

The Palin nomination has provoked a dramatic rise in Republican attacks on the “liberal media” as exemplified in this YouTube video. This is the worst aspect of Republican politics: whenever they are on the losing side of an argument, they make it personal, either through attack or through avoidance. In this video, a McCain advisor completely ignores the substance of a Time magazine reporter’s argument, which is that the American people need to learn what Sarah Palin knows about important issues. The Republican response is to ask, "Why should the American people want to hear her talk to someone like you?" Absurd. The record and personality of Sarah "Barracuda/Pit Bull" Palin is in lock-step with the Republican politics of personal destruction and belies any arguments that McCain/Palin is a reform ticket.

Whoever wins, we have to keep working to expose truth and hold our government accountable. Much of the visceral reaction we are having to Palin is psychological. We project so many of our deepest hopes and ideals on the President that it is hard to accept the fact that so many Americans seem to like Palin. She serves as a mirror of our own sub-conscious, but it is the shadow side of intolerance, bullying and self-righteousness that is manifest in both her persona and her public record. We certainly feel that the Obama/Biden ticket -- in tone, personality, policies and methodology -- is a much better reflection of our highest ideals for the nation. Even if it means, as it will for my Republican friend, crossing into the “dreaded” realm of a government that sometimes tries to help average citizens.
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Two opposing views on Palin:

A sobering view of the Palin effect:
Sarah Palin: northern star injects new life into lumbering campaign

A more sanguine one:
The Palin charm is a tough sell in small towns

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