Saturday, September 27, 2008

Palin and Policy

This might be a series of posts over the next five or six weeks... Sarah Palin and her effect on policy in this election. I couldn't agree more with what was said in the 538 blog last night:
"The crisis also plays terribly with the Palin pick, because it's increasingly clear that regardless of the way she connects or doesn't connect with someone on the personality level, she doesn't pass the laugh test for qualification. I don't mean that in as partisan way as you might think. Analytically, she's obviously not qualified. It's inarguable. But prior to the crisis it was much easier to imagine a world where she could skate by for 60 days not facing questions and having an American Idol election. Now, I think people are honestly scared by the economic circumstances, and it may shock independents into refusing to take that risk of a McCain-Palin ticket."

No matter what you think of Sarah Palin, Sean from 538 is right about two things about Ms. Palin:
1) She isn't qualified at the moment.
2) The economic crisis and her interview with Katie Couric has made this painfully obvious. Conservatives are left making weak excuses as to why Ms. Palin is obviously unqualified... because she wasn't called Governor Palin she flopped like a fish out of water with Katie Couric?

We could debate the political implication of the Palin pick, but I'm not that interested in that—yes, it solidified the GOP base and yes, Ms. Palin was at least four years away from having any business in a Presidential race—because the Palin pick, a month later, isn't interesting for political reasons any more.

It is interesting for policy reasons. When Sarah Palin was chosen by McCain, the election, which was already treading away from the issues, officially became about politics, the phony culture war, style, and image. Clearly, Obama's campaign has always been about style and image, but he at least sort of backed it up with substance. The Palin pick was all style and no substance.

But a funny thing happened along Wall Street two weeks ago, and in the last week to ten days the election has swung back to issues. Now substance is more important than style. In theory, this should help McCain as long as he can continue to distance himself from President Bush. McCain is more of the substance candidate than Obama, if only because McCain has been in the Senate longer than about 20% of America has been alive (for the record we were 14 months when John McCain was elected to the Senate). Obama critics have been saying for years now "where's the beef" when it came to Obama's policies and ideas. It was a valid question if only because Obama doesn't have a long track record on pretty much anything.

But the financial crisis has exposed McCain more so than Obama—in part because McCain sticks his foot in his mouth when it comes to talking about the economy (or doesn't make any sense). But the financial crisis also hurts McCain because Palin, The Style Candidate, has no substance when it comes to discussing something as big as what's taking place on Wall Street and in D.C. Her lack of pretty much any experience is so glaring that every time you see a McCain/Palin image, her name looks like a mistake and probably creates a lot more anxiety than calm. Joe Biden may be a walking, talking "stupid sound bite", but he can get away with such mistakes because everyone knows that Biden has some substance to what he says and what he's done.

It no longer matters if Sarah Palin believes in dinosaurs or if she wants to teach creationism in school (note: Palin was born and raised Catholic, but she appears to have left the Church and no one really knows what the hell she is). Those are style issues. Substance issues like the financial crisis exposes Sarah Palin as a style pick. And most of America can see right through the style because of the lack of substance in a time when thought and reason is needed.

I don't think John McCain ever wanted Ms. Palin to be his Vice President. He got stuck with her, needing a Hail Mary, he was forced to choose her by the party up and ups. "She'll bring the base together John," they probably told him. And she did. And as long as the election wasn't about issues, she was the perfect pick. But the McCain people should have seen this coming, maybe not the Wall Street near collapse, but some major issue taking the forefront of the campaign. It isn't 1996 or 2000, there are so many issues that the country HAS to deal with that eventually one of them would pop up and grab the headlines. And that's what happened, and now John McCain is left with a VP who is only dragging him down. This effects him politically and from a policy perspective... he not only has to find his own policy positions but he also has to make sure this Vice President actually has a policy position and that the American public buys it.

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