Like many other Americans on Friday morning, I was first confused and then shocked by John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential nominee. Confused because I had never heard of her, and then shocked to learn how unambiguously unqualified she is for this incredibly important role. In one fell swoop, McCain single handedly demolished both his slogan, "Country First", as well as his best argument against Barack Obama, experience.
There can be no doubt in any honest person's mind that McCain chose Palin because he needed to shake up the race, a race he was losing. His choice was not based on who would be best to take the reigns should McCain succumb to age or cancer while in office, but instead it was based on a political gamble designed solely to win an election. This is about as far from "Country First" as you can get.
McCain picked Palin because she has the image of a reformer, even if that image isn't particularly deserved. He picked her because she has great appeal to the GOP's religious base due to her extreme right wing stances while simultaneously having the potential to regain McCain's image as a maverick and even get some of Hillary Clinton's most ardent (and post-rational) supporters over to his side. He was hoping that such a unexpected and risky choice would convince some independents and undecided voters that McCain isn't just "more of the same", but instead something fresh and new. He picked her to give a sense of youthfulness to his ticket, a ticket which Barack Obama has very successfully cast as old and tired.
If Palin had all of these characteristics, plus had, on at least the state level, 6 or 8 years of experience with issues relevant to the country as a whole, I suspect we would still be talking about how she is one of the least qualified people McCain could have chosen. Instead, Ms. Palin has virtually no relevant experience. This is a woman who 2 years ago was mayor of a town with 6,000 people. A town whose center consists of the Mugshot Saloon, which is pictured to the right.
McCain and his surrogates have already started to try and downplay her extreme lack of experience, even suggesting that she has more relevant experience than Barack Obama. This claim falls flat for several reasons. First, as mentioned before, it flies in the face of everything McCain has been decrying about Barack Obama for months. Even if Palin is as qualified or slightly more qualified than Obama, how could McCain justify choosing her over so many other qualified individuals when he said voting for Obama would be "dangerous"?
McCain claims that Palin has more "executive experience" than Obama. Is McCain really suggesting that being mayor of 6,000 people, and Governor of 600,000 for less than 2 years is all you need to be President, yet 8 years in the Illinois state Senate (representing about 750,000) and 4 years as a US Senator (representing about 13 million) doesn't cut it? Seriously? I would venture to guess that Barack Obama gained more "executive experience" running his campaign over the past 18 months than Palin has gained during her very limited tenure as Governor of Alaska.
Furthermore, simply being an "executive" does not translate directly into having had relevant experience to be President of the United States. Has she dealt with issues relevant on a national stage? In a recent interview, she couldn't formulate even a remotely informed opinion on the war in Iraq, stating that she has "been so focused on state government", and that she hasn't "really focused much on the war in Iraq." No only that, when asked about being McCain's VP, she insisted that first someone would have to tell her what the Vice President does everyday, and how she could use that position to help people in Alaska. This isn't a matter of having bad stances on nationally important issues; she has no discernible stances at all! How could McCain possibly think that she could deal with national security issues when the women got her first passport in 2007? It's absurd, and it would actually be kind of funny if we weren't talking about a woman who currently has about a 50% chance of becoming the next Vice President of the United States.
Just to humor the people who honestly think there is a comparison between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, let's take a look at how their experiences stack up so far:
| ||Sarah Palin ||Barack Obama
||Born in Sandpoint, Idaho. Moved as an infant to Wasilla, Alaska.
||Born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Moved to Jakarta, Indonesia at the age of 7, and lived there until the age of ten. Returned to Hawaii to live with his grandparents while his mother was getting her degree. Lived in Honolulu until going to college at the age of 17.
|Early Life & Education
||Attended local Wasilla schools for both grade school and high school. She excelled in basketball and other athletics.
||Attended local schools in Honolulu until the age of 7, when he moved to Jakarta. There he attended a variety of schools including a local Catholic school and an Indonesian elementary school, both considered to be among the better options in Jakarta. At the age of 10, he returned to Honolulu to attend the highly competitive Punahou School.
||Attended Hawaii Pacific College in Hilo, Hawaii for a semester and studied business administration. Transferred to North Idaho College. She then transferred again to the University of Idaho and received a Bachelors in Communications and minored in political science.
||Attended Occidental College in Los Angeles for 2 years. Transferred to Columbia University in NY and majored in political science with a specialization in international relations. Graduated with a Bachelors in Political Science. Attended Harvard University to study law and became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. Graduated at the top of his class, magna cum laude with his law degree.
||Worked as a sports reporter for a local Anchorage television station, and with her husband as a commercial fisherman. She was runner up in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant after winning the Miss Wasilla pageant.
||Worked for a year at the Business International Corporation, and then at the New York Public Interest Research Group. Moved to Chicago and became a community organizer for the Developing Communities Project on the rough South Side, helping people find work and motivated them to bring about political change. Grew the Developing Communities Project's budget from $70k to over $400k. Helped setup job training projects, college prep. tutoring programs, and tenants right's organizations. After getting his law degree from Harvard, he returned to Chicago and worked for the firms Sidley & Austin, and Hopkins & Sutter. While at these firms, he continued his community organizing and concentrated primarily on cases that would help his South Side community, passing up opportunities to make a great deal of money as a corporate lawyer. Wrote his first book, Dreams from my Father. Taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years. Joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland and specialized in civil rights legislation and economic development.
||Wasilla PTA board. Served on the Wasilla City Council for two terms. (4 years.) Served as Wasilla Mayor for 8 years, a town of 6,000 people. Has served as Alaska's Governor for 18 months, governing 600,000. Palin first received her passport in 2007 so that she could go visit some Alaskan national guard troops in Kuwait and Germany. This was he first trip out of the country for any reason.
||Chicago Illinois State Senator for 8 years, representing the 13th District, which has a population of about 750,000. US Senator from the State of Illinois for 4 years, representing about 13 million people. While in the US Senate, Obama has held positions on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Veterans Affair's Committee, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the subcommittee on European Affairs. As part of these roles, he has made numerous trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa. In February of 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for the Presidency. He managed a campaign which grew to over 1000 staff remembers and millions of volunteers around the country, with a budget exceeding $100 million.
So the people claiming Palin has more "executive experience" somehow think that being mayor of a town of 6,000 people and then being Governor of Alaska for 18 months makes her more qualified than Barack Obama, who has represented nearly 13 million people, is a professor of constitutional law, a lawyer, a graduate of the country's top schools, a distinguished career as both a state and US Senator, has a long history of managing others through his work as a community organizer and indeed his Presidential campaign? If that were true, you could also claim she was more experienced than both Joe Biden and John McCain. Please, explain to me the relevant "executive experience" Palin gained. Spell it out exactly.
Let's face it, those people defending her "executive experience" are either lying to themselves, or lying to everybody else.
Another line used by McCain and his surrogates while defending this indefensible choice is that while she may seem to be unqualified, McCain determined that they were "soulmates" and that's why he is confident she will be able to lead the country if something happens to him. When, exactly, did he come to this conclusion? McCain met Plain twice in his entire life, and the 2nd time was when he chose her to be VP. Yes, this really is as reckless as it sounds. McCain chose a woman with virtually no experience to be a "heartbeat" away from the Presidency after meeting her once. To me, this shows how McCain is willing to risk not only his candidacy, but his country, in his effort to become President. It shows that McCain's gambling problem isn't isolated to the craps table. It shows he is the one who is truly dangerous.
Barack Obama has spent the last 18 months proving to the American people that he can lead this country. Judging by the fact that he is the Democratic party nominee, he survived that test. Sarah Palin was chosen by McCain, and it appears, McCain alone. The American people will have about 8 weeks to learn all they possibly can about this completely untested and unproven individual. This is why it is often said that the VP pick is one of the first truly presidential acts of a candidate. Republicans trusted John McCain to make this decision carefully, and John McCain absolutely violated that trust.