Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin' in Comparison

First of all, I try to hold my political views relatively close to my chest--this post is not an endorsement of any candidate or party, just my observations as I watch McCain's VP pick, Sarah Palin, make a splash amongst the American public. She's at least made the race to the finish extremely entertaining for me (and of course I could focus on the guffaws of politicians from both sides of the aisle, but Sarah Palin is new and entertaining, and they're just old news).

Sarah Palin debated Joe Biden last night. I'd have to say that Palin won the debate in a landslide based on the way I scored it:

  • Number of winks directly to the camera during a nationally televised debate: Palin 1, Biden 0; winner = Palin
  • Level of down-home folksiness exhibited by repeated use of the term "nucular" - no contest; winner = Palin
  • Number of references to soccer moms in the first 30 seconds of the debate: Palin 1, Biden 0; winner = Palin
  • Number of shoutouts made to audience members during the debate: Palin 1, Biden 0; winner = Palin
  • Number of uses of the phrase "greed and corruption on Wall Street": Palin 7 (by my count), Biden 1 (again by my count); winner = Palin
She basically cleaned the floor with him. But the real winner of the debate? It's got to be Tina Fey.

In all seriousness, Palin did better than I expected (which was not much, mind you), turning in an adequate performance. She was able to string together memorized phrases in a mostly coherent way. Of course, according to the unofficial rules of the debate, Biden wasn't allowed to attack the less-experienced Palin in any way that would turn female voters against him. Palin used the opportunity as a platform to lobby for granting the VP more power and to show off her down-home flavor with words like "heckuva", "get 'em", "you betcha", "you're darn right" that appeal to the voters she's trying to help McCain pull in.

Still, I can't help but reflect on some of her previous blunders over the last 3 weeks...

Asked what Supreme Court decisions (beyond Roe v Wade) she disagrees with, she replied:
"Well, let's see. There's, of course, in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are, those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but ...."

Asked again to name another decision she disagreed with, Palin replied: "Well, I could think of, of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today."

As for what Palin reads to keep herself abreast of the latest issues:

“When it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?” Couric asked.

“I’ve read most of them,” Palin responded, “again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.”

“What, specifically?” Couric followed.

“Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years,” Palin said.

Couric pressed: “Can you name a few?”

Palin then spun her answer as if Couric was taking a jab at Alaska. “I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too,” she said. “Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, ‘Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?’ Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.”

Sarah Palin's view on the Bush Doctrine?

Charlie Gibson: "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"

"In what respect, Charlie?" the Alaska governor said after an awkward pause and a shift in her seat.

"The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?" Gibson challenged.

"His world view?" Palin queried.

"No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war," Gibson said.

"I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation," Palin responded.

Gibson countered: "The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us."

So what does all of this mean?

In the Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Oct 2, 60% of those surveyed said Palin did not have "the kind of experience it takes to serve effectively as president, if that became necessary." That's up from 45% in early September. Her unfavorables have jumped from 28% to 40% over the same period. In early September, 19% said they were less likely to vote for McCain because of his selection of Palin. That number is now 32%.

Ironically, I think the best course of action came from once-McCain-VP-hopeful Mitt Romney, who said,
"Holding Sarah Palin to just three interviews and microscopically focusing on each interview I think has been a mistake. I think they'd be a lot wiser to let Sarah Palin be Sarah Palin. Let her talk to the media, let her talk to people."

Mitt is right - the appeal of Sarah Palin is her folksiness, her outsider attitude, and her funny accent. Let her talk! (please, if only for me... I need the entertainment)


  1. Appreciative of the obvious humor in your blog, let me play the part of Palin apologist for a moment.

    Re: Palin’s campaign for granting the VP more power.

    The Governor said: “I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies.”

    She was then asked: “Do you believe … that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?”

    And she answered: “Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president.… Yeah, so I do agree … that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation.”

    But what does the Constitution say? The only description whatsoever of the vice president’s role in the Constitution reads: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate.” Beyond that there is no description of even that role except that the VP “shall have no vote [in the Senate], unless they be equally divided.” In my unschooled opinion, however, the Constitution suggests a regular presence of the VP in the Senate when making provision for his (her) absence: “The Senate shall choose … a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States.”

    Wow! Can you believe Governor Palin was so stupid as to contradict the Constitution? Except, she didn’t. The VP is explicitly the President of the Senate at all times… not simply when there is a tie.

    However, Senator Biden, true to his belief that the VP’s role is to act at all times as his “clean and articulate” president’s attack dog, took this opportunity to take a bite at Governor Palin and the current administration:

    "The idea [Cheney] doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that."

    Actually, Joe got it wrong: the Executive Branch is defined in Article II. But we’ll give the Senator half credit for his answer because it is “Article I of the Constitution [which] defines the role of the vice president of the United States,” in its outline of the LEGISLATIVE Branch.

    Joe then gave his limited view that the VP was “to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.”

    Wrong again. She only votes when there’s a tie, but she is always the president.

    Biden concludes: “[The VP] has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion…”

    Now the Senator isn’t just wrong, he’s also inconsistent as just moments earlier he described his role “With regard to the role of vice president, ... I have a history of getting things done in the United States Senate.... I would be the point person for the legislative initiatives in the United States Congress for our administration.”

    Doesn’t that sound strangely similar to the role he just denounced?

    I’ve reached the end of my attention span at this point so I’ll answer the other points tomorrow. Let me just say this: You can disagree with Governor Palin, we can all poke fun of her folksy manner, but I for one feel more secure with her small town values (even with her apparent lack of Constitutional scholarship) than with the far-left (and many times failed) policies of the “clean and articulate” Democratic candidate.

  2. @ Chris - While I see where you're coming from, I'll leave the constitutional law theory to Carolina, who has forgotten more about it than I'll ever know.

    But you must admit that Palin is power-hungry. If you don't believe me, then consider this:

    "In a segment aired Thursday night -- a few hours before Palin would debate Democrat Joe Biden -- Couric asked the Republican contender to name the vice president she admired most.

    Palin's response? 'My goodness, I think those who have gone on to the presidency,' said the governor, without blinking.

    Palin expressed particular regard for former President George H.W. Bush.

    Why? Because of Bush's 'having kind of learned the ropes in his position as vice president and then moving on up.'

    Aye carumba!

  3. I am not particularly troubled by a VP wanting to be a President. How many times has Joe Biden run for the presidency himself? I have lost count.

  4. For now, let me just post this NYT op-ed piece.

  5. I think Palin's aspiration for the presidency is troubling for two reasons. First, Palin's comments do not suggest that she plans on one day running for president, but rather that she believes (and legitimately so) that she has a real shot at taking over a McCain administration and welcomes the prospect. She seemed a little over-zealous in her answer to the moderator's question about what a Palin administration would be like. I do not mean that she has a death-wish on McCain--I just feel like she's a little intoxicated with how swift her ascent could be, as I suppose anyone in her position might be.

    My second concern, which is related to the first, is that even if there's nothing wrong with being excited about the potential windfall of McCain being unable to continue the presidency, there is something alarming about her express statement that she would do things her own way (maybe she used the word "maverick" here?) if she took over. Given how little we know of Palin (and the brevity of her track-record, as much as she alludes to it) and voters' expectations that they are electing McCain and his policies to run the country, not Palin's, this is a problem.

    If Palin wants to be President some day, that's great. She should run. But not right now.

  6. I think this is making much of nothing. The question itself is pretty throw-away, in my opinion. What would have been a good answer?

    I think this psychoanalysis of her answer is silly. Perhaps her answer reflects an admission that she does not have much experience, but that she intends to 'learn on the job.' Maybe her "over-zealousness" reflects an eagerness to sound like she knows what she is talking about and to allay the fears of many voters that she would have no clue about what she would do were she to take over if McCain died in office. Who knows? Not me, and, the editorialization of her comments notwithstanding("she said without so much as a blink"), neither do the liberal reporters eager to ascribe the worst motives, thoughts and intentions. This is along the lines of the faked pregnancy rumor.

    I am also not very worried about her being the next nominee.

  7. As far as the constitutional role of VP, Chris, I agree that the text says very little about the office. From what I know, the office was created out of a fear that the country would be left leaderless in an emergency. The VP's main purpose, then, is be available when the President becomes incapable of leading the country. (This actually legitimizes Palin's eager response to the "what-would-you-do-as-president" question. So maybe my comments above are unnecessarily critical. . . .) Under the framer's view, then, Palin's main objective would be to stay alive and wait (not quite the role that Cheney or Palin seem to advocate).

    Obviously, having someone "on-call" for four years turns out to be a waste of someone's skills and willingness to serve, so the framers decided to make the VP president of the Senate (give her something to do), despite serious concerns that this would jeopardize the separation of powers. However, she would have no vote except to break a tie. As a result, the VP's only possible power in the Senate is to moderate the floor. In theory, this can actually be a meaningful job in that she can affect the order of the agenda, which often has substantive effects. However, VPs generally have not done this unless they've had a particular knowledge of parliamentary procedure. I would love to know what Palin has in mind when she speaks of the flexibility in the Constitution and agrees with Cheney's categorization of the office as a legislative one. Is she talking about moderating the floor? Is she talking about sponsoring legislation?

    There's a great summary of the history and role of the VP office here, ironically on the Senate website (one point for Chris).

  8. @ Alexandra - I'm not really troubled by it, either. In fact, I'd be shocked if anyone could get to that level without a huge amount of ambition. I'm using it as playful banter. :) You're right about Biden, too, but I'm focusing on Palin because I think, for some crazy reason, that she is really fascinating. Maybe it's just because she's new news.

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  10. Kendall: "If you don't believe me, then consider this"? Mr. Hulet, are you aware that you referenced the self-proclaimed "flagship of the left," THE NATION? Did you honestly think that if I wasn't convinced by you alone, I would succumb to the pure propaganda of the unofficial magazine of the Barry O. campaign? You may have shown more of your political cards with that reference than you intended... :)

  11. Here’s my favorite article of the week. “Mrs. Palin may not know as much about the world as Mr. Biden does, but at least most of what she knows is true.”

  12. No Chris, I actually had no idea what The Nation was when I referenced it. This doesn't show my political cards at all, merely my preference for Google News Search. :)

  13. @Chris - Here's an interesting link:

    David Brooks (a conservative) is the source this time.

  14. Seriously? Brooks writes for the Gray Lady and while he may be a conservative by NYT standards, he’s the one who said that Reagan’s ideas are outdated and that it’s folly to believe in conservative principles like “minimal-government” in today’s world. Besides, he’s Canadian… :)