Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mary Verner for President! (and other McCain/Palin news)

Although many of us thought an Obama-McCain matchup would be the cleanest, most honorable campaign in our country’s history, it has sadly turned into a mudfest. Many Americans are now dissatisfied with both candidates, so I gave it some thought and tried to come up with a new alternative. I think I found someone: Mary Verner!

The mayor of Spokane is a Northwest woman, just like Sarah Palin. If you average the size of the two governments Sarah Palin has led – 7,025 in Wasilla and 683,478 in Alaska – you get 322,752, comparable to Spokane’s 205,400. Clearly, Verner has as much executive experience as Palin, so must be ready to lead our nation. I admit that she can’t see Russia from Spokane, but she makes up for that by not lying about her record on earmarks or how much energy Spokane produces. And unlike Palin, she has three degrees in subjects that address actual policy rather than campaigning: anthropology, environmental management, and law, as opposed to communications.

Clearly I jest. Verner is an impressive woman, but no one would think her ready to lead the nation. Palin, who has only been a Governor for a year and a half, is comparable to Verner - an accomplished woman, but not yet the kind of accomplishments that justify a run for national office. If Hillary Clinton was “ready to lead from day one,” Palin will be ready to lead once her tutors are done explaining the Bush Doctrine. Five highly visible conservative columnists and one Republican senator have voiced similar concerns, but before quoting them, I’d like to talk about the polls.

John “the fundamentals of our economy are strong” McCain got quite a bounce from the Sarah Palin rollout, but the economic downturn seems to have had an effect. Of the six major polls out the last two days, four favor Obama, one McCain, and one a tie, for an aggregate of Obama up 2.0 points. I don’t like Likely Voter polls, given that this year’s primary season smashed the likely voter model, but if you throw out the four LV polls and look only at the two Registered Voter polls, Obama still leads. The LVs do include his strongest showing (five points), but also McCain’s only win and the tie. Obama leads one RV poll by 3 and the other by 4. (I’m not going to bother breaking down sample frames and methodology; with a strong pattern emerging, I’m willing to take the aggregate at face value.)

I don’t expect Obama to run away with this thing – it’s going to be close – but McCain-Palin may have peaked. The more people look at her, the less they like what they see. The New York Times’ David Brooks is the latest conservative columnist to voice concerns about her resume. The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s just one excerpt:

Governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t…

Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

Brooks’ attacks on his party’s ticket aren’t really a surprise. He is a moderate conservative, more right-of-center than right-wing. He takes a level-headed approach to most issues, and was initially an Obama fan. In many ways, he and I think alike; we just take our thoughts in different directions. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE)’s concerns are also no surprise, given his opposition to the Iraq war and refusal to endorse McCain. More startling is this admission from Washington Post columnist and neoconservative Charles Krauthammer, one of my least favorite pundits. He accuses McCain of making a purely political choice in going with Palin:

McCain's strategy: Make this a referendum on Obama, surely the least experienced, least qualified, least prepared presidential nominee in living memory.

Palin fatally undermines this entire line of attack. This is through no fault of her own. It is simply a function of her rookie status. The vice president's only constitutional duty of any significance is to become president at a moment's notice. Palin is not ready. Nor is Obama. But with Palin, the case against Obama evaporates.

Then there’s George Will, also writing for the Post. Will strikes me as an intellectual and a paleoconservative with no ax to grind. His argument, rooted in history, is my favorite of the three:

The word "experience" appears 91 times in the Federalist Papers, those distillations of conservative sense and sensibility. Madison, Hamilton and Jay said that truths are "taught" and "corroborated" by experience. These writers were eager to "consult" and be "led" by experience. They spoke of "indubitable" and "unequivocal" lessons from experience, the "testimony" of experience and "the accumulated experience of ages." "Accumulating" experience is "the parent of wisdom" and a "guide" that "justifies," "confirms" and can "admonish." America's Founders were empiricists and students of history who trusted "that best oracle of wisdom, experience," which is humanity's "least fallible guide."… Experience is not sufficient to prove a person "qualified" for the presidency. But it is a necessary component of qualification.

Also check “Palin: The Irresonsible Choice?” from former Dubya speechwriter David Frum and ”Sarah the Unready” from Atlantic senior editor Ross Douthat.


Dogwalkmusings said...

What a great post. I believe the Palin phenomenon is beginning to fade. I also think McCain's weaknesses in his choice of "helpmates" is beginning to show.

Anonymous said...

You sound pretty snotty. I'll bet that over 90% of leaders of both parties would fail to answer this sucker question, since it was used in a pundit's column, NEVER by Bush himself. Tell me more about Mary Verner OR Hillary IF they ever achieve anything as substantive as breaking through red tape to get a natural gas pipeline laid!
Obviously, I am not an Obot, but I don't drink *anyone's* Kool-Aid, not the Marxist's or even Palin's for that matter, when she says silly things. Bob (

Nathan Empsall said...

Never mind that her Democratic opponent for the Governor's mansion also supported the pipelines or that it hasn't actually been built yet.

And what has Marx got to do with anything?

This post is from September; it's now almost March. Learn to let it go...