Curve Ball

McCain’s choice for VP, Sarah Palin, is certainly an interesting one. I think James Fallows has summed it up very well:

If someone is campaigning for the presidency or vice presidency, there’s an extra twist. That person has to have a line of argument to offer on any conceivable issue. Quick, without pausing in the next ninety seconds, tell me what you think about: the balance of relations between Taiwan and mainland China, and exactly what signals we’re sending to Hamas, and what we think about Russia’s role in the G-8 and potentially in NATO, and where North Korea stands on its nuclear pledges — plus Iran while we’re at it, plus the EU after the Irish vote, plus cap-and-trade as applied to India and China, and what’s the right future for South Ossetia; and let’s not even start on domestic issues.

Let’s assume that Sarah Palin is exactly as smart and disciplined as Barack Obama. But instead of the year and a half of nonstop campaigning he has behind him, and Joe Biden’s even longer toughening-up process, she comes into the most intense period of the highest stakes campaign with absolutely zero warmup or preparation. If she has ever addressed an international issue, there’s no evidence of it in internet-land.

The smartest person in the world could not prepare quickly enough to know the pitfalls, and to sound confident while doing so, on all the issues she will be forced to address. This is long before she gets to a debate with Biden; it’s what the press is going to start out looking for.

So the prediction is: unavoidable gaffes. The challenge for the McCain-Palin campaign is to find some way to defuse them ahead of time, since Socrates, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz reincarnated would themselves make errors in her situation. And the challenge for Democrats is to lead people to think, What is she were in charge?, without being bullies about it.

Possible gaffes aside, I also feel this selection will force the McCain campaign to take their eye of the ball. If they have any chance of winning, they need to continue to keep the pressure on Obama, attacking him and making the campaign about his unreadiness. But this selection completely undermines McCain’s ability to call out Obama’s readiness to lead and it also forces McCain to defend this very risky selection. All the energy and time that will be required to deflect the criticism for this choice isn’t really time McCain can afford to waste.

And as far as comparing Palin to Obama, there’s no evidence that she’s even thought much at all about foreign policy while Obama has a track record of taking foreign policy positions and showing wise judgement, especially on the Iraq war. It’s simply intellectually dishonest to say that both are on the same level regarding foreign policy matters.

So while this pick may have caused a stir and has dominated the news, this is a long and grueling campaign with not a whole lot of margin for error. Maybe it works out for McCain but that’s a big “if”. And if he wins, I sure hope he doesn’t kick the bucket any time soon.


6 thoughts on “Curve Ball

  1. now i’m interested in this election….the debates are going to be crazy. i hope the sarah palin does well. she really has to. i think she will be able to make a connection with normal families because of the size of hers and that her most recent was born with downs syndrome even though she knew ahead of time. she also has had some experience dealing with the oil companies co opting the GOP before her. i think she has a strong chance to do well. but that will depend on how agressive the obama camp is and how aggressive biden is in debates.

    this is fun now.

  2. Even though I don’t like either presidential candidate Palin brings a breath of fresh air to the election. She doesn’t really come off as a “regular” politician.

  3. Her appeal is obvious. She truly is an outsider and will do well with folks who are typically wary of political figures. But there is a difference between being an outsider and being completely off the map when considering all the issues a president has to deal with.

    In the end, she’ll have to prove herself capable and knowledgeable about all policy areas that a president is required to know. The point I’m making is this: does the McCain campaign really have the time and energy to deal with the questions many will understandably have about this selection.

    The only benefit I can see with this selection is the possible political upside, but I also think whatever upside there might be could be wiped away by gaffes, embarrassing moments, a scandal that Palin is currently in the middle of, etc.

    She seems like perfectly fine person who has the ability to appeal to conservative voters and I guess we’ll find out if that’s all that’s necessary to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

  4. zach you do have a great point in questioning the strategy of mccain and how he will probably have to deal with constant speculation.

  5. my guess is this:

    constant stuff about her is going to come up by the media, democrats, republicans, McCain followers, and republican figure-heads and it’s going to happen nonstop. because of all the criticism surrounding her involvement with the bridge to nowhere, trooper gate, gas pipe , not knowing what the VP does, endorsing romney and paul and never mentioning mccain, trying to get hillary voters while calling hillary a whiner, and opposing bush administration in classifying polar bears as endangered (because the land they live on is coincidentally where the natural gas line would go).

    After ALL of that plus more, “something” mysterious is going to happen and she’s going to have to step down and she’ll say how honored she was to be nominated but because of these outside circumstances she will have to give the position to mccain’s second pick and in walks the GOP approved VP pick.

    that’s my guess. i’ll put one of my 5d’s on it! ok maybe not on that exact scenario, but i think something along the lines of her not being the VP pick by the time november comes!


  6. The choice of Governor Palin makes my mind boggle. She doesn’t really bring a great deal to the table, although I acknowledge that he himself has just made history. All I can guess is that he wanted to strengthen his appeal to his base, but choosing either of his main rivals in the primaries would likely have accomplished that (although the thought of Governor Huckabee one heartbeat away from the presidency makes me ill). Meanwhile, Senator Lieberman would have strengthened his appeal to moderates, and let us be honest: that is what Senator McCain needs to do if he wishes to win.

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