First, let's start with some perspective out of Alaska:
Before her meteoric rise to political success as governor, just two short years ago Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla. I had a good chuckle at MSN.com’s claim that she had been the mayor of “Wasilla City”. It is not a city. Just Wasilla. Wasilla is the heart of the Alaska “Bible belt” and Sarah was raised amongst the tribe that believes creationism should be taught in our public schools, homosexuality is a sin, and life begins at conception. She’s a gun-toting, hang ‘em high conservative. Remember…this is where her approval ratings come from. There is no doubt that McCain again is making a strategic choice to appeal to a particular demographic - fundamentalist right-wing gun-owning Christians. And Republican bloggers are already gushing about how she has ‘more executive experience’ than Obama does! Above is a picture of lovely downtown Wasilla, for those of you unfamiliar with the area. Behind the Mug-Shot Saloon (the first bar I visited when I moved to Alaska long ago) is a little strip mall. There are street signs in Wasilla with bullet holes in them. Wasilla has a population of about 5500 people, and 1979 occupied housing units. This is where your potential Vice President was two short years ago. Can you imagine her negotiating a nuclear non-proliferation treaty? Discussing foreign policy? Understanding non-Alaskan issues? Frankly, I don’t even know if she’s ever been out of the country. She may ‘get’ Alaska, but there are only a half a million people here. Don’t get me wrong….I love Alaska with all my heart. I’m just saying.Now, let's see some reaction from more serious conservative pundits, and not just McCain surrogates and wackjob Fox News types:
On top of all this, McCain doesn't even know her. Before this week, he had met her once. Once. And had one other phone conversation with her earlier this month. What kind of working relationship do they have together? None.
* Charles Krauthammer: "The Palin selection completely undercuts the argument about Obama's inexperience and readiness to lead.... To gratuitously undercut the remarkably successful 'Is he ready to lead' line of attack seems near suicidal."
* Noah Millman, presenting a defense for Palin: "I realize, of course, that she's totally unqualified to be President at this point in time. If McCain were to die in February 2009, I hope Palin would have the good sense to appoint someone who is more ready to be President to be her Vice President, on the understanding that she would then resign and be appointed Vice President by her successor."
* Ramesh Ponnuru called it "tokenism," adding, "Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?"
* David Frum: "The longer I think about it, the less well this selection sits with me. And I increasingly doubt that it will prove good politics. The Palin choice looks cynical.... It's a wild gamble, undertaken by our oldest ever first-time candidate for president in hopes of changing the board of this election campaign. Maybe it will work. But maybe (and at least as likely) it will reinforce a theme that I'd be pounding home if I were the Obama campaign: that it's John McCain for all his white hair who represents the risky choice, while it is Barack Obama who offers cautious, steady, predictable governance.... If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?"
* Kathryn Jean Lopez: "As much as I loathe Obama-Biden, I can't in good conscience vote for a McCain-Palin ticket. Palin has absolutely no experience in foreign affairs. Considering both McCain's advanced age and the state of the world today, it is essential that the veep be exceedingly qualified to assume the office of president. I simply don't have any confidence in Palin's ability to deal effectively with Iran, Russia, China, etc."
Maybe if he knew her a little bit better, he would have known better than to pick someone who is under investigation for abuse of power (and that probe is scheduled to present its findings the first week of November; nice!).
Here's some nice schadenfreude, courtesy of Karl Rove:
With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he’s been a governor for three years, he’s been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that he’s done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America. And again, with all due respect to Richmond, Virginia, it’s smaller than Chula Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Mesa or Gilbert, Arizona; north Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada. It’s not a big town. So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I’m really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States?That was him questioning the wisdom of Obama picking Governor Kaine of Virginia as VP (which he didn't, going with the more experienced Biden), just a couple weeks ago. We already know that Rove is a fat sack of shit, but this is just priceless.
I know this post has been kind of all over the place (the sheer craziness of this has knocked me off balance), but I'd just like to say one other thing.
A lot of conservatives are concern trolling for Obama, gravely warning that he does not want to have a debate over experience, so he should lay off of Sarah Palin. Fine. But this TOTALLY misses the point. Obama didn't want to have a debate over experience, but the Republicans did. The entire thrust of their argument against Obama was that he is "dangerously inexperienced". Even the McCain campaign now privately admits that this line of attack is gone.
McCain's shot himself in the foot here. He's totally undermined everything his campaign is supposedly based on; that you can trust him to make good decisions in a dangerous world, that Obama is not ready to be President, and that he represents something different from the anti-science Christianist worldview of the Bush administration. Thinking that this is going to get him the female vote is downright insulting, when you think about it. It presumes that women voters will vote only based on their gender, and not on the issues. And it presumes that Hillary supporters will accept a weak substitute for their true hero, a woman who got married straight out of high school, has five kids, and is as pro-life as you can get.
I think this is going to backfire big time. Remember, these first couple days are her honeymoon (and there's already a LOT of skepticism out there, as there should be). Pretty soon, she's going to be put under the microscope of the national media, and it will not be pretty.
UPDATE: From the comments over at Ezra Klein:
It's not the years, it's what you do with them. I'd expect Ezra to know more about foreign affairs than Gov. Palin, with the possible exception of fishing rights with Canada, of course, but Gov. Palin certainly has the edge in experience when it comes to beauty pageants, small-town government, and moose hunting.Heh.
When the Russians send their trained moose armies against us, we'll be glad to have Palin, believe you me.