Tuesday 2 September 2008

Palin - not all plain sailin

McCain's choice of running mate is not as inspiring as it looked at first. Tomaltach's first reaction was very close to that of his old friend, An Spailpín, who gives a glowing assessment of McCain's choice. True, on the face of it, Palin's selection is a stroke of genius, a relatively young woman with considerable political experience, and who is sufficiently conservative minded to pull in republican voters that were put off by McCain not being too centrist.

One thing which I had assumed was that the candidate had been rigorously vetted. This would have implied that many senior hacks in the GOP would have known in advance and would have given their approval. An Spailpín too assumed that the Republican camp were thinking advance and pulled this stroke of genius. But that seems not to be the case.

According to the NYtimes the appointment of Palin was a belated and hasty response to rejection of McCain's originally preferred candidate, Joe Lieberman, by the conservative wing of the party. The whole thing was rushed. Basically the feelers for how Lieberman would go down in the convervative wing went out too late, and when the cold air came blowing back, a touch of panic set in. A name was needed - for the convention at the latest, but preferrably in order to make the news the minute Obama closed his acceptance speech in Denver. A fresh news cycle would obliterate Obama's glow and the stage would be set for McCain's nomination.

But events dear boy, events. The hurricane shattered the notion of a smooth transition into the Republican convention. But the real trouble is starting to flow from the Palin nomination.

Now that we've had time to digest the McCain's surprise, however, calmer assessments can take place. Moreover, a few things are coming out now which may undermine McCain's bid from a number of directions.

First, Palin's credentials among the chirstian, conservative wing of her party . One of their cardinal values is the importance of the family. How important can your family be, however, if you have a down syndrome child and a pregnant teenage daughter and you choose to be second in command of the most powerful nation in the world? Family may be important to Palin, but not as important as power. Simple as that. The same applies to men. Famliy could hardly have been that important to Tony Blair when he sat out an extra term despite having a young family. That was his choice, and his family I'm sure were well looked after. But no-one can argue they were more imporant to him than remaining in power. The same thinking can be applied to Palin. Family, yes, but power first.

Second. Again the breaking story now of the rushed decision on Palin exposes another flaw: judgement. Is McCain the determined but clear sighted maverick, or is he simply erratic. The latter certainly seems plausable. Certainly there is no ground for the notion that he and his camp burned the oil in the small hours over recent months building a solid strategy for running mate. Instead it was poor planning, and in the end and improvised effort tinged in all likelihood with no small amount of panic.

The third problem, achlowledged by shocked insiders in the republican campaign, is that there is now no plausable way to launch attacks on Obama's experience. Democrats could defend this, but it was a weakness in terms of Obama's youth and his lack of executive power. But I disagree with my friend an Spailpín here, when he says "While Senator Obama has done nothing, Ms Palin has governed Alaska. For a little less than two years, granted, but she has had hands-on gubernatorial experience.". This would sound reasonable if the word Alaska were replaced with say, California, or Florida, or, well almost any other state. Alaska is the ultimate nowhere in American politics. Geographically, demographically (Dublin has a far bigger population than the entire state), and of course, politically.

I'm sure there will be passionate exchanges between fanatics in either camp extolling the great experience of Obama on the one hand and the great leadership of Palin on the other. But without getting into the gritty, I would say Obama through his hard won nomination race, and his term in the Senate, is far better prepared on issues such as Foreign Policy, Security, and National politics. But either way, Palin's nomination now gifts the democrats with a defence on the experience argument, which was seen as a significant Achille's heel for Obama.

Finally, it will not help in reaching out the ever present and important patriotic element (another angle of attack against Obama) that Palin was a member of the Alaskan Independence party for a couple of years. She is now campaigning to lead the union she sought to cede from.

While seeming an inspiring choice at first glance, Palin promises more than anything to complicate things for McCain.


An Spailpín said...

I remain confident that McCain will win. The inexperience or otherwise or Governor Palin does not preclude attacks on Obama's experience for a moment, for the reason that Obama is running for the big job and Sarah Palin is not. Very few US elections have been lost by the Vice Presidential nominee - in fact, I can't think of one. However, having Lyndon Johnson as a sweeper certainly helped John F Kennedy get votes in the south from people - well, crackers, let's be honest - who would not otherwised have voted for an Irish Catholic in 1960. This is Governor Palin's role this time around. The "heartbeat away" stuff is just scaremongering. HRH Prince Harry Windsor is three heartbeats away from the crown of England. I try not to think of it, myself.

The news of Bristol Palin's pregnancy is unfortunate of course. For all we know, the McCain camp mightn't have known either, because Bristol might only have spilled the beans herself in the past forty-eight hours. She wouldn't be the first, nor the last. But I remember some of the hateful things that were said about Chelsea Clinton when she was in the White House by adults who should have been horsewhipped until they learned manners, and perhaps it's best if we leave poor Ms Palin to deal with all this herself. God knows it wouldn't be easy at the best of times without the entire world looking at you. God love her.

Pé scéal é, a Thomaltaigh uasal, Geallaim pionta phoirtéir go mbeidh John McCain tofa ina Uachtarán Meiriceá ar an 4ú lá Samháin a Thomaltaigh, an pionta le fáil i dtigh tábhairne Neary's, Sráid Chatham, Bleá Cliath 2. Cad is dóigh leatsa?

An Spailpín said...

Toby Harnden in the Telegraph has some interesting thoughts on Governor Palin today:


Some of you may remember Toby as the author of Bandit Country, about paramilitaries in South Armagh. A harder way to earn journalistic stripes than writing about poor Katy French.