August 30, 2008
The Palin Pick: Cutting Through the Spin

One day after the announcement of John McCain's running mate, the pundit class has already begun to spin the choice of Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, in a way that's favorable to Barak Obama. In doing so, they've made a number of claims about McCain's motives that I think are simply untrue. Lets take a look at some of them:

1. The Experience Meme: Almost across the board, commentators have agreed that the choice of Sarah Palin makes it difficult, if not impossible, to attack Barak Obama on experience. There's a certain amount of truth to this, but I contend that lack of experience per se has never been the right tack to take. Go ahead and spot Obama some experience; ask him instead to talk about his accomplishments. Listen to the crickets chirp. Palin has done more in her two years as Governor than Obama has done in his entire career.

2. The Desperation Meme: Somewhat less universal, but still common, is the claim that the Palin pick shows that McCain is desperate. The reasoning goes something like this: a confident candidate would make a safe pick, John McCain made a surprising, unconventional pick, therefore he's not confident. Sounds convincing, until you think back a week and remember that people were saying Obama looked desperate because he picked the safe choice: Joe Biden.

Desperate people tend to either play it safe or take huge risks; confident people take calculated risks. Pawlenty would have been safe, Lieberman would have been a huge risk, Governor Palin was a calculated risk. Sure she has a downside--she is relatively inexperienced, not well known on the national stage, and comes from a Republican stronghold--but she's also a tough-minded reformer who is willing to take on her own party in order to get things done. Sound familiar?

Bottom line: unlike Obama, who chose a Vice-Presidential candidate to shore up his weaknesses, McCain chose a veep who complements his strengths. That's the mark of someone who is confident that his strengths can win him the election.

3. The Token Female Meme: Ultimately, I think that this one is a non-starter, but that hasn't stopped the Democrats from trotting it out. McCain's introductory speech, touting a number of Palin's accomplishments ought to put paid to this line of attack.

Was Governor Palin's gender a consideration? Almost certainly, but then it would have been remiss of McCain not to consider how the media and the electorate would react to a female Vice-Presidential candidate, because the fact that she's a woman wouldn't go unnoticed. That may not be right or fair, but it's reality.

If all McCain wanted was a female on the ticket, however, he had plenty of other, safer choices. McCain chose this particular female because he was impressed by her accomplishments and her reputation for bucking her own party in order to do what's right. In Governor Palin, McCain saw a maverick like himself, and jumped at the chance to add her to the ticket.

So what does Palin do for the ticket?

1. She reassures the Republican base: You can't win an election with only your base, but you can't win an election without it either. Many Republicans were ambivalent about McCain. By choosing Palin, he's brought them off the fence.

2. She brings energy issues to the fore: Republicans win big on energy. Most Americans approve of an All of the Above approach to solving our energy problems which includes both drilling and alternative fuels. By focusing on alternative fuels only, the Democrats have put themselves dangerously out of touch with the American public. McCain's choice of Palin indicates that he's about to hammer them on that.

3. She reinforces McCain's reformer image: While Barak Obama talks a good game about changing politics as usual in Washington, his actions--and his choice of running mate--indicates that it's all talk. McCain and Palin, on the other hand, have actually taken steps to change it.

Both Palin and McCain opposed wasteful spending, even when it would have benefited them. Both Palin and McCain have gone after corruption in their own party. And McCain, like it or not, sponsored and passed a campaign finance reform bill, while Obama couldn't even keep his promise to accept public financing.

McCain-Palin contrasts well with Obama-Biden. One is the ticket of Action, the other is the ticket of Talk. One ticket has Deeds, the other only has Words. Expect the Republicans to highlight the disparity in the coming weeks.

Far from being a desperate choice, McCain's VP selection is inspired. It shows that he has a clear game plan for the final stretch, that he's confident in his own strengths, and that he's willing to take risks to exploit his opponents' weaknesses. Those are all great characteristics for a Commander in Chief.

Posted by Eukardios at August 30, 2008 11:33 AM | Email This
1. Well said!

Posted by: SouthernRoots on September 1, 2008 08:26 AM
2. If it were palin/mccain I would consider it. But unfortunately McCain is still at the top of the ticket and he still does not know anything about the economy and has been on the wrong side of so many issues that i can not and will not support the man.

Posted by: Lysander on September 1, 2008 10:48 AM
3. Lysander,

You've got to think about these things long-term. Sure, McCain is on the top of the ticket now, but even if he gets elected, the likelihood that he'll run again in four years is small. That would leave Palin at the top of the ticket, with four years experience as Vice-President. To borrow a phrase from football, that's pretty good field position.

Posted by: Eukardios on September 1, 2008 10:54 AM
4. Long term we are far better off sending a message to the GOP leadership that we will NOT accept big government candidates.

After 4 years of McCain and 8 of Bush the people will righlty vote against Palin no matter what she claims she will do to reduce government and corruption. She will have been stained and currupted by 4 years of close association with Big Government pro War McCain.

Palin would have a much better chance winning in 4 years if McCain loses this time around.

Posted by: Lysander on September 1, 2008 02:01 PM
5. Lew Rockwell just wrote a peice summarizing my thoughts very well. Please take a read.

Posted by: Lysander on September 1, 2008 09:21 PM
6. Lysander,

I read the Rockwell piece, and I disagree. In fact, I disagree at a really fundamental level. Here's why:

Change can come to an organization in two ways: it can be forced from the outside or it can be fostered from the inside. While outward change does sometimes work, it often fails because those within the organization resent the interference of outside agents.

Change that comes from within, on the other hand, is powerful and permanent because the members of the organization are personally invested in it. If one truly wishes to effect a lasting change, one must do it from within.

Choosing to withhold your support from the Republican ticket only sets you apart as an outsider, and any change you wish to bring to the party will be resisted. Palin, on the other hand, has a real opportunity to influence principle and policy from the inside.

And the insinuation that in the next four years she would become a mindless clone is insulting.

Posted by: Eukardios on September 1, 2008 10:47 PM
7. Eukardios:

I beleive that change is more likely to result when their are consequences to GOP leaderships actions. If we all rally behind a bad decision, more bad decisions will be made. The idea that I should support a candidate that I disagree with on nearly every issue with the hopes that I can change things next time seems a bit counter effective. Why would leadership change next time if they know I will always vote for them?

Just because I am not agreeing with a decision that was made does not mean I am no longer part of the group. I am still a republican and support the platform almost entirely. I just do not support candidates that do not support it as well. That seems reasonable, doesn't it?

Posted by: Lysander on September 2, 2008 12:27 PM
8. Lysander,

Before I answer your question, I'd like you to list the top five issues you care about and your positions on them.

Posted by: Eukardios on September 2, 2008 01:09 PM
9. Hard to pick five but how about this...

1. Taxes... Being in favor of limited government... I want taxes drastically reduced.
2. War/foreign troops... Given I believe the military should only exist to protect America and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan increases risk to American citizens I want the wars ended and the troops brought home ASAP.
3. Drug war... Given I believe in limited government and that the war on drugs causes more harm than good and is an attack on civil liberties, I want the war ended.
4. Free speech - Given I believe in limited government I feel the government should not infringe on our absolute right to political speech which includes but not limited to unlimited spending on political campaigns and anonymous donations to political campaigns.
5. Sound monetary policy - Given my beleif in government and given the governments inability to control its spending and printing of money, I beleive it is essential the US return to a gold standard and abolish the Federal Reserve System.
6. Education - Given I believe in limited government, I believe we should abolish the federal department of education.

Sorry I could not narrow it down to 5.

Posted by: Lysander on September 2, 2008 09:29 PM
10. Lysander,

Don't worry about listing too many, the number was purely arbitrary. I wanted to know where you were coming from.

Of the issues you care about, there are some that are unlikely to be addressed by any electable candidate ever--we're not going back to the gold standard or abolishing the department of education.

That said, it seems like the common thread tying all your concerns together is a desire for a smaller, less intrusive, fiscally responsible government. That's admirable. The question you need to ask yourself is whether you're likelier to get that under a McCain or an Obama administration.

McCain, as much as you may disagree with him on things like campaign finance reform, has consistently opposed bloated federal spending. He also isn't too keen to expand the role of the federal government. His opponent, in his acceptance speech, just got finished promising us massive increases in federal programs and federal spending. Who do you agree with more?

You may think that if the Republicans lose this year, they'll have to embrace a more libertarian stance, but know this: it is a lot easier to prevent the expansion of government than it is to roll government back. A partial victory is better than defeat.

Posted by: Eukardios on September 2, 2008 11:02 PM
11. Eukardios:

I have asked myself which is likelier to bring a smaller less intrusive fiscally responsible government. The answer I lean towards is that it is a toss up. Obama like most democrats speaks more honestly about their desires for government and thus promises more government than McCain. McCain like most republicans has delivered us much more government than democrats promise.

Which will actually deliver more? I do not know but I do know both will deliver more and therefor can not in good conscience vote for either.

And as much as I disagree with McCain on ALL the issues that are important to me, he has NOT consistently opposed bloated government spending. His support of the drug war, war in iraq, war in afghanistan, occupation of 100+ countries around the world, and most importantly his support of the federal reserve show that he not only supports specific bloated government prgrams but also supports the system required to keep such bloated programs running.

And we will see a return the gold system. The question is whether our government will return us to it voluntarily or whether we will have an economic collapse and the people switch to gold based currency voluntarily.

Posted by: Lysander on September 2, 2008 11:21 PM
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