I have spent a lot of time the last week dealing with some of the outrageous stuff thrown at Sarah Palin in the first week of her addition to McCain's ticket. The reason for that is both simple and complex:
- I had said that McCain's running mate was going to matter more than Obama's because of his age.
- Just as when I defended Hillary Clinton - I have this streak of chivalry. What can I say: I am old-fashioned.
- Whatever the supporter's of Barack Obama want to say - the level of sexism, crudity, and distortion unleashed on Sarah Palin was unprecedented in my experience.
Earmarks: this is a non-issue to me.
- Her requests for earmarks both as Mayor of Wasilla and Governor of Alaska were not that extreme.
- Earmarks are not necessarily "pork" - and at least the Wasilla earmarks were rational and necessary to upgrade their infrastructure - and it is smaller units like Wasilla who most need Federal and state help
- No candidate in the Presidential race has any ground to stand on in regards to earmarks except John McCain - both Barack Obama and Joe Biden have been deeply involved in using the earmark system in congress.
- Finally, she did kill the Bridge to Nowhere. Yes, Congress said the money no longer had to be spent on the bridge - but Alaska still got the money (only not tied to a specific project). If she really supported the bridge - nothing kept her from building it anyway. She used the money she could have used for the bridge for other projects. Again, her explanation is just fine with me.
Troopergate (and general management style): this is a problem. I am waiting for more to surface - especially in Alaska. Palin's explanation was "reasonable" - and the state police chief has been quoted all over the map - but it makes me nervous. I have a sense that she attempted to pressure Monegan to fire the ex-brother-in-law; and I think that was only partly personal - the trooper should have been fired (but Palin only knew his history because he was family at one point). The same is true of the library issue - "reasonable" explanation but unsettling nevertheless. On this last, the made up list of books didn't help her critics case - if there is really something there you shouldn't have to "embellish" your story with a fabricated list.
I do not have any problem with her firing folks because they are not loyal - especially because they were in a small town. As to hiring old friends, those folk's supervisors have said they were qualified to do the job. There is a bunch here that makes me nervous - and that I will be watching - but nothing that "kills her" in my mind (yet).
Experience (especially foreign policy): There are so many double-standards floating around in this category I hardly know where to start. Barack Obama has no foreign policy experience, and indeed his experience as a state Senator in Illinois and as a US Senator doesn't impress me at all. He spent most of his time in those offices running for higher office - and has not shown a particularly good record of bills authored, committees run, etc. to impress me with his job performance as a legislator. Barack Obama is not a "heartbeat away from the Presidency" - he would be the President. Joe Biden has spent his life in the Senate - a group I think has really done squat for a while. Sarah Palin only palls in comparison to them if I factor in John McCain's age. Otherwise, she is just fine as a Vice-President - indeed I think Barack Obama is not qualified right now to be more than Vice-President (if that - maybe he should prove he can be a good Senator first. Or, perhaps run for Mayor in Chicago).
Sarah Palin's job performance in encouraging growth and modernization in Wasilla, battling corruption in her own party and Alaska in general, and pushing through projects like the natural gas pipeline (against the wishes of "big oil") are impressive. She has more executive branch experience than Biden, Obama, and McCain put together - and a better quality of experience if you want someone willing to "buck the system" and be a reformer. Again though, she seems to have that "bull in the china shop" style reformers bucking the system tend to have: insular, concerned about loyalty, and perhaps a bit paranoid - or at least intensely aware folks were "trying to get her".
Separation of Church and State: The "God's will" stuff has just been c--p. As someone said, praying for direction for our leaders so that out policies follow God's will is just "Christianity 101".
In office, she has not been a religious ideologue. Period. Again, the distortions oft repeated about her being a "creationist" who wants to teach it in the schools is nonsense - as well as all the other distortions of they way her religion affects her policies as an executive. Barack Obama's use of religious imagery has been just as high as Palin's - and she has been an executive so we can see how she has carried out secular executive duties. She has done just fine IMO.
The biggest proof of this is her veto of a bill passed by a Republican legislature blocking benefits for gay partners of state employees. Even though she doesn't believe in gay marriage, she vetoed the bill because it violated the state constitution in her opinion. She chose the constitution over the Bible and her religious beliefs.
She also increased the funding for a program for unwed mothers by 350%.
Iraq: Nothing to say here really except that she has a personal investment - the life of her son - that the other candidates do not have. That counts for something. McCain is my choice on Iraq policy over Obama - he was a lonely supporter of "The Surge" - the strategy that worked to turn the war around in favor of the Iraqis. Even those that said it would never work have had to admit that it worked. At this point, no Democrat could get my vote if Iraq were the only gauge of that vote. If Obama and Biden want my vote, based on Iraq, they are going to have to be very concrete about what more they will change - and how that matches our obligations to the Iraqi government and people.
Abortion: she did nothing as Governor or Mayor to forward her opposition to abortion as government policy. Certainly, if she were President I would assume she would appoint Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe (although in view of Casey that would be largely symbolic); and, IMO, President Bush did not appoint Supremes committed to overturning Roe even though he said he would.
I am always in that perpetual quandary about whether I think control over abortion should return to the states, or stay with the Feds. The conservative in me says "states"; and the pragmatist says "Feds". I have a problem with abortion becoming the defining issue in every state election for the next 30 years - as it is now at the Federal level. I think that is the reason, rhetoric aside, that President Bush did not pick justices committed to overturning Roe to the Supreme Court. Frankly, I do not think abortion will ever be removed by law in the US - and I think it is a distraction for pro-life folk to be working on making it illegal rather than doing the real person-to-person, heart-to-heart work of making it unchosen.
All that said, abortion will not be a determining factor in who I vote for for President - unless they make it clear that they want increased Federal control over the states in this area. That would include any support for any federal law, or amendment, that would further remove control of abortion from the states - either pro-life or pro-choice. However, that is true of every issue.
Bottom line: At this point, I think Sarah Palin is probably "more qualified" to be President than Barack Obama - at least on an experience level. She has certainly done more than any of the other three to actually counter and change an entrenched system. McCain and Biden have years in the Senate -- but that in itself isn't really a qualification to me. I do not really think the Senate, in general, has done much to make itself look good in the last 8 years (or more).
However, I want more concretes on actual policy positions away from all the character, personality, and experience "stuff". None of their characters turn me off, none have experience I really think "qualifies" them for the job of President, and they all seem OK on a personal level.
Let's talk about issues now - shall we?