Monday, September 1, 2008

The Palin Pick

John McCain selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be the Republican candidate for Vice President. Everyone, including the entire press corps, was taken by surprise. That sent enough of them off searching up information about Governor Palin that the Alaska state web servers were crashed.

The Obama campaign responded quickly. Spokesman Bill Burton said “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency.” We had two reactions when we heard the statement:

  1. The statement sounds like a clear admission that Barack Obama will lose and Sarah Palin will be the Vice President of the United States.
  2. Yes, Wasilla is a town of about 9,000 people. But that's 9,000 Alaskans, that proved to be a rough-and-tumble training ground for hardball politics. Would you like to go up against 9,000 like her?
Further, it seemed this description is more than a bit disingenuous. Especially when it is put in the form that showed up a Jonathan Martin piece in the Politico website: “Palin, 44, is less than two years removed from being mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, has no military or foreign policy experience in a time of grave international threat” This statement is dishonest in several respects.

The two years referred to are the two years she has been serving as governor. Those two years were separated from her time as Wasilla mayor by four years, during which she spearheaded ethics efforts that brought about the the resignation and punishment of her own party chairman. And to reach the governor's chair, she had to unseat the incumbent Republican governor (and former U.S. Senator) and beat a former governor while her own party sought her defeat.

"No military experience"? She is the Commander in Chief of the Alaska National Guard. That means she commands the forces responsible for a good part of the U.S. missile defense. It means her air forces are involved in intercepting the Russian Bear bombers that have been flying along our coasts the past six months or so. It means her troops have been deployed to Iraq, as a result of which she has been to Iraq at least as many times as Barack Obama (and not as part of a campaign!) and visited wounded soldiers at Landstuhl, Germany. She also commands the Alaska State Defense Force. As an e-mailer told Uncle Jimbo, "She can be entrusted with our national security, because she already is."

"No foreign policy experience"? She's been leading negotiations with the Canadian government and Canadian companies over the natural gas pipeline project. I have no doubt she's also had some fairly regular contact with the government of the other country that borders her state — Russia — including over those Bear bombers.

Of course, we will have to wait and see how she works out as a vice presidential candidate. But for such a newcomer on the national political scene, she sure seems to have a surprisingly strong record in the national security area and as a reformer.

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