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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Palin is Unfit to Be A Heart Beat Away

I spend most of my time on this blog talking about local politics and frankly I have a pretty sizable backlog of local stories to cover, but I have to put those stories on hold today. Yesterday was one of the most momentous days in this country in sometime. The stock market fell 777 points and that was not even the headline. As one analyst said yesterday, it was not even the worst news of the day. The credit market is in far more serious condition. Major banks are failing. Congress voted down a horrendous bailout bill that would have done horrible things and yet at the same time would have saved us for the time being.

Unbelievably the Republicans response to the failed economy was something to the effect of they would have voted for it, but Nancy Pelosi made too partisan a speech by telling the truth about the economic and fiscal situation of this country, so they voted against preserving what's left of the US financial, economic, and credit system because Nancy Pelosi gave a speech they didn't like? Sounds incredulous and actually if it is true, it is far worse than anything one can imagine.

In this time of crisis many will be looking to the two candidates for President. Barack Obama said that he was uncomfortable from the start about the idea of interjecting presidential campaign politics into the mix. I think that was a wise position to take. John McCain tried to demonstrate himself as a leader, tried to come in to broker the deal, claimed victory at the beginning of the day yesterday before he lost the vote. Then he tried to blame his opponent after the vote failed. At the same he claimed we cannot resort to partisanship, he and his handlers made a string of partisan attacks.

Leadership from McCain? I am sorry, but any suggestion that McCain had any semblance of common sense and responsibility let alone leadership went out the window the day he named Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate.

For a few weeks it actually looked like a brilliant pick. She energized conservatives, she energized working class and blue collar voters, she even energized some of the women and Hillary supporters. She gave by most accounts a great speech at the convention.

However, I go back to my initial reaction to her selection.

At the time, I suggested it was a risky move. "Her pedigree is just not impressive. I have to believe the Republicans could have found someone more qualified. She's been the Governor of a small state for a short period of time. Before that, she was part-time mayor of a city of 9,000 people."

I thought it took away from the strengths of McCain--namely experience. It took away the question about whether Obama was ready to lead.

Honestly, and I do mean honestly, it is far worse than this.

She has said things that are so alarming that one really has to question her capacity to be a leader. Let's remember she is the Vice-Presidential candidate to a 72-year-old man. As one analyst said yesterday, there is a strong actuarial probability that she becomes President, it is something on the order of a one-in-five chance.

The nature of this crisis just punctuates the importance of this selection. It underscores the need for strong leadership. Forget partisanship right now, there are many knowledgeable, intelligent, and qualified picks in the Republican party, Sarah Palin is not one of them.

Let us go through just a few answers here.

Sarah Palin had foolishly mentioned the proximity of Alaska to Russia as part of her foreign policy experience. Katie Couric, who is no one's idea of a hardball reporter, followed up on that in a two-part interview last week.

Couric asks:
"You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?"
Palin responds:
"That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It's funny that a comment like that was kinda made to … I don't know, you know … reporters."
Couric tried again:
"Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials."
Palin responds:
"Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state."
That is frightening. But her response on the $700 billion bailout question was even worse.

Katie Couric was pushing her on the question of the necessity for the $700 billion bailout.
"Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with healthcare, housing, gas and groceries, allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?"
Governor Palin's answer was complete and total gibberish.
"That’s why I say, I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in, where it is the taxpayers looking to bailout. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—oh, it’s got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So, healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we have—we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that."
Paul Krugman a professor and columnist for the New York Times compared it to a student trying to bs their answer to a test that they had no idea on.
"You know, I’m sorry, but, you know, I am a college teacher, and that sounds like nothing so much as a freshman who hasn’t actually done any of the—read any of the readings and is confronted with an essay question on the exam, and so he throws in sort of random paragraphs of stuff that he thinks kind of sounds like economics. That was incredible. That was totally incoherent."
Fareed Zakaria is a foreign affairs analyst for Newsweek. In an upcoming column he argues that it would be best for John McCain and the country if Governor Palin bowed out. He said that her answer to the $700 billion bailout question shows that she doesn't even understand the question, let alone the answer.

Zakaria said in an interview yesterday about his initial reaction to Palin:
"I was a bit surprised -- as I think most people were. But I was willing to give her a chance. And I thought her speech at the convention was clever and funny. But once she began answering questions about economics and foreign policy, it became clear that she has simply never thought about these subjects before and is dangerously ignorant and unprepared for the job of vice president, let alone president."
When asked if she's qualified:
"No. Gov. Palin has been given a set of talking points by campaign advisers, simple ideological mantras that she repeats and repeats as long as she can. But if forced off those rehearsed lines, what she has to say is often, quite frankly -- nonsense. Just listen to her response to Katie Couric's question about the bailout. It's gibberish -- an emptying out of catchphrases about economics that have nothing to do with the question or the topic. It's scary to think that this person could be running the country."
Finally he compared Palin to Dan Quayle and suggested she was far worse. Quayle got tongue-tied, but appeared to at least know what he was talking about. Not so with Gov. Palin.
"This is way beyond Dan Quayle. Quayle was a lightweight who was prone to scramble his words, or say things that sounded weird, but you almost always knew what he meant. One of his most famous miscues was to the United Negro College Fund when he said, "What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all." Now he was trying to play off a famous ad that the group used to run, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste." And he screwed it up in a funny way. But read Gov. Palin's answers and it does appear that she doesn't have any understanding about the topic under discussion."
For those who did not see the SNL skit last weekend with Tina Fey, you missed a masterpiece. The amazing part of that is that about 90% of the lines from that skit were VERBATIM from Palin's own words. Oh sure they embellished the hand gestures and crossed over the line when she talked about the dollar meal, but there were real and complete sentences that were lifted from the actual Palin interview. As some have said, it is a little too close to reality for comfort.

Keith Olbermann actually played long excerpts from her interview with Couric and the SNL skit line by line and side by side and it was shocking to see and hear how close the SNL skit came to being VERBATIM Palin's own words. Think about that, the funniest lines from that skit were reality. They used her own words against her.

As I said at the onset of this entry, during normal times, we could perhaps bear this woman out. She's probably quite bright, she is simply completely inexperienced on the national or world stage. This is not one of those times. That she could be President of the United States down the line is a frightful possiblity that cannot happen. She simply does not have the command of these issues to be any sort of leader.

We will see first hand on Thursday as she goes head to head with Joe Biden, one of the brightest and most knowledgeable people in Washington on policy issues. Oh Joe Biden as many point out can misspeak. His statement on FDR and TV and the Great Depression was certain amusing. But it is easy enough to misspeak. Palin is not misspeaking, she does not know.

The spin from the McCain campaign is that she's being managed too well. She is being fed soundbites and rhetoric and being held back and kept out of the limelight. That when they allow Sarah Palin to be herself, to communicate directly with the people and have a conversation, she's fine. They site the speech at the Republican Convention as evidence of that.

But that does not especially gibe. I agree that the amount of soundbites that she is being fed is playing a factor here. But she is being fed soundbites for a reason. Moreover, the speech she gave at the convention is not communicating directly with the people, it is not her being her, it is her READING a teleprompter.

Katie Couric wasn't asking ridiculous questions playing gotcha. Neither was Charlie Gibson. Neither of these reporters are known for tough questions and hard-hitting reporting. They asked her very basic questions and she showed no substance, no basic understanding, and certainly no depth.

It is not cute anymore. Our country faces a fiscal crisis unlike we have seen in some time. This is no time to be going to Debate Camp and learning a few catchphrases. McCain does have a vast amount of experience in Washington and in the world, however, by picking Palin he showed a fundamental irresponsibility that goes to the very heart of his judgment. How anyone can trust his judgment based on this pick is beyond me. The country needs strong leadership and McCain failed the test in his first Presidential decision. Obama selected a competent, bright, and articulate statesman, and McCain selected the part-time governor of the 46th largest state in the country in population and the part-time mayor of a town of 9000 people. She has no knowledge of the rest of the world. It is an absolute disgrace.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting