Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm Holding Out For a Hero(ine)

One interesting part of the whole Palin phenomenon is the roster of conservative commentators who have expressed reservations or in some cases outright opposition. So far by my count there's David Frum, Charles Krauthammer (I don't count him a right-winger but most people do), Jay Nordlinger, Ramesh Ponnuru, Rick Brookhiser and Quin Hillyer. William Kristol has gone back and forth. It's an impressive list, one that I'm obviously not on (for reasons besides my much lower profile).

In any case, it's fair so say we've got the book on Palin by now. She's got lots of pluses, and pluses, and pluses, and pluses, yeah whatever. But she's got one big minus, inexperience and woeful lack of qualifications for the job she's a candidate for. And for some people the nature of this minus is such that it wipes out all the other pluses.

I don't buy this obviously, but let's go over exactly why for a little bit. First of all, she's been the governor of a small state (population, obviously) for a short period of time. But, she's done well in the jobs that she has had. And in particular, she's demonstrated a fair bit of personal accountability with respect to various players in Alaska politics. For all the people talking about "one heartbeat away" from the Oval Office, let's remember that most Presidents actually live through their term of office. The last guy who was elevated to the top job in the middle of a term was over thirty years ago, and Gerry Ford was never elected to the Vice-Presidency anyway. The Vice-Presidency has been largely ceremonial for substantial segments of our history. Bill McKinley put Theodore Roosevelt on the bottom half of the ticket to get him out of the national spotlight (interesting how that one worked out). How it functions now is determined by the guy on top and what he's willing to delegate. If anything the other team ought to be happy that we're clearly not going for a repeat of Cheney.

And if President McCain dies in office VP Palin will get the top job. Lot's of people are supposedly "worried" about this. For the most part I'm not buying. Mostly it's a smokescreen for mischief against McCain by proxy. If it does happen, we'll make do.

The other part of "inexperience" rap has to do with campaign issues: Biden will tear her apart, people will laugh at her, the press will embarrass her by highlighting her ignorance of Kazakhstan, etc. I think it could just as easily go the other way. She's fresh, pro-energy, pro-life, etc. But this is all on paper and discounts her ability to frame her own narrative. If it she gets put in a tight spot, we're not going to see a deer-in-the-headlights freeze. She's a real-life female version of that bearded guy in the Dos Equis commercials. She's got personality to burn.

But what of my right-wing brethren, why are they pissing in our corn flakes? I thought about that for a bit, and I think I figured it out. First of all, their frame of vision is too narrow for a situation like this. They've seen most directly the tide turn against the Republican party, and directly felt the Bush fatigue. Bigger than that however, is a little bit of control freakery. They've patiently endured the Alberto Gonzales, Conrad Burns and John Podhoretzes of the world and put on as brave a face as they could. And now at least those people are gone and they finally man their trenches and fight. Now Gov Palin comes and everything is up for grabs again, and in their experience that's been a bad thing. It's very important to recognize that the luminaries are right to see this as a loss of control. The mistake was to think this campaign season could be micromanaged in the first place.

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