Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mrs. P. Attempts To Go To Washington

Is it wrong to join in the chorus of those making fun of Governor Sarah Palin, Republican candidate for vice-president? Should we judge her more by the content of her character and less by the hard-sounding, sometimes hard-to-follow words that spill out of her mouth when asked even gentle questions by friendly folks like Sean Hannity? Does she get a little slack on account of her gender in the fear that her struggling campaign might keep qualified women from seeking our nation's highest office for decades to come?
My answers to these questions are: yes, yes, and, sadly, no.
I can't claim to know anything about Alaska first hand, but the impression I get is that it is truly unlike anything here in the "lower 48". It's over twice the size of Texas, but with fewer people than St. Louis. It's a place where the climate alone can kill you if you're not prepared, in which your neighbor might be three DAYS away by dogsled. If things REALLY go badly, the dogs start to think of YOU as dinner. This is not a place which offers the luxury of subtlety. As Bush once remarked (about himself), they don't DO nuance up there.
Which brings us back to the Governor. I think she deserves credit for trying to bring Alaska out of the dark night of one-party corruptible rule, in which a guy like Senator Ted Stevens, it seems, could command a phalanx of local mayors to do his yard work. She saw, somehow, that the state was ready to leave behind life as a kind of Arctic Louisiana, collecting around $9 in federal funds for every $5 spent. If the world's paying $100 plus for oil, well, it's not just good news for those A-rabs, is it?
No, the governor and her husband, after a rocky start (a little pregnancy) have gone on to do well in this tough territory, even outside the political business. And she's an attractive woman, probably using the glasses to tone down her glamour. She gives a fine speech, long on punchlines, short on details. But who needs to hear all that stuff? Let's just drill! Anyway, she gets points for being aggresive and forward thinking for the state.
But as admirable as those qualities are, they don't make you ready to be president. Vice president? Well, on a day-to-day basis, anyone who can fog a mirror and take directions can handle the Veep's "duties", at least from the standpoint of the Constitution. And gosh knows no one looks forward to a repeat of the Cheney"Heart of Darkness" regime from inside the Bush administration.
But here's where we have to join the chorus of naysayers. Mrs. P. just isn't qualified to run all the switches, levers and spinning wheels of the world's most complex country, the U.S. The jump between veep and president is the difference between jogging around the block and trying to run through a pack of arctic wolves to get home. No, it's not fair, and no, it shouldn't discourage women candidates since other countries have had competent (sometimes better!) leadership from a whole group of women. McCain probably knew all this, but he chose Palin anyway despite his own age and health, because he needed to jazz up the ticket. His gamble could very well mean the start AND end of Mrs. P.'s national exposure. Hey, Senator - Christine Todd Whitman wouldn't pick up your call?


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