Monday, September 15, 2008

Deconstructing Sarah Palin

The American people have been bombarded by salvo after salvo of Sarah Palin. From the announcement of her candidacy for Vice President, to her acceptance speech, to her whirlwind campaign stops with John McCain, to interviews with Charlie Gibson, and finally to being lampooned on Saturday Night Live. The news media seems to have a case of "all Sarah Palin, all the time."

The novelty has worn off.

It goes to show that everyone has a short memory, because I seem to recall that a woman was running for President not all that long ago, what was her name... oh yeah!!! Hillary Clinton! She was running for President, not for the runner-up slot. And but for some political maneuvers which were not indicative of her ability nor professional in their presentation, she would probably be running against John McCain and Sarah Palin would be in Alaska, still shooting wolves, moose, and bears. And we would not be subject to a campaign of Palin-ization.

This goes to show quite plainly that the pick was totally political, not based on her abilities.

OK, argue with me if you like. Point out that she was a mayor, then a governor. Point out all the things she's done to help Alaska get its hands on more oil money. Laud her if you will for being a working mother, who kept a Down Syndrome child when most might have taken the expedient route. But don't claim that any of that makes her a solid pick to be our first female Vice President.

What about Olympia Snowe? Senior Senator from Maine since 1995, prior to that spending 16 years as a Representative, orphaned at 9 and raised by an aunt and uncle. Has quite a list of Committee assignments:

  • Committee on Finance

    • Subcommittee on Health Care

    • Subcommittee on International Trade and Global Competitiveness

    • Subcommittee on Taxation, IRS Oversight, and Long-term Growth

  • Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (Ranking Member)

  • Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

    • Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security

    • Subcommittee on Interstate Commerce, Trade, and Tourism

    • Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard (Ranking Member)

  • Select Committee on Intelligence

A hawk when it comes to foreign affairs, more moderate for other issues (abortion and gay rights among them), and definitely fiscally conservative (opposed George Bush's tax cut plans). In 35 years as an elected official, she has never lost an election. Frankly, she's more a "maverick" than John McCain!

And I could go on. I used Olympia Snowe to make a point: it's kind of hard to defend Sarah Palin on her merits when you had to pass over so many other more qualified candidates. McCain has asked her to be one step away from the Oval Office and yet if the moment came and she was forced to pick up the reins, I think it would be beyond her. I think she would be completely beholden to the advisers McCain would leave behind to carry her through her Presidency.

She may have smarts, and savvy, and be a fierce debater, but the office of President requires compromise not obstinacy, conviction not conversion, and a willingness to rise above and beyond your own persona to do what is right for all Americans. It requires stepping down from the bully pulpit and pulling up those who cannot pull up themselves. It requires compassion for all those in need. It demands the greatest sacrifices of self, because there is no vacation from being President. It requires seeing the broadest picture of the world while at the same time understanding the subtle nuances of what makes the world work. And while a President can surround himself or herself with trusted advisers, at some point the decision falls on the President's shoulders.

I have seen and heard a lot of Sarah Palin in the last two weeks, and I cannot say I am impressed. She is focused solely on repeating the same tired patter of the Republican Party line and making it clear that her personal beliefs are more important than your or mine. She and her followers have clothed her in the cloak of feminism, but her actions and beliefs speak of a woman who feels that other women have no right to determine what they do with themselves and their bodies. She would put her own beliefs ahead of the greater good, and to me that spells zealotry.

In the end, she is condemned for what she is: John McCain's lap dog, his smokescreen, his attempt to pander to people rather than give them his "straight talk." And while for now she is some sort of warped feel-good story, all too soon the reality of the fight she has gotten involved in will come to her, and she will be found wanting.

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