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Jeepers Creepers, Where’d They Get Those Veepers?

September 6, 2008

A controversial editorial from the New York Times asks a good question: Why shouldn’t a little-known woman have the opportunity to grow in the office of Vice-President?

Where is it written that only senators are qualified to become President? Surely Ronald Reagan does not subscribe to that maxim. Or where is it written that mere representatives aren’t qualified, like Geraldine Ferraro of Queens? Representative Morris Udall, who lost New Hampshire to Jimmy Carter by a hair in 1976, must surely disagree. So must a longtime Michigan Congressman named Gerald Ford. Where is it written that governors and mayors, like Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, are too local, too provincial? That didn’t stop Richard Nixon from picking Spiro Agnew, a suburban politician who became Governor of Maryland. Remember the main foreign affairs credential of Georgia’s Governor Carter: He was a member of the Trilateral Commission.

Presidential candidates have always chosen their running mates for reasons of practical demography, not idealized democracy.

One might even say demography is destiny: this candidate was chosen because he could deliver Texas, that one because he personified rectitude, that one because he appealed to the other wing of the party. On occasion, Americans find it necessary to rationalize this rough-and-ready process. What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen.

This rationale may even be right, but then let it also be fair. Why shouldn’t a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow? We may even be gradually elevating our standards for choosing Vice Presidential candidates. But that should be done fairly, also. Meanwhile, the indispensable credential for a Woman Who is the same as for a Man Who – one who helps the ticket.

Via TigerHawk.

The assertion that the “number one” qualification for a Vice-President is to be able to lead on day one is laughably false. The idea, that Tim C. advanced, that the Sarah Palin pick was pure Rovian-inside-politics-at-the-expense-of-the-saftey-of-the-nation-invention… also false, as this NYT editorial defending the choice of Geraldine Ferraro states.

Now, a lot of right-wing bloggers have made the claim that this is some special qualification invented by team Obama to specifically attack Sarah Palin. And they have a point. But there’s also someone else who happened to put this idea in play: John McCain.

When I traveled with Senator McCain last November, just about the first question he answered was, what will you look for in a running mate. McCain responded that, first and foremost, he would want someone already qualfied to be president. Second, he said that because the economy is not his strong-suit, he would want someone with strong expertise in this area.

McCain did not say he wanted someone who would appeal to a potentially disaffected constituency within the Democratic party, or call attention (in an ironic way) to the inexperience of the Democratic nominee, or make such a splash as to counteract any Democratic convention bounce, or create a contrast to the Democratic vice presidential nominee, or “shake up” the Republican party, or “freshen up” the ticket, or reinforce his image as an opponent of corruption.

Neither the reporters on the bus nor this rube blogger was naive enough to conclude from McCain’s answer that political considerations would not enter into his decision. But I did not expect that political considerations would entirely trump the only two criteria McCain articulated that day.

Yet it seems to me that this is what happened when McCain selected a running mate with 18 months of experience as a governor and (to my knowledge) no special expertise in economics.

This information came not from a lefty blog, but Powerline, one of the most widely-read conservative blogs out there. I mention this only to counter the idea that the corner of the blogosphere I inhabit is simply an echo-chamber.

John McCain I’m sure had lofty goals, but the truth is the person that comes to mind in that scenario is Mitt Romney, who McCain didn’t like, and considered him (I think now rightly) political death. Maybe he could have chosen Alan Greenspan. Yeah, Alan Greenspan, that would have been the ticket!

The truth is the VP is a largely symbolic choice; a note that can affect the chord but does not change it’s fundamentals. The Sarah Palin pick is political genius because it solved so many problems at once for McCain and has created a number of serious issues for Obama.

In other words, it helped the ticket. No wonder the Democrats are so upset. Now they’re going to have to actually earn this election rather than have a cake-walk handed to them. And that, my friends, is going to be something that helps this country.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Timmy C. permalink
    September 8, 2008 10:48 am

    “Why shouldn’t a little-known woman have the opportunity to grow in the office of Vice-President?”

    The issue isn’t her little known-ness. The issue is her little preparedness. And why not use the VP as job training?

    Three words: William Henry Harrison.

    and add to that link: death and disablity percentages for 73 year old former 2 pack a day smokers.

  2. September 13, 2008 10:14 pm

    Sarah Palin = Dan Quayle – Penis + (Trailer Park x .5)

    Did you catch the 20/20 interview?* She said “nucular.” Twice.

    IQ? 110ish, at best.

    Got her first passport when it was required for travel to Canada.

    Sigh.

    *Best Quote: “Alaska seems to be such a microcosm for the rest of the US”. LOL.

  3. September 14, 2008 8:20 pm

    Didn’t really catch the interview, just snippets.

    Impressions: she seemed a bit nervous, didn’t do great, but didn’t gack it either. The Countess thought Gibson was so condescending she couldn’t watch it . The questions he asked Obama were pretty lightweight in comparison. I guess we know who needs protecting.

    You know I thought John Edwards was something of a silver-tonged Quayle. What qualifications did he have exactly?

    This whole question of VP creds seems specially made for Palin. I don’t recall this degree of discussion on the matter in any previous election.

    I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what Obama’s credentials are that makes him so much better to be VP. Oh wait, he’s not running for VP.

    If you want to take the elitist line and just mock her until the election, have at it! It’s really quite fun to watch.

  4. September 14, 2008 10:36 pm

    I agree that Gibson was prickishly smug during the interview. Condescension aside, I didn’t think his questions were unfair. Asking Palin if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine (and in doing so, revealing that she had no idea what it was) seemed like fair game to me. I thought Palin came across as dim-witted and unsophisticated, but well-rehearsed and charming. She was very good at tossing out her coached answers naturally and confidently (she said “we can’t second-guess Israel” three times), but when a question called for something she hadn’t memorized from Wikipedia (e.g “Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?”), she issued a quick deer-in-the-headlights stare, collapsed gracefully into a coy smile, and answered, “In what respect, Charlie?”

    Basically, she struck me as a smooth-talking small-town girl of average intelligence who is completely and utterly confident that she is prepared to run the country.

    Which kind of scares me.

    I don’t know about you, but I want a president who is smarter than me. Obama is. McCain could be. Palin’s not even close. Watch her and you you’ll know. You can just tell.

    I’m a cynic, though, and I believe that this won’t matter to most Americans. I think people will be attracted to her folksy charm and be unable to discern her shortcomings. So politically, she was a good choice. If you’re equally cynical, and want to back Palin because you know the American people are easy to fool and she’s a means to an end, fine. But you can’t honestly say you’d want to see her in the White House. I won’t believe you.

    As for Edwards, you’re right, his political resume wasn’t much better than Quayle’s. (He was far brainier had made his own way in the world, but his populism never much appealed to me.) Then again, my party never picked him to run for national office, either.

    As for the issue of VP qualifications in general, it’s nothing new. This is an issue every time a presidential candidate picks a lightweight VP in an attempt to pander or compensate for a shortcoming. Quayle? Ferraro? Even Eisenhower took heat for picking Nixon back when Dick was a young done-nothing.

    I won’t take your bait about Obama’s credentials. But here’s something he can do: understand constitutional law and the Supreme Court well enough to predict how Ginsberg and Scalia would rule on an Equal Protection clause case. I’d like to see McCain try that (or see Palin identify which amendment the clause is in). Here’s another thing Obama can do that McCain apparently can’t: Pick a highly-qualified VP candidate after measured consideration, extensive vetting, and numerous personal meetings.

    I’ve had enough with “go-with-your-gut” politics.

  5. September 15, 2008 11:16 am

    I won’t take your bait about Obama’s credentials.

    It’s obvious that I don’t like Obama on foreign policy- especially regarding the war, which is what I mostly blog about. I’ve made up my mind on that regard.

    That dislike on my part – along with his evasive “not above my pay grade” type comments – has been enough to disregard him as a serious thinker. He is smart for sure, but he often seems to use those smarts to obfuscate his positions, all the while giving the appearance of deep thinking.

    Until Palin though I never really thought of Obama as unqualified- it was more a matter of having a simplistic position on the war that I didn’t respect. I have this feeling that there is something that I am missing in terms of resumé, but maybe I’m not. My question isn’t meant to be “bait”- that is I don’t have a prepared answer knowing what you’re going to say.

    Ultimately I think the choice of President comes down to values even more than intelligence or resumé. Obama may be “smarter” but I don’t think he really shares my values or the values of most of America. On the matter of the war and the surge, he’s certainly showed me that he is no strategic genius, or someone who will vigorously defend our interests.

    BTW, I think you mis-spoke. Edwards was picked for VP by your party, a national office. The voters rejected Kerry Edwards.

    A lot of people seem to like Palin. I’ve even had a conversation with someone here at work about it- which is nothing short of amazing. You may think she’s unqualified but if the voters disagree and “below average intelligence” types are again running he country you may want to re-think your paradigm… wisdom is not just about facts and smarts.

  6. Timmy C. permalink
    September 15, 2008 6:42 pm

    “Ultimately I think the choice of President comes down to values even more than intelligence or resumé.”

    Sarah Palin is eminently likable. I like her. But one blogger put it really well:

    “But this isn’t a zany sitcom where a friendly, plucky Everywoman with dangerous ignorance on foreign policy gets to be vice president. Americans don’t deserve someone too scared to do a press conference. Fun for a TV show, but running the country doesn’t permit second and third takes when you mess up the scene.”

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