The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Go Sarah
Tom Smith

Much wringing of hands in the RINO blogosphere.  Puzzlement and recalibration in the Obama tent.  Lawyers from Harvard and Stanford are boarding Air Alaska to go prowling around Juneau and Anchorage looking for something, anything they can tar her with.  They can count on a very chilly reception.  I wish I could be there to see it.

I don't know if picking Palin as VP will work out in the end for McCain.  Is it a risky choice?  Well, duh.  The way you win when you are behind is by taking some chances.  Putting in Sarah is like pulling someone off of the bench and putting her in a key position.  If she performs brilliantly, McCain will be a genius.  If not, the hand wringers will say I told you so.  And honestly, most of the hand wringers will vote for Obama anyway, the most crypto-libertarian candidate in the history of crytography.  A kind of collectivist-statist libertarian, I guess. 

I like McCain more now, because he has shown he can make clever decisions outside of the box.  Or so it seems for now.

The professed worries about Palin's inexperience reveal so many layers of irony and hypocrisy one hardly knows where to begin.  (Though granted, reasonable people may have such worries in good faith.  I just think a lot of them aren't.)  To begin with the obvious, Obama has practically no relevant experience for being CEO of one of the largest and most dysfunctional organizations on earth, and he's vying for the number 1 slot.  He is running on the mind-numbingly repeated slogan of "Change" and yet his career has been one of almost preternatural conformity, first to Hyde Park progressivism, then to the leftish-liberalism of the urban wing of the Democratic party.  His record of actually changing anything, a club, a law, an institution, or his mind, is as far as I can tell, perfectly void of content, a vacuum rarely found in nature.  His agenda for change is apparently just to take the entrance ramp back onto the superhighway to serfdom, and make the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush years just a prolonged rest stop.  That slowing down wasn't history ending, but just going into reverse. 

Obama's inexperience, his apparent unwillingness to risk his career for anything, and what seem to me the hallmarks of an utterly opportunistic character, are to me his best points.  They suggest he wont be willing to stand up to determined opposition and may tack to the center to govern.  You can call this "pragmatism" if you like.  They seem to turn out pragmatists from Chicago at an alarming rate.  But that sort of pragmatism is not how reform happens. 

Palin is a very different story.  Her career may be brief, but she has spent it running head on into some very powerful interests, the oily Alaskan GOP, and winning.  She has doubtless had opportunities to be bought off, and hasn't sold.  I worked one summer for one of Anchorage's established law firms that represented oil and gas interests, big Native corporations and the like.  It may not be a big arena, but it is one where the play is rough.  Saying Palin's 20 months as governor in Alaska is not much experience in government is like saying 20 months as marshal in Dodge City is not much experience in law enforcement.  It's long enough for some things, like finding out if you are made of the right stuff or not.  Obama also spent time as a public servant in a jurisdiction, Chicago, notorious for its corruption, but all I know he accomplished there was getting himself a really nice house at a great price, and moving on to a higher office.  It's that pragmatism again.

The main thing about experience as an issue, however, is that it distracts from the substance.  When I look at Joe Biden, all I see is an old school Democratic party hack who never was the brightest bulb in the box, who has plenty of experience doing things I wish he hadn't.  Experience is not the same thing as being on the right side.  Besides, Joe Biden.  Please.  Efforts to get me to think of Biden now as Solomon the Wise rolled into Winston Churchill insult my intelligence and ignore my experience watching him over the years.  But even if he were a genius, that would just make him more dangerous.  And if Obama had more experience, I'm sure it would be the same.  I don't worry that he will be ineffective as a leader, but that he will be all too effective, leading us in the direction of being France without the food and the style.

Palin's a very different story.  She's apparently a small government conservative with sufficient gonadal mass to take on entrenched interests in the most macho state in the union, and enough charm to make most of them love her for it.  She doesn't like taxes or abortion.  She's appears fearless.  She's religious, which is relevant because it means she's more likely to think it's unacceptable to take bribes.  She sounds like exactly the sort of person I'd like to tie up in a ribbon, deliver to Washington, and say have a nice day.  As to inexperience, I'd rather have a smart young resident who wants to save my life, than a highly experienced professor of medicine who wants to take my liver and give it to one of his pals and then have a press conference before fawning reporters to say it was the compassionate thing to do.

Palin has a child with Down syndrome.  Her remarks on her baby boil down to, my husband and I are blessed to have this beautiful child.  Not, we weighed up all the qualies and he just made the cut.  Nor some Pelosiesque incoherencies.  It was a decision not above Palin's pay grade.  Among plenty of Catholics in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan and evangelicals in North Carolina, she won't have to say anything.  Her choices have told them everything they need to know. 

Like Professor Rappaport, I don't like identity politics.  But also like Professor Rappaport, I like a strong woman.  Palin has five children from 19 to toddling, and still has managed to be governor in a very challenging state.  She was back to work three days after delivering her last child.  She runs marathons.  Her husband works oil rigs and Alaskan fishing boats (some of the hardest and most dangerous work there is).  It's not that I want a woman as such in any particular job, but that there is a certain kind of woman you find out West (I'm sure there are plenty back East as well), tough as nails, incorruptible, yet full of the womanly virtues as well, whom I admire and would love to see in office. I could be wrong, but she looks like one of the good ones.  It makes such a wonderful contrast to the phony baloney our political class specializes in, and the idiom of which Obama has mastered to an impressive degree.

So instead of experience, I will take character and commitments.  Granted, it could be Palin will disappoint.  If she has a boyfriend stashed in Seattle (though I don't see how she'd have time) and a bank account in the Caymans, I'll have to take it all back, or if she turns out to be some kind of nut.  But it could turn out to be a brilliant choice, a kind of anti-Obama.  The University of Idaho instead of Harvard.  Warring with the establishment instead of making it purr.  A big family, not a perfect family.  A beautiful walker instead of a beautiful talker.  Dorothy instead of the Wizard of Oz.

I'm just a member of the conservative-libertarian base, but she sure as heck works for me.  I was pretty weak on McCain, but I feel much better now.  Whatever else he has done, he has amused me highly, and for that I am grateful.

HERE is a relatively fair-minded analysis of the politics in WaPo.  Why cant the NY Times manage this?

BILL KRISTOL gets it right.

THIS is very interesting, from an Alaskan blogger.

http://rightcoast.typepad.com/rightcoast/2008/08/go-sarah-tom-sm.html

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Tom Smith
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Comments

I happened across the McGlaughlin Group on PBS and that vile Elanor Clift was commenting on Palin. She had the nerve to say that she has no experience doing anything and that in newsrooms across the nation there was laughter after the announcement of Palin as McCain's VP. I was thinking that type of attitude will play well over America. I then switched it to WWE Smackdown for more intelligent television.

Posted by: pchuck | Aug 30, 2008 7:42:33 PM

Palin may not have alot of experience, but at least she has something to show for the time she has spent in office and with her life. What exactly has Obama actually accomplished? The editor of the Harvard Law Review who never published in his own journal. A "professor" at the University of Chicago who has never published a scholarly article. The chairman of the board of a failed effort at educational reform. A state senator who didn't do much of anything. A U.S. Senator who has spent most of his time running for President.
As I read Palin's biography, I marvel at the energy she has brought to her endeavors. She is a doer and Obama and Biden are talkers. Her candidacy I think will highlight this distinction.

Posted by: pauld | Aug 31, 2008 4:01:12 AM

A journalist on this side of the water has started referring to Baroque Obama, which I rather like.

Posted by: dearieme | Aug 31, 2008 11:48:18 AM

With regard to the comparison between Biden and Palin, Palin actually wears less makeup than Biden did for his convention speech. He looked like he'd just been doused with flour.

Posted by: Jeff | Aug 31, 2008 3:19:59 PM

You can trivialize all of Obama's accomplishments as meaningless in your effort to cast him as never actually "doing" anything. But Obama was clear from the beginning that he was against the Iraq war, and this vote alone is enough of an accomplishment to overcome the fact that you think he has not done anything with his life (ie get published on law review or do anything as a senator...) Oh, didnt he graduate magna cum laude? Would you consider that as an accomplishment?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 1, 2008 3:42:57 PM

I don't think graduating from HLS magna is such a huge deal, at least not in the world of action. Voting against the war is a reliable sign that he really was against it, but that's not "doing" anything either, but expressing an opinion. It certainly isn't enough of an accomplishment to overcome the fact that he has not done anything with his life, as you put it (and I didn't). He did write those books, and made millions doing it. I do count that as a very significant literary accomplishment, since it is very difficult to make money writing autobiographies. But it is not an accomplishment of leadership or statecraft. As legislator, he hasn't accomplished anything that I know of. If he gets elected, he will probably disappoint you about the war as well, since I suspect he will be unwilling to face the music of the havoc a quick withdrawal would cause. It is a very rare person who can make political institutions change directions, and I see no reason to think Obama is such a person, much to my relief. Palin, on the other hand, does seem to be such a person. If you thought about it for a minute, you might be able to see why real reformers tend to be outsiders, and not super-slick insiders. But as I tried to explain, I hope and suspect Obama is a kind of fraud, because if he isn't, we are really in for it.

Posted by: Tom Smith | Sep 1, 2008 4:53:08 PM

WAY TO GO SARAH PALIN. IF THE (DEMON KRAP) LEFT DOESNT LIKE YOU, IT MEANS THAT YOU ARE OK!!!

THANKS TO SARAH PALIN, VICE PRESIDENT (2009)

Posted by: JOSEPH STUCKEY | Sep 3, 2008 10:35:03 AM

I was a Ron Paul supporter and had pretty much given up on this election . . . now enter Sarah. I will be pulling the lever for the Republican ticket and will feel good about it. Thank you Sarah, you go girl.

Posted by: Elaine McLellan | Sep 7, 2008 7:01:19 AM