The Russian Border

Beldar, who really has been just far and away the best source on all things Palin, has a long, maps-and-pictures-filled post up looking at, yes, Alaska’s proximity to Russia and what Gov. Palin’s experience says about her as a potential Commander-in-Chief. I agree with this:

[N]o state governor has executive experience on these matters comparable to that which must be exercised by the POTUS. State governors are, however, executives, with experience running large organizations of a sort that mere legislators at any level – including U.S. Congressmen and Senators – don’t acquire. That’s part of the explanation for why America has so often elected state chief executive officers (governors) to become the federal chief executive officer (POTUS), often with salutary results

That goes to my longstanding point: no President is prepared for the entire job, but you have to have a base in one of the major parts of the job to avoid being overwhelmed by the learning curve, and in Gov. Palin’s case, it’s one of the two big ones (executive experience, the other being national security experience; Obama lacks both). Now, obviously Palin doesn’t bring to the table the years of national leadership on national security and foreign policy issues that Reagan did, and one can fairly argue that governors with experience more comparable to Palin’s – Woodrow Wilson had an almost identical resume when elected – were not smashing successes in the foreign policy/national security arena (these would include George W. Bush, Clinton, Carter, FDR, Coolidge, Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and McKinley, of whom only the Roosevelts and McKinley had some relevant foreign policy/national security experience). On the other hand, unlike Obama, Palin is highly likely to have many months and probably years before she’d be called on to take the reins, and would I be concerned if Palin became the president in, say, the fall of 2010? Of course not, since the best possible training for the presidency is the vice presidency.
The Palin-Obama comparison also reminds me of a silly Dahlia Lithwick column comparing Palin to Clarence Thomas in light of Justice Thomas’ views on affirmative action:

Like Thomas, Palin has been blasted for inexperience, and she has fought back with claims that she is not being judged on her merits, but on her gender, just as he felt he was inevitably judged on his race. While it’s possible to assert that Sarah Palin is the most qualified person in America for the vice presidency, only approximately nine people have done so with a straight face. That’s because Palin was not chosen because she was the second-best person to run America but to promote diversity on the ticket, even the political playing field, and to shatter (in her words) some glass ceilings.

What is amusingly naive, or would be if it wasn’t so disingenuous, is the suggestion that running mates are chosen because they are actually the second-most-qualified potential president in their party, regardless of political considerations. This was arguably true of Dick Cheney, whose only political benefit was precisely the fact that he could very seriously have been argued to be the second-most-qualified potential president in the GOP. (And if McCain were choosing today on solely that basis, Cheney would still be the top choice). Other than maybe LBJ, who was in any event chosen for nakedly political causes, though, one is hard-pressed to find running mates who fit that description. Palin does, in fact, bring a good deal more to the ticket than just gender, ranging from things McCain doesn’t have (executive experience, rock-solid social conservative credentials, being from far outside the Beltway and from a small town, and having lived most of her adult life in what is basically a blue-collar household, albeit one that by now is quite financially successful) as well as personal charisma (she’s a natural at retail politics) and harmony with McCain’s basic reformist drive and willingness to take on their own side. Add in the list of reasons why various other people were out of the running, and it’s obvious that Palin was a more than plausible choice, which is one reason why the right side of the blogosphere was buzzing about her as a running mate for months before McCain made his choice.
(Another argument I sometimes hear is the issue of whether she was the most qualified woman in the GOP…there’s a longer answer when you walk through particular candidates, but the easy answer to that one is this question: how many pro-life female governors are there in the GOP right now? I’m pretty certain the answer to that question is “one,” and really the only pro-life female Senator is Elizabeth Dole, and the last thing we need is another Dole on a national ticket.)
Anyway, where Lithwick’s column becomes openly contemptible is that she never even breathes the name Barack Obama. I can’t imagine there’s anybody over the age of 25 who seriously thinks Obama’s the person in the Democratic Party most qualified to do the job, and certainly his campaign has never been shy about leaning on his identity as a substitute for things like experience, accomplishment, and leadership ability. Lithwick may have some hidden rationalization why the dynamic she describes doesn’t apply to Obama, but she dares not advance it.
Obama has one and only one advantage over Palin: he’s been on the campaign trail longer, and thus had more training by now in how to finesse questions he doesn’t have a good answer to. That’s it.

28 thoughts on “The Russian Border”

    “Woodrow Wilson had an almost identical resume when elected ”
    20+ years as a lawyer, a PhD in History+PoliSci, and celebrated for it? Yes, nearly identical. I like his comparison to Teddy Roosevelt too, shocking reach.
    “one of the major parts of the job to avoid being overwhelmed by the learning curve, and in Gov. Palin’s case, it’s one of the two big one”
    I’m sorry, but being Governor in Alaska, where you can safely get 80% of your budget paid for by oil revenue alone, does not compare. No other state can have that kind of safety margin, or access to low risk money, or solve their problems by changing one number (return rate on oil profits).
    Though she has done very well in hiding from investigations, and routing email to private sources to hide from public records. Now that’s good experience for a Republican.
    She’s nowhere near qualified, but that’s OK. Like you and Beldar say, she wasn’t chosen to be qualified, she was chosen to get the base motivated and (as you said previously) to get Hillary voters.
    I still don’t care about experience, I care about judgment. Hopefully her debate will show something more than memorizing Talking Points, and hopefully she does well. I think only one of those two things will happen though.

  2. If you want to keep repeating the words “executive experience” over and over again go ahead. But the repetition doesn’t suddenly turn those words into something meaningful.
    Palin has been governor of a state with fewer than 700,000 people for less than two years. Before that she was mayor of a town with somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people.
    Obama meanwhile was a state senator for nearly 8 years. And has been US senator for over 3 1/2.
    But you say Senate experience doesn’t mean anything (what does that do for McCain by the way?). I think that’s a very questionable position, but hey, if it makes you feel better to repeat it like a mantra, go ahead.
    Meanwhile, I saw her with Charles Gibson and with Katie Couric. And my concern, my fear, has nothing to do with her “experience.” It has to do with the fact that she’s an abject moron.
    And you know too, down in your heart, that she’s grossly unqualified to be The President of the United States. But go on, keep spinning Crank. Keep digging yourself further and further into this hole. I hate to say it, but it’s almost amusing to watch.

  3. Anyone with any intellectual honesty can see Palin is way over her head. She may not be dumb — though going to five colleges in six years doesn’t acquit her well on that front — but she’s clearly not ready to be John McCain’s spokesperson, nevermind the potential next President of the United States. Again: It’s not about experience. If she were as polished, intelligent and capable as Barack Obama is, there wouldn’t be a problem. But only Bush dead-enders believe that this woman is ready to be VP.
    I’d love for Crank to take a few seconds before churning out one of these delightfully amusing tirades and think: What if a Democratic VP acted so embarrassingly inept? Can you imagine the contempt he’d have for the person who makes Dan Quayle look like a Rhodes Scholar?

  4. Crank, I can’t believe you are trying to defend Palin. No one who watches her interviews can do so without cringing. The VP does more than just wait to replace the President if he dies. The VP is an advisor and policymaker, at least over the last 25 years that’s been the VP’s role. The Palin choice speaks volumes about McCain’s judgment. What the hell was he thinking?

  5. Palin would worry me a lot if she were running for President. But again, she’s not running for President. I wish now that Romney had been picked for VP nominee. (Can you imagine a Romney/Biden debate? That would be fun.)
    Anyone with any intellectual honesty can see Obama is way over his head. I’ll grant that he’s intelligent. I don’t think he’s polished or capable.

  6. Not that this will convince anyone who believes that Sarah Palin (or any other politician really) is a moron, but it is really impossible for anyone in Palin’s position to come off well in the standard “gotcha” interviews that pass for journalism these days. If you look at Palin’s career (winning a governorship against both a primary and general election opponent who were much more established politicians, bringing a stalled and contentious gas pipeline negotiation to completion within a year of being elected as highlights) she is clearly not stupid. And yet she came off very poorly in her recent interviews – why is that?
    I would argue that it is simply unreasonable to expect anyone, in a matter of a few weeks, to jump from being a state politician to handling a hostile interview at the national level. Between the twin pressures of trying to study a host of issues that were simply irrelevant to her as governor while simulaneously working to understand McCain’s postions and properly subordinate herself in her role as VP she has an absurdly broad range of information to absorb. To expect anyone to get much beyond sound-bites in this circumstance is simply unreasonable. One remarkable part of the Couoric interview for me was the question about whether or not one of McCain’s aides should have resigned over a conflict of interest. Palin gave a canned response. Couric pressured for Palin’s opinion. Why? This is a member of McCain’s staff, not Palin’s. She doesn’t know the guy, doesn’t have any authority over him – why on earth should she have any answer other than the official position of the campaign? Repeat a half dozen times over a wide range of issues and you conflate ignorance of detail with stupidity.
    This is not meant, BTW, to try and wash away the political damage these interviews have done to McCain’s campaign. What the McCain needs to do is get her where she can talk from her experience first, and basically make the point – “sure I’m new to national politics, but here is how I have made the jump from mom to mayor to governor and functioned effectively. I have skills that can help govern the country now in certain areas, and can grow into a broader role over time.” Then just blow off the gotchas with a “sorry, but I’m really not all that up on the inside-baseball beltway stuff yet.” or “I’ll just have to defer to Senator McCain on that one”.
    Still, this is playing defense. Unfortunately, the modern role of the VP-candidate – the hostile interviews, debates, etc- make it a virtual requirement that any VP nominee have ran for president at some point. Only by doing that can you actually accumulate the experience required to create the illusion that you have an answer to every question. After all, the idea that Joe Biden would be a credible candidate for the presidency has been pretty much refuted by the Democratic party in multiple campaigns. But at least he’s experienced in confidently making idiotic answers to random questions.

  7. Wow, this is like the Bubble Zone or Isolation Chamber. Even people in the GOP think that maybe the best plan would be to pull the ejection switch on her at this point. She is clearly out of her depth. Do you honestly watch her, the few times they have let her out of protective custody, and think “Damn, she’s top notch and seems sharp as a whip.”? You cannot possibly be of the opinion you are stating. You’re way too smart and analytical to think that SP is anything other than what she is which is a marginal polictical figure, intellectually not capable of the job and likely hurting that sorry ticket more than helping at this point.

  8. Dave, Wilson was, like Palin, in his second year as a Governor, and his administrative experience as a university president was comparable to Palin’s as Mayor of a town of a few thousand people…if you think being a PhD is good preparation for being president, well, you don’t really understand the job (not that it’s a bad thing – but academia and running the Executive Branch are two very different animals).
    Um, it’s now a problem to use private email accounts for non-official business, including partisan political activity? Nice try.
    Mike – I don’t say the Senate is nothing, I never have. But I think you get a lot more relevant experience a lot faster as a Governor. (I note that you are touting Obama’s time as a State Senator and leaving out Palin’s as Mayor, as chair of a state regulatory agency, and in the City Council, the first two of which count for more in my book than being a State Senator). By what lights do you claim that Obama is qualified for the job? You know, I think platforms and positions matter, but only if we have some basis for judging the candidate’s ability to get them done. Palin has a record. When has Obama ever been responsible for anything? The most he has in the Senate is his subcomittee, which he’s basically ignored. Is he taking credit for US policy in Iraq? No, he was against it. For regulation of the mortgage-backed securities market? He’s running away as fast as he can from his own responsibility for keeping things the way they were. For the commitee he chaired in the State Senate? You saw the sex ed stuff, he won’t even take responsibility for the actual legislation his own committee passed, he says all that matters is what was in the goodness of his heart when it passed. For the one freaking thing he actually ran, that Annenberg education fund? No, no responsibility there. And of his 12 years in office, 8 were spent in the minority, 2 were spent running for president, and one for the US Senate – he’s almost never spent any time trying to govern. You see my point. Obama and his supporters refuse to take ownership of anything but words. Ever.
    I submit that if you look at her actual record, Palin is anything but stupid, and she’s tough as nails, which Obama most certainly is not. Yes, she had a few stumbling interviews, but how many times has Obama gotten tongue-tied or fallen on his face in this campaign? But go ahead, Democrats spent 8 years telling us Ike was a moron, 8 telling us Reagan was a moron, and 8 telling us Bush is a moron. Why stop now?
    Ryan – You haven’t paid much attention to Joe Biden, have you? Biden says something bone-jarringly stupid nearly every day.
    I agree with per14, I do not see how any intellectually honest person can claim that Obama is ready for the job. Palin could use more experience (and if elected, she’s likely to get it before she’s called on to run the place), but she’s certainly more accomplished at this point in her career than Obama.

  9. “Anyone with any intellectual honesty can see Obama is way over his head. I’ll grant that he’s intelligent. I don’t think he’s polished or capable. ”
    We’ll have to agree to disagree on “polished.” As for capable, I’d say that a man named “Barack Hussein Obama” who raised more money than any other candidate in the history of American politics and defeated the vaunted Clinton machine says quite a lot about his capability. If that’s being “way over his head,” I’ll take it.

  10. If we are talking campaign success here, Ryan, Palin in her career has defeated incumbents three times, including unseating a sitting governor in a primary, and then went on to win the general election against a two-term governor who’d only left office due to term limits. She was way outspent in her governor’s race; these were formidable opponents.

  11. And, I should add, Palin in Alaska has made her own way. Unlike Obama, she didn’t have the machine taking down her opponents for her, running them off the ballot. Unlike Obama, she didn’t have powerful patrons sticking her name on bills she didn’t author. She had to battle her way up on her own merits, not because the machine got behind her and decided to make her a somebody.

  12. Crank,
    I hope you’re joking when you compare winning the election for governor of Alaska to defeating the Clintons on the way to the Democratic nomination for President. I fear you’re not, though.
    Regardless, you may believe it’s all smoke and mirrors, but I suspect if Obama wins the presidency, historians will mark it down as among the most impressive campaigns in the history of our country. I can’t think of a previous candidate who had more natural barriers to the job (race, of course, but also his Muslim-sounding name, his relative inexperience and the formidable Clinton and McCain campaigns).
    As for Palin…the problem is not her getting tongue-tied or making a Bidenesque gaffe. It’s that she clearly showed that she didn’t have a clue about major issues facing our country. Again: Imagine your reaction had a Democrat turned in that woeful performance. Somehow, I suspect you wouldn’t be so willing to give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

  13. The fact that Palin’s resume at best marginally qualifies her to be on the national ticket shouldn’t disqualify her, but it does put the burden of proof on her shoulders, and so far she hasn’t done a lot of proving. Obviously, the debate will be important for her, and she needs to perform better than she has. A person with no previous political experience can still be knowledgeable about the issues if they have spent a lot of time thinking about them. Early indications, though, are that Palin shares an incurious nature with the man in the White House, which is not promising.

  14. Yeah, that Katie Couric interview was rough sledding. C’mon, she was standing 10 feet in front of the mound blooping them in and Palin was all over the road. That was a joke. Apparently, she reads periodicals and papers in a W sort of fashion, which is to say it appears that she not only doesn’t but appears not to know what any are.

  15. I finally figured out the psychology of the Palinista hold-outs. There is a more profane explanation, but I’ll go PG here:
    Crank, NSRlifemember, spongeworthy, etc. were no doubt college republicans — meaning that dates were few and far between. Now, here comes Sarah Barracuda, a former beauty pageant contestant no less!!, and they all have hormonally-driven crushes on her.
    As Percy Sledge put it, “She can do no wrong, turn his back on his best friend if he put her down.”

  16. Magrooder – Yeah, the lefties never seem to be able to resist telling people that they hold their opinions for some secret reason.
    Ryan – C’mon, saying Obama was burdened by his race is like saying McCain is burdened by being a war hero; it’s the centerpiece of his political identity. Why do you think he raised all that money and got all that glowing press for a guy who is basically the same as John Edwards? Look at the math: Obama won the primaries almost entirely because he won like 90% of the black vote, which Hillary and her husband had never had any trouble winning in their decades in politics. And frankly, Obama’s run a pretty weak general election campaign, trailing the generic D and getting outfoxed repeatedly by McCain. The only thing that has saved his bacon and put him back in the lead is an external event – the financial crisis – beyond his control that naturally works against the party in the White House.
    I agree that she has to put in a good performance tomorrow night, though; you only get so many opportunities to go unfiltered over the heads of the press to the public.

  17. He is why Palin is in way over her head. In both interviews she was overwhelmed. Think about that for a second or two. In two hand picked interviews she came off as unprepared and worst for wear not very well versed in the politics of the day. Mind you this was after intense preparation, she has shown the amazing ability for a politician not to anticipate where the line of questioning is going. These interviews are mini job interviews and any objective person would not invite her back for round two.
    Hey Crank, a week or so ago you claimed you were going to post about the Chicago political machine. You claim Obama was handed everything. Even you know The Chicago Machine is brutal and you do not make it to the top without being tough as nail and smooth as a velvet hammer. But, as OJ is looking for the real killers your working on that post.

  18. Homeriffic post Mr. Crank.
    Reading your posts while watching the reality reminds me of watching Boston Celtic games in the 80s with the TV volume down while listening to Johnny Most do the radio play-by-play: Two disparate realities for the price of one.

  19. “Dave, Wilson was, like Palin, in his second year as a Governor, and his administrative experience as a university president was comparable to Palin’s as Mayor of a town of a few thousand people…if you think being a PhD is good preparation for being president, well, you don’t really understand the job (not that it’s a bad thing – but academia and running the Executive Branch are two very different animals).”
    Nope, I don’t at all – the prior experience, of showing knowledge in the difficult post-Civil War, is what differs.
    When you’re able to openly discuss the merits of a parliamentary system, and how America could benefit from it – that’s something, especially from where we were emerging.
    Does a debate question of the risks and benefits of the US going to a Parliamentary system terrify you? If it does, you see my point.
    “Um, it’s now a problem to use private email accounts for non-official business, including partisan political activity? Nice try.”
    That’s not what I was talking about
    Bush(via Rove), Blunt, Perry, Palin. I believe there’s a couple of more, too.
    The problem being – with it going behind the wall, it’s easy to call out some as being ok, but with no way to check, who knows?
    Still no tax returns, eh? Think she’s going to get by not releasing those? I do.

  20. Dave – OK, it would be preferable to have rigid road rules on this stuff, but this basically amounts to picking nits when you have nothing else to work with. You really want to start in on the staggering list of things Obama hasn’t disclosed, starting with the complete destruction of his records as a State Senator? We have so, so much more information about Palin during the 1992-2003 period, for example, than we do with Obama, and the press is only looking into one of the two. Ever wondered why that is?
    BTW, if I was advising anybody at a senior level of govt I would tell them to never use email, precisely because you get snared into these silly debates over which messages belong in what boxes.
    I certainly expect to see her tax returns eventually, unlike the Clintons in 1992 she won’t get away with burying those.

  21. The law says “use the state government email system for all official communications no exceptions”. Not gotcha she was caught trying to get around the law plain and simple. But why use Yahoo to do dirt?
    How about this one the only SCOTUS case she knows of is Roe vs Wade. Crank defend that one as the SCOTUS cases is a hobby of yours. But the major ploblem is she has shown not to be a quick study or curious about far too many issues in the world that are important.

  22. With all due respect, Crank, but do you realize what total poosays you Republicans sound like when you complain about media bias? It’s utterly predictable (and pathetic) to watch you all whine about the press whenever the polls start dipping the other way. Isn’t your party supposed to be tougher than that? I mean, if you’re expecting the President and VP of the country to stare down hostile foreign leaders, shouldn’t you be able to take on friggin’ Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson and the fearsome Des Moines Register editorial board?

  23. Man, oh man. As I said earlier, it’s pretty amusing watching a man as intelligent as Crank debasing himself and spinning in the wind of GOP talking points blowing from the mouths of the right wing punditocracy. A few of the latest examples, just from one comment:
    I think you get a lot more relevant experience a lot faster as a Governor.
    In other words, 2 years as governor of Alaska(!) > 3 1/2 years as United States Senator Interesting.
    By what lights do you claim that Obama is qualified for the job?
    By the fact that when I listen to him he clearly knows what the hell he’s talking about. Like, uhhhh, he’s read about things, thought about them, asked questions. As opposed to memorizing talking points. (And I’m not supporting Obama, by the way, not aftre his unabashed support for the Paulsen Bill, but that’s a topic for another comment).
    Palin has a record.
    Oh yes. And a fine record it is, Crank. I’m struggling not to laugh here.
    Is he taking credit for US policy in Iraq? No, he was against it.
    Exactly. This is a criticism???
    You saw the sex ed stuff
    You mean the topic that McCain lied about in a political ad? Yes, I saw it.
    And of his 12 years in office, 8 were spent in the minority, 2 were spent running for president, and one for the US Senate – he’s almost never spent any time trying to govern. You see my point.
    Uhhh, that he has 12 years experience at either the national legislative level or in the legislature of the 5th most populous state, as a representative of the 3rd largest city? Yeah . . . I guess I see your point?
    I submit that if you look at her actual record, Palin is anything but stupid, and she’s tough as nails
    Tough yes. And stupid too. We’ll call this one a wash.
    Obama most certainly is not.
    Comedy! Pure comedy. The first major black candidate in American history is not TOUGH??? You must, must must, MUST be joking. My goodness that’s a silly statement.
    Yes, she had a few stumbling interviews
    Indeed she has.
    but how many times has Obama gotten tongue-tied or fallen on his face in this campaign?
    Uhhhh, never? Meanwhile, it’s not that Palin got tongue-tied, or that she got “gotcha’d.” No. It’s that she very obviously has no curiosity about anything. No analysis, no thoughtful ideas. She’s not being quizzed, but if you’ve thought about a topic, shouldn’t you have a few facts at your disposal. Just something to offer being talking points.
    Crank, you know as well as I she’s never thought a damn about foreign policy or about economic policy.

  24. In some ways, I think of Palin as an early contestant on Top Chef. Seriously. The one who gets by an early round because someone else was worse. Then they are asked to come up with a dessert, and down she goes, because she never had to. That is Palin. The reason Couric froze her was because she never had to come up with dessert before. As the campaign nears the end game, I think we will hear more about the Palin “record,” which really writes the SNL sketches for them:
    1. The rape kit debacle in Wasilla is a real one. She either didn’t know about a central issue to a major violent crime in her town, that apparently made the papers (does she read them?) or she feels that a rape victim should indeed have to pay for a rape kit. Lose lose situation.
    2. Her daughter’s “choice.” Jon Stewart got that one going also. The last choice any woman in the US will be allowed to make.
    3. Her foreign policy by seeing Russia. That one to the tune of “I can see clearly now, Putin has gone.”
    I might even air the Bush quote, when he said, “Dick Cheney can be president.” Well, emperor might be better, but then the tag line, “Can Sarah Palin?”

  25. Mike, in other words, you think Obama can do the job….because you like the way he talks. No accomplishments needed. Just take it all on faith. And of course, you are unable to cite any facts on the sex ed ad, juat again take on faith that McCain “lied” because if you repeat it enough you can wish it to be true.
    Daryl, you need to follow Jim Geraghty’s actual reporting on the rape kit story. The truth is quite different. I’ve linked to a few of his pieces before, this is the most recent. Facts are stubborn things.

  26. Crank, the old saw has worked so well in Republican hands. If facts conflict with the legend, print the legend. Of course, that’s old fashioned. Today it’s called Swift Boating.
    I suspect there is a real truth to the rape kits somewhere in the middle, as it always is. But as John Kerry found out, it sometimes doesn’t matter.
    Don’t you think it’s sad that the brain trust of the Republican Party is trying to set Palin’s “win number” so low in the debate, she wins by showing up (uh, would that mean that McCain almost lost last week?)? Sad. I am hearing so many people I know who never cared about politics this time really wanting to learn and to vote (I was amazed how many people I knew who hadn’t voted). It’s as if they just woke up (really sad) and what they see is Sarah Palin claiming to be qualified to be President. And they are angry.

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