President Palin?

There’s a lot wrong with Sarah Palin, who continues to make me laugh, but if President McCain snuffed it and President Palin took over, I’d reckon that the world would, on balance, be a safer place, so I’m struggling to see why everyone’s quite so anxious about whether she’s competent to govern. However much “experience”, etc., John McCain has, it’d be a bit of a surprise if he manages to get through a presidential term without recklessly starting at least one needless war, given his fondness for advocating the use of military force to solve foreign policy problems. Is there any good reason to think that President Palin’s likely to want to drop bombs on people? I’m not sure that there is, though I might be missing something. The great American republic of theirs survived J. Danforth Quayle as V-P, and I think it’s going to cope with Sarah Palin — and if she does succeed to the top job, it’s hard to see how she could be less fit for high office than either of her two predecessors.

23 thoughts on “President Palin?”

  1. Yes, that’s quite loony, isn’t it? Still – I don’t think these things matter much.

    (Didn’t Reagan’s people once find him poring over a map of the Middle East trying to work out where Armageddon was?)

  2. It’s her vicious pursuit of vendettas against enemies that worries me, and her reported tendency to unilateralism.

    Sure she might not actually be worse than her two predecessors, but it’s a funny old world where that gets turned into a positive.

    And foreign policy is only one aspect. The potential for over-turning Roe vs Wade (10 years ago only a pipe-dream of the nutty right, but if the Supreme Court goes 6-3 in favour of conservatives we could well see an opt-out approach to abortion, with states like Kansas etc effectively criminalising it, whilst coastal states retain abortion rights thus creating abortion-tourism for those wealthy enough to partake in it), and the growing threat to the environment are of equally great concern.

    OK McCain is anti-abortion, but i just have a gut-feeling that he’s more pro-life for the political capital it gains than because he’s an anti-abortion nut. I rate Palin as a nut. And McCain at least might do *something* about global warming. It is hard to say that of Palin.

  3. But even if all that’s true, it has nothing to do with her experience, or lack of it, unless you’re going to make the case that more seasoned US politicians are less likely to embrace vendettas (Richard M. Nixon!), unilateralism (George W. Bush!), and so on.

    And raising the cry of Roe v Wade is just what liberals have done faced by conservatives for decades now. Sure, maybe it’ll be repealed one day (and, whisper it, maybe it won’t be such a bad thing after all, and liberals can seek to achieve public policy goals through democratic politics once again, rather than relying on the grossly anti-democratic Supreme Court to do their work for them), but I don’t see how the odds change significantly with Palin in charge rather than McCain (who is just as likely to nominate a crazy to the court to placate his base). And if the Dems control the Senate, and they ought to control the Senate for the next few years, then they ought to be able to block any really crazy Supreme Court nominations, oughtn’t they?

  4. George W. Bush was hardly a seasoned US politican before taking office, at least not along the lines of Nixon, and it’s at least arguable that the foreign-policy influence of Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. in Bush’s first term was due in substantial part to his inexperience.

    But you’re right, Palin’s ideological obnoxiousness and her level of experience are separate questions. My concern is that she might actually help the McCain ticket, all our political-scientist friends’ pronouncements about the irrelevance of the VP choice notwithstanding.

  5. This doesn’t really say anything about Palin, Chris, but worth considering nonetheless: I remember a lot of my friends speaking of George W. in 2000 as you’re speaking of Palin now (except that they didn’t even think that he was a right-wing nut). That turned out well.
    It’s true we really don’t know much about her foreign policy views. But from what little evidence we do have, she does seem as unilateralist as Bush II. Whether she’d be isolationist (a la her sometime hero Buchanan) or aggressively imperialistic is still an open question — and will depend heavily, I think on events and on who she surrounds herself with (again, I think Bush without Cheney and 9/11 would have been a very different president, foreign policy-wise).
    I also wouldn’t underestimate the impact of a Pres. Palin on the Supreme Court (which would go beyond repealing Roe — which I’m less sanguine about than you, Chris) and environmental issues. In the former case she might be no worse than McCain; in the latter, I tend to think she’d be somewhat worse — but perhaps not worse enough for it to really matter.

  6. Patchen, Josh: the Bush reminder is a good one. I was thinking more in terms of “would she make crazy, reckless, dangerous decisions off her own bat likely to get lots of people killed?” rather than “would she be captured by maniacs?”, and the latter is a worry, esp. given the Bush precedent.

  7. Yes — and remember also: I do tend to think that, given her lack of experience/discernable knowledge or opinion about foreign policy, a Pres. Palin would likely rely particularly heavily on advisors. And she would be unlikely to have (or know) any foreign policy advisors — other than those she’d inherit from McCain. If one also assumes that McCain’s advisors would reflect his rather, ahem, aggressive foreign policy vision, this is an un-reassuring thought.
    (I still wouldn’t underestimate Palin’s own native craziness, either, though I agree that we simply don’t know how crazy she is on foreign policy).

  8. Much as I want to like Mrs. Palin, dispensationalism and all that goes with it theologically is a big black cloud. The Assemblies of God (Palin’s denomination until 2006) has it as an article of faith. Nobody’s asked her yet but they will, but in any case, why would you need an Israeli flag in the office of the Governor of Alaska?
    There’s also a worryingly large number of neo-conservatives as FP advisors to McCain, which, I might as well point out, is disconcerting for actual conservatives as well as the left.

  9. Let’s also bear in mind a crucial difference (already noted above, but here emphasized) separating McCain from Palin. The former has and has always had the kind of tepid commitment to ecumenical Christianity typical of his poltical and social class; Palin is a deeply religious person who has already gone on record that the Iraq war was divinely ordained. McCain’s choice of Palin (whom he will very likely personally dislike very much)also introduces someone even Bushier than Bush — the lack of experience apart, someone who evaluates risk, national interest, international power constellations, etc, according to a set of criteria profoundly different from McCain, who is at heart a centrist blowhard.
    The hope is that Palin’s extreme isolationist and nativist core will offset the likelihood of more military adventures — see her membership in the far-right Alaska First party, which takes isolationism to its logical conclusion by lobbying for the political (and military) independence of Alaska from the sinners down south in the contiguous 48 states. But isolationism and adventurism have certainly been made compatible before. Hang onto your hats.

  10. I would have thought Palin’s links to Dominionists, support for the teaching of Creationism in schools and so on is probably the most worrying aspect of her being “a heartbeat away” from the presidency, as some people have rather uncouthly put it. Even then, it’s not so much her views as the galvanizing effect her being VP or president would have on the Christian right, the whole culture wars thing and the view, now held in places all around the world, that America is a land of Bible-bashing literalists.

  11. “Bushier than Bush” is good, and puts it well.
    I think McCain is more than a centrist blowhard — he’s a centre-right (by American standards), militarist blowhard. This is bad enough.
    But, looking to another terrible aspect of the Bush presidency — the expansion and abuse of executive power — McCain does strike me as slightly less worrying than Palin. As a long-term senator, McCain is (I tend to think) less likely to regard the legislative branch as a rival to be crushed. Palin’s record — what we know of it — suggests someone who does not happily brook opposition, or deal well with institutional checks on her authority. In this respect — assuming that she is as skilled in political infighting as electioneering (or that her minions are) — she could well be at least as Bushy as Bush. One can only hope that the Democrats might grow spines by then.

  12. Are we talking red heifer territory?

    I count it a distinct possibility. Incidentally, red heifers might be considered exotic in the Sinai desert but there’s bags of them in Devon. Maybe they should build the third temple in somewhere like Launceston and avoid all that unpleasantness with the Arabs that would inevitably develop if they chose somewhere as obvious as Jerusalem.
    Actually, after my two weeks in Cornwall this summer the idea of a significant ultra orthodox Jewish community thriving in the South West is not so bizarre. Somewhat surprisingly, on several beaches on the Lizard could be seen obviously fairly strictly observant Jewish families splashing around or building sandcastles etc. Fully clothed of course, from head to toe, and not talking to anyone else but obviously loving it. Perhaps they were building scale models of the third temple?

    Max, Leo and Josh…
    You go too far and your analysis tends to lump all evangelicals/Christian Right together. They agree on abortion and gay marriage which is why they vote Republican. Then to their horror they get blamed for the administration’s FP adventures which is a neo-conservative twist not a Christian Right one. To whit, Bush wasn’t a dipensationalist whatever else he was (or wasn’t!); if he was he wouldn’t have proposed a two state solution in Isreal/Palestine.

  13. I was thinking more in terms of “would she make crazy, reckless, dangerous decisions off her own bat likely to get lots of people killed?” rather than “would she be captured by maniacs?”, and the latter is a worry, esp. given the Bush precedent.

    She already has been captured by maniacs really – there’s no way that McCain chose her, and so she owes her success to the GOP. She’ll be even more of a patsy to advisors than Bush was, because at least he partly secured the nomination himself, at least he actually ran for president, however much he was helped along the way.

    The crazy, reckless decisions would still be made by Palin, but they’d be decisions ‘informed’ by GOP advisors (and probably not even McCain advisors).

    or she could surprise us all.

  14. Re McCain: to re-iterate a point made above, despite his post-(presumptive) nomination shift to the right on several issues, if you look at McCain’s record on the Capitol he has a proven history of working with his opponents and being able to reach compromise. Furthermore, he earned the title of a GOP ‘maverick’ somewhat justifiably, for example he was 1 of only 2 Republican senators to oppose the repeal of the estate tax in 2001, arguably America’s most progressive form of taxation (though a LOT of Democrats were responsible for this going through).

    Re Roe vs. Wade: i’m really not sure I agree with you there Chris. It’s all very well and good to suggest that in 20 years after the effective repeal of abortion rights some inter-positional debate will have opened up, thus allowing for a ‘democratic’ endorsement of abortion rights.

    But for that to happen you’d need to see *revolutionary* shifts in things like the US media, the attitude of the religious right and how it fights its political battles, as well as the fostering of a culture of informed discussion in the USA, which frankly I thought was starkly lacking outside of the pages of the New Yorker or NYT (and even they wore their prejudices on their sleeve). Frankly I do not think it is realistic. This means:

    1) Over-turning Roe vs. Wade could be cataclysmic for abortion rights, and might require another ‘undemocratic’ decision the other way to reverse anyway.

    2) Just because something is undemocratic – in this case the supreme court, arguably – that doesn’t mean it is automatically bad. Democracy is a virtue, not the virtue. I’d rather have an America in which abortion rights are protected by undemocratic means, than one in which many (especially) poor and vulnerable women are made more vulnerable because they are either a) left to the mercy of (let’s be honest, ill informed, prejudiced and highly-manipulated) popular opinion OR b) at the mercy of an (arguably) undemocratic supreme court decision over-turning R vs W.

    Therefore as far as I am concerned an undemocratic and not-overturned R vs W is far preferable to anything else which is realistically on the table. It’s easy for you and me to talk about a democratic dialogue resulting in democratic legislation on an issue I think we are probably in agreement about. Not so easy if you are 17 and pregnant in a rural mid-west (or for that matter, Alaskan) town.

    Oh, and don’t forget that the sex education that many young Americans receive amounts to: “just don’t do it until you are married”. The mother of one rather prominent example of the failure of this approach is, of course, the GOP VP pick. Lucky for Bristol that Sarah has enough money to not only support a baby, but enough power to lever the young man in question into a shotgun wedding to boot.

  15. I’d rather Roe v Wade stayed in place, too. But I don’t think it’d be nearly as disastrous as a lot of people seem to think if it were repealed. Just as Roe in practice didn’t make a great deal of difference on its own to the availability of abortion in the US (see the middle sections of Rosenberg, The Hollow Hope), so too its disappearance won’t make such a huge difference, either. The poor, Southern, ignorant pregnant teenager may lose some rights if Roe goes, but the chances are that she can’t get a local legal abortion now anyway, as the religious crazies (who, while Roe is in force, are in a state of permanent mobilisation against it) have probably intimidated all the local doctors into refusing to offer abortion services.

  16. I’m not sure. Isn’t it possible that the repeal of Roe v Wade could have more effect than the original decision? The negation of the case might well act as the affirmation of the tactics already pursued. And the likelihood of local doctors in the mid-west and south being intimidated could then easily become a certainty. I’d rather the poor Southern teenager have at least the chance of finding someone out there than to have to turn to back-alley types.

  17. There is no objective test that would make a person more or less qualified. Palin is a pleasant looking woman who can stand on a podium and read a teleprompter. Her record corresponds closely with the conservative agenda of the GOP. What more should the American people expect? Another Cheney??? If those people fortunate enough to have a vote exercise it with the red elephant on Nov 4 it will only confirm what most of the world already suspects – no American is qualified to lead.

  18. “If those people fortunate enough to have a vote exercise it with the red elephant on Nov 4 it will only confirm what most of the world already suspects – no American is qualified to lead.”
    I presume this means if enough Americans vote for the GOP to elect McCain-Palin. But that need only prove that no-one out of roughly 50% of Americans are qualified to lead. I don’t know that it’s fair to consign the rest of us to outer darkness.

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