Sarah Palin is the big news story at the moment in the US (apart from Hurricane Gustav). Palin is John McCain's choice as Vice President and has caused a bit of controversy. Here are my thoughts:
- Palin is currently governor of Alaska. Regardless of the fact that Alaska is one of the smaller states in the US, becoming governor is no minor achievement. Was her rise to power a result of corruption and yada yada yada? Yeah probably, but until it's proven I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.
- Palin has been governor for less than two years (she was elected in December 2006). Before that her political experience was limited to being Mayor of Wasilla. Her time as mayor was not without controversy, and she managed to fire some people for not supporting her politically - but, if Wikipedia is to be believed - her actions were not illegal.
- It could be argued that being mayor of a small town (5000-8000 people) and less than two years as governor indicates "lack of experience". McCain's criticism of Obama has been based on this supposed characteristic. But by picking Palin, McCain has pretty much nullified this angle of attack. Personally I don't think Obama is inexperienced. Palin, similarly, may be "inexperienced" in terms of amount of years spent in major political office but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly I would have reservations - especially if McCain dies in office and Palin takes over - but they are not major ones.
- There's a lot of heat in the lefty blogosphere regarding the birth of her latest child. Trig Palin was born in April this year and suffers from Down syndrome. The fact that Palin had a child while in her 44th year during her term as governor is, when put together, a very unusual event. As a result, many have speculated that Trig was actually her daughter's baby, born out of wedlock, which Sarah Palin covered up by announcing it was hers. Now I have read quite a few of these arguments, seen pictures of Palin allegedly taken just before the baby was born (showing no outward hint of pregnancy), read about her daughter who had "mono" and stayed home from school for eight months at precisely the same time as her mother's pregnancy, seen a photo of her daughter looking a bit "robust" in the abdomen... but I have to say that there is nothing yet that convinces me outright. There'a a lot of circumstantial evidence but nothing definite. Besides, the circumstantial evidence can quite easily be explained. In this case the onus is not upon Palin to prove that the pregnancy was hers. Any refusal on her part to address this issue is not an admission of guilt and should be let go. Fortunately wiser heads in the lefty blogosphere have prevailed and reports about this issue are scarce (although comments threads are buzzing).
- A rather more interesting aspect of her personal life was reported by Americablog. Apparently Palin and her husband eloped rather than having a wedding and their first child was born slightly less than 8 months later. Although there are other explanations to this, conceiving a child out of wedlock and then suddenly getting married and then covering it up is as reasonable a possibility as getting pregnant on your wedding night and then giving birth prematurely. Now since Palin is, apparently, a religious conservative, her social/political stance is potentially affected by her actions when younger - especially so if she has not be open about it. Had Palin not been a religious conservative and did not have such a soical/political stance, this revelation would not be important. Conceiving a child out of wedlock does not disqualify a person from public office by itself. I personally think that there is enough doubt here to necessitate some level of disclosure by Palin if she is to gain votes from religious conservatives since there is a glaring disconnect between her marriage date and the birth date of her first child. Moreover, if Palin does admit fault in this case, I doubt that her admission would lose her votes. In any case, because of her ties to religious conservatism, an explanation of this situation is warranted.
- In many areas, Palin is a "boilerplate conservative". She's a member of the NRA. She supports oil drilling in Alaska. She's an Anthropogenic Climate Change denier. She supports teaching creationism alongside evolution in science classes. She is pro-life. She does not support equal rights for homosexuals. She supports capital punishment. In short, Palin is a candidate that appeals to the Republican base. McCain, on the other hand, has a more centrist position. I would say that the reason why McCain chose Palin was to ensure more voter turnout from committed conservatives who are not happy with McCain's more centrist positions.
- I can't help comparing Palin with Harriet Miers. Miers, a White House counsel, was nominated by Bush to be appointed to supreme court. It proved to be a disastrous choice, coming so soon after the Hurricane Katrina debacle and alienating many within the Republican party. For all of Palin's strengths, I really wonder whether there could have been a better choice. In my opinion, McCain should've selected another more centrist Republican with a lot more experience, along with a proven record of good governance and a willingness to build consenus. It's not that Palin is going to be a disaster as a VP - she might turn out to be the best VP in history - but whether Americans can trust her. In the final months of the second term of America's worst president, trust and respect are gold.