For the last 18 months the GOP has been relentlessly pushing one main point: we need national leaders who are experienced, not just great orators with soaring rhetoric and good looks to boot (ahem Sen. Obama). Sen. McCain, stressing this point, insisted that he was experienced enough because Ã¢â‚¬Å“I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a mayor for a short period of time. I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a governor for a short period of time.Ã¢â‚¬Â The grand irony is, of course, that 11 months after those comments McCain shot himself in the foot by selected a running mate who is exactly that: mayor for a short period of time (of a town barely larger than Cedarville), governor for a short period of time (of a state with less people than Columbus), and whose good looks and soaring rhetoric cannot hide the fact that Gov. Sarah Palin is wholly inexperienced.
As is widely known but rarely acknowledged by mainstream pundits, nobody is experienced enough for President of the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only superpower Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and voters, perhaps sensing this instinctively, have rarely if ever voted on the basis of Ã¢â‚¬Å“experience.Ã¢â‚¬Â Some individuals are, however, more prepared to handle the rigors of the presidency than others. Every single major player in this election Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from Ron Paul to Hillary Clinton to McCain and Obama — has some sort of combination of political savvy, probity, and intellectual acumen that marks them as viable public leaders. That is except Sarah Palin, who is so ill-equipped for this job that even perpetual Republican cheerleaders Peggy Noonan and David Brooks have been forced to decry McCainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s extremely ill-advised pick.
In fact, one wonders if perhaps McCain confused Ã¢â‚¬Å“Vice PresidentÃ¢â‚¬Â with Ã¢â‚¬Å“Press Secretary,Ã¢â‚¬Â picking, as he did, a person entirely capable of eloquently parroting party talking-points but unable to articulate her own, let alone create and implement policy (or lead those doing so). More laughably, Palin is now running for a position about which she knows next to nothing: Ã¢â‚¬Å“What exactly is it that the Vice President does every day?Ã¢â‚¬Â she queried in July. This ignorance was magnified when she went primetime with her Charles Gibson interview, where Palin looked more like a moose-in-headlights than a politician poised to assume the second most powerful elected position in our country (did you Google Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bush DoctrineÃ¢â‚¬Â yet, Governor?).
The critique of Palin was best summarized by none other than Karl Rove, BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s former bulldog. Speaking of Gov. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Rove argued that being mayor of a couple-hundred thousand people and then governor for only three years did not sufficiently qualify Kaine to be ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s running mate. Picking someone like that would be an Ã¢â‚¬Å“intensely political choiceÃ¢â‚¬Â that blatantly disregarded the need for a V.P. to also be ready to assume the presidency. Since merely nineteen days later McCain chose, by RoveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own standards, someone significantly less qualified than Kaine, we can only assume that Rove will be joining Richard Cohen in stating the obvious: Palin is Ã¢â‚¬Å“shockingly unprepared.Ã¢â‚¬Â
— A slightly edited version of this was published in Cedars, October 2008.