Friday, August 29, 2008

Some thoughts on McCain's VP pick - he's made a mistake

Today came the stunning news that McCain picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee.

It was definitely a "Wow" piece of news. But once I got past the initial reaction of "hasn't he been bold" and "That was unexpected" and "she's young, she's a woman, this is an exciting pick (unlike Obama's)", my feeling is that McCain has made a mistake.

McCain is trying to win over Hillary Clinton supporters who are unenthused by Obama. If I was an American, I would definitely be in the Clinton camp. I thought she was improving as the campaign went on, I thought that she was the better candidate in terms of intellect and a demonstrable ability to go on a very fast learning curve (important for presidents as you have to be able to adapt to events) - by comparison, Obama was far more static. I thought that she was refreshingly upfront about how centrist her policies were, whereas Obama played left and then abandoned his positions - ironic in that the Clintons are supposed to be the devious ones, and Obama supposed to be above it all. She lost because of caucus results in no-hope Republican states and the crazy Dem election system.

So McCain's pick is supposed to be aimed at people like me. Only Sarah Palin is just wrong for those who care about women's rights (as all Hillary supporters do). Palin strongly supports capital punishment, is a creationist and is a fervent anti-abortionist (and is anti gay people too).

The vice president nominees in this election are unusually important in that there is a great likelihood that the elected president may die in office (Obama through assasination by KKK nutters and McCain from old age). Therefore if McCain got elected, Palin might end up as president. How would Hillary feminists feel about that? That their idol Hillary is denied the honour of becoming the first female president and this anti-abortionist with one tenth of Hillary's brains, who was a beauty-queen of all things, gets it instead? God forbid. I'd vote Obama just to deny Palin the chance. Sarah Palin just isn't in Hillary Clinton's league. It's actually an insult to women that McCain thinks we'd simply vote on gender regardless of whether the candidate is qualified to be president.

For Hillary's other constituency of working class voters, Palin brings nothing to the table. She hasn't any reputation of turning round economies or helping the poor (unlike the Clintons). Plus she's inexperienced.

So I think this is a stroke of luck for Obama, who has been struggling thus far. Yes, people like me would have preferred Mrs Clinton to have been the candidate. We think she'd have made a good VP too. We've been irritated at how much the Obama people dump on the Clintons (especially as Mrs Clinton has been the most helpful of all losing Dem nominee candidates in history). We're irritated at the whole Messiah stuff that surrounds Obama, and we're convinced that he will turn out conventional and not change-making in office.

But, elections are about choosing the least worst candidate. Obama is streets ahead of McCain on foreign policy, simply because he has no hang-ups and will view things with an objective eye (which is all you can ask of US presidents). McCain's hang-up is that he was part of the Vietnam war. America lost Vietnam. McCain lost personally too, as he ended up a POW who cracked under torture and repudiated his own country. In other words, he ended up a loser too. All his belligerence stems from this need to make up for being a loser. In a way, his psychological flaw is worse than Dubya's (which was to compete with his father by doing the opposite of everything Papa Bush did - Bush Sr hated Rumsfeld, so Dubya appoints him, Bush Sr didn't go to Baghdad, so Dubya decides to and so on). America has never elected a Vietnam veteran because of fears about their psychology.

On domestic policy, McCain has admitted that he knows nothing about economics, and there is no sign that his VP pick knows much either. Which negates Obama's inexperience. The best candidate on the economy was Mrs Clinton, but she's not on offer. You might as well roll the dice and go for Obama in these circumstances.

So despite the hammering that Obama is getting from the negative McCain ads, I think Obama will win, because the Clinton people will back him, and he has a good get-out-the-vote operation. The Labour party should watch closely, because the attacks on Obama arn't that dis-similar to the attacks on Brown (out of touch with people like you and so on). The Dems in the past have been as bad as Labour in getting out their vote. If Obama wins because he changes this aspect, then we should try it here.


Anonymous said...

Why didn't McCain pick Paris Hilton? At least she had a better energy policy than McCain who wants to drill everywhere and contribute to more global warming.

Thank you McCain for yet again making a big mistake. Hillary voters are not stupid enough to vote for you because you chose a woman VP, cmon now John...what's wrong with your thinking here Sir?

I fear the people who cast a vote for you in the fall. You will take this country into an economic downspin all the way. I do not trust your old tactics and I don t think you have good judgement either.

I pray that you will lose.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the majority of your piece - McCain is running big risks in picking Palin. She may yet turn out to be an inspired choice but there's precious little evidence to suggest so, this far.

Part of the job of the running mate is to balance the ticket, so a degree of tokenism is to be expected - but it shouldn't look like tokenism. This does. Besides, once it gets into the campaign, her gender will matter less than her ability to to both the job she's running for and the one she's reserve for, and will be compared to the safe but slightly dull choice of Biden.

The only thing I'd question is about the reasons for not picking a Vietnam Vet. People vary, and putting all vets into the same box isn't helpful (or indeed accurate). In any case, it's not as if Vietnam was the only war America's been involved in, or the nastiest. And had Powell chosen to run in 1996, the polls at the time suggested it was quite likely he would have defeated Bill Clinton - though Clinton's political skills might have brought him though (though either way, I don't think there'd have been much talk of Vietnam Veteran syndrome).

Still, overall the thrust is right. Palin is unlikely to win over many Hillary supporters who hadn't already come across because of how they perceived her treatment. Obama should win, providing he doesn't get too hubristic.

snowflake5 said...

David H - Colin Powell redeemed himself by winning the first Gulf war decisively - as a result, uniquely among Vietnam vets, he is not tagged with "loser".

But it's notable that Clinton and Dubya both dodged Vietnam and got elected. Whereas Gore and Keyy both went and got defeated. America has latent bad feelings about Vietnam and in general avoids people connected with it.

Anonymous said...

McCain isn't trying to court feminist votes, though. Hillary also appealed to women who wouldn't call themselves feminists (and might even disapprove of those who do) but who do feel they have to struggle through life against the odds. Most probably have views inbetween Clinton and Palin on abortion rather than consistently pro-choice or anti-abortion. Palin will help with that demographic because she is an "outsider against Washington" rather than a "Hollywood elitist".

With Clinton more squarely behind the Obama campaign now, it also stops the Democrats using her to attack McCain. It doesn't matter now how many times he's called his wife a c*** or offered her up as a stripper to a festival crowd - the Republicans can report he's less sexist than Obama because he picked a woman as his VP candidate.

I think it's a smart choice (and maybe bolder than Obama's pick) but the contest is still wide open and I still think the Democrats have a chance.

snowflake5 said...

tim f - I watched Palin's acceptance speech, it was definitely about courting the Hillary voters. The trouble is she's so palpably not in Hillary's league. It's an insult to women to think we vote on gender regardless of ability. Yes, when a woman of ability comes along, other women support her (eg Thatcher drew huge votes from women), but they do have to have ability.

Before this pick the story was McCain the experienced man against Obama the newbie. But Palin makes the Obama team look less risky. It's now calm (Obama) plus experience (Biden) versus volatile beligerence (McCain) plus bimbette (Palin). It's a no brainer to go for Obama-Biden.

Anonymous said...

This choice may, or may not, be good for McCain. But it is certainly good for Palin. She is now the bookies favourite for the Republican candidacy in 2012---and the leading political betting tipster in this country (Mike Smithson) has put his money on her.

She now has the pips on her shoulder; she is the VP candidate. Most people grow into big promotions---she might.

You may not like her views. You don't feel that she's particularly capable. Fair enough. But you underestimate the impact of the army advice: 'you salute the pips, not the man'.