Saturday, September 13, 2008

With Friends Like These ...

Some on the left seem determined to remind people every chance they get that nothing is beneath them. Here's Randi Rhodes from Air America, the liberal talk radio network, on yesterday's show:

Why do they say these things? How does Randi Rhodes know what Sarah Palin is like? Why does she have to imply that she's a child molester, for heaven's sake?

One reason is that they know they can't fight on the battlefield of issues because they don't have any. Obama has moved so close to McCain that there's really not much difference between them on most of the issues that catapulted him to the nomination. Nor can they keep up the pretense of "change" because Obama has pretty much abandoned that rhetoric and symbolized his apostasy by naming a veteran Washingtonian as his running mate. Whatever Biden represents it's not change.

So instead we get remarks like that made by Sue Fowler, chair of the South Carolina Democrat party and wife of Don Fowler who rejoiced that Hurricane Gustav was coming and would interrupt the GOP convention. Mr. Fowler's better half opined that Sarah Palin's "only qualification for the vice-presidency is that she hasn't had an abortion".

Or we get the inane line, repeated by a gaggle of Democrats, that Barack Obama is like Jesus because Jesus was a community organizer and that Sarah Palin is like Pontius Pilate because Pilate was a governor. Third graders would find this sort of thing too stupid to employ on the playground, but desperation will evidently lead some people to throw away their dignity and say things like this.

Earlier it was smears against her family and gross distortions of her religious beliefs, her prayer about Iraq, and her views on creationism. It just makes you shake your head in dismay at the depths to which some people will sink.

Ed Morrissey reminds us that:

Rhodes recently offered the novel claim that John McCain got treated like a "prince" by his captors in North Vietnam. Apparently her separation from reality has accelerated with this piece of character assassination. There's really no other term for it; she accuses Palin of being at least a latent child molester.

Even apart from that despicable accusation, the rest of Rhodes' argument sounds strangely like projection. What does Rhodes herself do for a living? She "opines about everything from politics to lawn care". Rhodes also acts as though she "knows it all", including Palin's sexual proclivities. If Rhodes finds opinion from strong women so offensive, maybe she should find another line of work. After this bit of lunacy, perhaps her employer should expedite that change.

Barack Obama seems to me to be a fine and decent, if woefully misguided, man, but some of his supporters on the left make one wonder what's happened to their decency. I'm sure he's embarrassed by them.


Will He Stay or Will He Go?

There's lots of talk around the web about Senator Obama probably regretting his decision to put fellow senator Joe Biden on the ticket rather than Hillary Clinton. I think Obama did the right thing in not picking Senator Clinton, but like most others, I didn't foresee either McCain's selection of Governor Palin or the wildly popular pick she would prove to be. Obama was in a tough spot. Naming Hillary as his VP probably would have guaranteed him the election, but it would have, I think, destroyed his presidency. In the event, he passed on her, McCain picked Sarah Palin, and Obama hasn't been the same since.

Nevertheless, what's done is not necessarily what has to remain done. Biden dropped a bit of a hint this week that he might not be long for the race when he said that Senator Clinton would have probably been a better pick than he was. If Barack Obama really wants to neutralize the Palin factor he could arrange for Biden to drop off the ticket and ask Senator Clinton to join him as his VP. I'm sure he doesn't want to do that, but if the poll numbers continue to drop and, perhaps worse, if Congressional polls also show the Dems at risk of losing the House of Representatives, which they now are, I would not be surprised to see Biden go and Hillary graciously assent to serving as Obama's loyal right hand.

There is precedent. George McGovern's choice of VP, Thomas Eagleton, dropped out of the race in 1972 when it became public that he had been treated for depression, and he was replaced by Sargent Shriver. More recently, Robert Torricelli withdrew from the New Jersey senate race of 2002 when it became apparent that he would lose, and he was replaced by popular retired senator Frank Lautenberg who won and who's still in the senate today.

There will be more twists to this fascinating election before it's over, I think.


The Palin Interview

Tim e-mails me from Penn State with a couple of questions about the ABC news interview of Sarah Palin by Charles Gibson and asks for my thoughts. He writes:

It's difficult to blame her for looking uncomfortable in the face of Gibson's questioning, but I felt the interview highlighted her utter lack of foreign policy experience. She said she's never met a foreign leader and that she's traveled very little outside of the United States. She said Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her insight into the current situation in Georgia. More troubling was the fact that she'd never heard of the Bush Doctrine, which could very well become a central part of our next president's foreign policy, given our current relationship with the Islamic world.

Just a few weeks ago Republicans were saying a lack of experience is a fatal flaw. Why the sudden turnaround?

Three times Palin refused to answer whether our troops should cross the Pakistani border without approval from their government. She talked her way around the question and never gave a straight answer. Her lack of decisiveness was disturbing. Is this what we want from a woman who could soon become our next leader in the war on terror?

A vice presidential pick is not simply a political weapon used to "energize" a voting bloc. A vice president should be able to step in at a moment's notice as leader of the United States. Do you believe she's ready?

Here's the crux of my reply edited somewhat:

Good to hear from you and to read your thoughts on the Palin interview. You asked at the end if I thought Palin had enough foreign policy experience to be ready. I think the best way to answer that is to say that I think she's at least as ready as Senator Obama. Until he won his party's nomination he had no foreign policy (FP) experience either, and all that he's gotten since then came on his recent trip during which he met with several foreign leaders. I think that to the extent that a lack of FP experience is problematic it's much more problematic for the head of the ticket than for the veep.

Having said that, though, I'm not real impressed by the FP qualification. Unless they have first served as a vice-president most people who become president have very little FP experience until they get to the White House. They have usually been governors, and governors don't deal with FP. Nor do most senators. Probably the only two presidents since the 1930s who had any real prior FP experience before becoming Commander-in-Chief were Eisenhower, who was our commander in Europe during WWII, perhaps Nixon who was Ike's VP, and the first Bush who was head of the CIA for a while and a vice-president. Truman and LBJ were vice-presidents but neither had much FP responsibility in that role. FDR, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and the current Bush were all governors. JFK was a senator.

So I don't hold a lack of that particular kind of experience against either Obama or Palin.

Nor am I troubled that Palin didn't know what Gibson meant by the Bush doctrine (BD). It was a "gotcha" question that her opponents will make a lot of hay over but which is really kind of silly. For one reason, the BD is not a formal doctrine but a name given by the media to a set of policies. As such it has gone through a number of revisions in the last eight years, and what Gibson said the doctrine is is not the whole story. In its current incarnation, the "doctrine" is the policy of spreading freedom and democracy around the world. Gibson said that it was the policy of preemptive war, but actually it's both of those, and Palin should be given some slack for not knowing exactly what he meant or how to respond to his question.

As for the Pakistan question, she was wise not to give a definite answer. That was another rhetorical trap that Gibson had laid for her. If she said we should not go into Pakistan then her answer would be used to discredit both Bush and McCain since we are, in fact, sending troops surreptitiously across the border, and McCain, I think, supports that (So does Obama, btw). If she had said that we should go in then she would be criticized for embarrassing our "allies" in Islamabad who must keep up the pretense, for domestic reasons, of being outraged that their territorial sovereignty is being violated by American incursions. By answering Gibson's question she would have either embarrassed the administration and her patron, Senator McCain, or she would have committed a diplomatic blunder.

Either way the question was a "no-win" and she was smart not to answer it.

At any rate, now we can look forward to Gibson's interview with Joe Biden and the snares he has set for him. Or maybe not.