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Palin v. Obama

John McCain's nomination of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska has sent the liberals and media types into a frenzy of desperation. In their ham-handed attempts to criticize Governor Palin as having a "thin" resume they have been forced to make childishly empty claims about Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) achievements in order to rebut the obvious countercharge: Gov. Palin's record of achievement makes Sen. Obama look like a candidate for student council president.

Mort Kondracke used a typical retort by asserting that Obama had been tested in a grueling presidential campaign, as if that were sufficient qualification for the presidency. But let's examine just how well he has handled the grueling campaign.

He has been a veritable gaffe-machine from day one. He said that his grandmother is a "typical white person" for having fears based on racial stereotypes. By saying that she was "typical" he stereotyped whites in the same way he says she did blacks. He said that the people of small-town Pennsylvania are religious and racist because of their bitterness over economic stagnation, again exposing his elitist stereotypes of conservative-leaning populations.

He said that as President he would meet directly, without precondition, with enemy leaders. Then he tried to finesse the point by adding preconditions and calling them something else, and since then praising virtually every new diplomatic move of the Bush Administration, which he had stereotyped in his first response as having the simplistic view that not talking to people is a punishment. He criticized President Jimmy Carter for meeting with a leader of the Hamas party that was duly elected to a majority of the government of the Palestinians, as if that action was somehow different from his own pledge to meet face-to-face and shake hands with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, who has publicly denied the Holocaust and promised the destruction of Israel.

When the rash and outrageous public expressions by his pastor of twenty years of underlying feelings Obama himself had long understood were part of the consciousness of people he had met throughout his life, he claimed unconvincingly that he had not learned anything of this part of his beliefs in all the twenty years he had known him. But even after learning of this supposedly disturbing thread in the life of his church, he claimed he could not disown his former pastor unless he were also willing to disown the whole black community. If true, his admission that he could be associated with a man for twenty years and have no idea what he really believed would disqualify him as having sufficiently good judgment and skills of observation to be President. If not, it disqualifies him for having insufficiently good judgment to run a campaign for the Presidency. After all, a few weeks later he was forced to disown both his former pastor and his church, in contravention of his previous statements. The truth is that if you read his memoir, you will discover that Obama had a long time ago accepted the fact that many black Americans hold to a brand of Black Nationalism that holds to myths such as his pastor retailed (e.g., that the AIDS virus was the instrument of a U.S. plot to destroy blacks). Even if he had never before heard his pastor say such things, he cannot claim that he did not know that he was a Black Nationalist. Obama's campaign strategy was based on the assumption that he could get away with belonging to a church that advocated a race-based philosophy, and claiming when the other shoe dropped that he didn't know what it was all about.

All of this contributed to the difficulty he had in winning enough primaries at the end of the primary season to put an end to Senator Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) challenge. Thus his convention was largely dominated by an effort to placate Clinton's voters and promote the notion that the party is now unified. These are hardly the ideal outcomes of a crisply-managed campaign.

I could go on listing the shortcomings of Obama's performances, but perhaps the microcosm of his vacuous performance at the Saddleback Forum is enough to illustrate that he has a lot of ground to make up before the next debate. Since we already know that he looks as bad when he flies solo without a teleprompter as he looks good when he's reading the words carefully crafted for him by his campaign staff, it is transparently partisan when his fans suggest that Sarah Palin has a high bar to make herself seem qualified. If the comparison were a side-by-side comparison with Obama's performances it is hard to imagine that she can do so poorly as not to look at least as qualified as Obama on that score, and she's only the vice-presidential candidate.

The bottom line is this: It is not hard to make a long list of Palin's accomplishments. Obama has taken credit for legislation in the Illinois Senate and the U.S. Senate that really doesn't amount to much. FactCheck.org has shown that his claims are inflated and misleading. The one bill he co-sponsored with Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) that seeks to rein in "loose nukes" was so insignificant that it received barely any attention in the media. As FactCheck.org has also pointed out, Obama lied when he said he had partnered with John McCain in a bipartisan way on ethics legislation. Obama's campaign has tried and tried to pad his resume with meaningful accomplishments, but time and again it turns out their claims rest on falsehoods and distortions. Even if you believed every single one of their claims you would conclude that he was no more influential a Senator than any of the freshman class of 2005.

Once you get past the Democrats' talking points about Palin, you find a long record of aggressive political accomplishment that contrasts very effectively with the passive and tentative career of Obama. As mayor of the town of Wasilla, Alaska, she reduced the mayoral salary, and cut property taxes by 40%, as she had committed to do during the election. She also championed a hike in sales taxes to pay for civic improvements. The Alaska Conference of Mayors chose her as their president.

Palin resigned from her post as Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and charged that one of the other commissioners, who was the state GOP party boss, was violating ethics rules. He and the state's Attorney General resigned over the scandal that she exposed. It was her clear ethical standard, which saw no party boundaries, that endeared her to the electorate, and she went on to become governor despite the fact that she was far outspent by her opponents.

As governor, she has confronted the growing evidence of corruption in the Alaska congressional delegation, especially Republican Senator Ted Stevens. She has been a champion of cutting wasteful spending, canceling a contract for a road that was approved by the previous governor, and saying "No" to Sen. Stevens' infamous "bridge to nowhere", diverting the earmarked funds to more productive applications.

By contrast, Obama has been a happy participant in the earmark lottery since he joined the Senate. He cut his teeth in the corrupt cauldron of Chicago Democratic politics, and has spoken out exactly never against any of those anointed by that corrupt system. He endorsed the son of a corrupt President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners against a liberal reformer who might have moved to start cleaning up that corrupt body, and he endorsed Mayor Richard Daley, many of whose underlings had been indicted or convicted of corruption. Sen. Obama has never run anything but a campaign, and in a year when Democrats should sweep everything, he is clinging to a tiny bump after his convention.

I think most Americans would conclude, looking at these two resumes side-by-side, with the party affiliations masked, that there is no question that Palin is the more impressive and more qualified candidate for President, but she is only slated to be the Vice-President if Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wins. (It is worth noting that she is far more qualified as an executive than Geraldine Ferraro was in 1984, after three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.) This is why the liberals are so desperate to change the subject by trying this bait-and-switch tactic: They claim that she is clearly unqualified and then use this assertion (without supporting it) as a bludgeon to accuse McCain of bad judgment since (they say) he has only met her once. They are banking on their ability to force the argument off the field of qualification, since they know they'll lose if we dwell on that question, and onto the field where they can just continue their empty talking point that McCain "shoots from the hip" and is thus not to be trusted except to parrot Bush for the next four years. But in deploying this strategy they have to ignore the fact that, while McCain may have met Palin face-to-face only once, he has had people looking into her background and investigating the charges against her all along. He knew a lot about her before he had met her. Just like a corporate manager who is interviewing a candidate, he had the advantage of the resume, cover letter, lots of research, and the recommendations of his trusted advisers and all he needed to do was make sure that the person lived up to the billing. Unless the liberals win this argument before there is even a debate or chance for Palin and McCain or their supporters to respond, the liberals will come off looking like they were the ones who shot from the hip.

I suppose it is the only strategy they have, now. After all, they have the least-qualified candidate for the Presidency in anyone's memory, and that is only the beginning of their problems. Republicans can run ads endlessly playing back the same famous people whose convention speeches praised Obama saying in earlier statements that Obama lacks the requisite experience for the office. Those statements can never be unsaid, and the campaign will be on the defensive on that point from here to election day. In debates Palin can say that she has bucked her own party to fight corruption. Neither Obama nor Biden can say the same thing. Their claims to be reformers will be completely emasculated by the newcomer who's accomplished more meaningful reform in her years as mayor and governor than Obama has in his whole political career. She took chances while Obama played it safe, and he's going to pay the price for that now.

It is hard for Senators to be elected to the Presidency because they aren't executives and their votes can be used against them. McCain makes up for that gap by having been not just a Senator, but a prominent Senator and a bipartisan leader. Obama hasn't been a Senator for long, and hasn't led in any bipartisan way on anything significant. Palin is fresh and new, and a maverick in her own right, but she also brings years of executive experience and successful accomplishment.

It will not be hard for Republicans to make the argument that she would be a better President, from day one, than Obama. Unless she engages in racial stereotyping as Obama has, or dodges important questions by asserting they're "above her pay grade" as Obama did, she can't possibly commit a gaffe large enough to wipe out her obvious advantage in experience fighting corruption and waste.

The fact that Obama has barely survived in a campaign in which he had double or triple the resources of his opponent, and barely leads in a year when he ought to be up by fifteen points just by virtue of the "D" after his name, does nothing to pad his resume. It isn't "thin," it's just plain empty compared to hers. The fact that Palin is a real reformer, as is McCain, trumps any claim Obama can make that he is different just by virtue of not having any meaningful experience. His running mate is an ancient insider. The fallout of Obama's past gaffes has not yet begun to settle, and Palin's gaffes as the VP candidate are unlikely to add up to much in the long run. McCain has successfully put the Obama campaign and his supporters in the media into a frenzy by enhancing his ticket with someone who offers in a concrete way everything Obama can only offer as an empty promise, and who is more qualified than Obama to hold the office. If they attack her experience, his own inexperience will be highlighted in the response. And the attacks on McCain's judgment will be destroyed, since it will be obvious that both Republicans on the ticket are more reliable alternatives than the man at the top of the Democratic ticket. Finally, since she is a woman, there is no vote in the fall that will not be a vote to advance the goal of diversity at the top levels of our government.

This was a brilliant move by McCain, and I think this is going to be fun...


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