Monday, September 01, 2008

About the VP candidates

I wrote this comment in response to a Tom Barnett post:

It is interesting that the Democrats are placed in the peculiar position that the best arguments against Governor Palin as a VP candidate highlight the best arguments against Senator Obama as the Presidential candidate. Governor Palin is essentially an approximate Republican version of Senator Obama.

Regarding lack of foreign policy experience, hasn't that been the standard argument used against Presidential candidates coming from the governor ranks rather than the Senate ranks? I recall the same criticism directed toward Governors Clinton and Bush Jr during their respective campaigns. The off-set, of course, is that governors can tout their local domestic experience, which seemed more important in the 1992-2000 presidential elections, and greater executive qualifications for an executive position.

Of course, since 9/11, foreign policy has returned to the fore, so we have two Senators running for President, albeit one Senator has much less foreign policy experience than the other. In that sense, Senator Biden strikes me as a Democrat version of Dick Cheney in terms of an experienced foreign policy VP balancing a neophyte foreign policy President; however, just because Senator Obama is an approximate Democrat version of year-2000 Governor Bush in that respect, it doesn't mean the Bush-Cheney/Obama-Biden President-VP relationship is now the standard formula.

Assuming Senator McCain would handle his own foreign policy and survive at least his first term as President, Governor Palin seems better suited than McCain to handle the domestic aspects while comforting a Republican party that at times has been at odds with Senator McCain.

In terms of executive and legislative balance and foreign policy and domestic balance, the GOP ticket does seem more well-rounded at this point than the Dems ticket.

. . .

The Palin choice reflects Senator McCain's belief that he can run his own foreign policy and doesn't need a Cheney redux (Biden) as VP because unlike the last 2 Presidents (Bush Jr, Clinton) and the current Dem POTUS nominee, McCain trusts his own foreign policy experience. In that regard, McCain is more like President Bush Sr who also trusted his own foreign policy experience in a time of foreign policy need - remember, Bush Sr was elected during the Cold War - enough to add Dan Quayle as VP for other reasons.

The Palin choice, I believe, is meant to balance the GOP ticket where McCain is relatively weaker, not to create redundancies where McCain already is relatively stronger.
Here's an informative comment about Governor Palin at Chicagoboyz.

I'll reserve my final judgement on the suitability of Governor Palin until I learn more about her, but so far, she does seem like a good match as VP counterpart to McCain's POTUS, if not a replacement POTUS.

06SEP08 Update, my response to Tom Barnett's second post about McCain's VP pick:

* Andrew Fong said: "What concerns me more is that the vetting on Palin was almost non-existent -- e.g. witness the total surprise by the Alaskan. That doesn't necessarily reflect poorly on Palin, but it does reflect poorly on McCain."

It may be that I simply haven't been paying close enough attention, but what evidence is there that Senator McCain didn't sufficiently vet Governor Palin? I point this out because Dr. Barnett said something similar in his previous reaction post to the VP selection. Surprise on Governor Palin's part (aside: aren't beauty queens trained to express overly dramatic surprise upon victory?) doesn't mean Senator McCain didn't weigh his decision carefully, even if his 'gut' was part of that decision. So far, at least, and admittedly it's still early, Governor Palin seems to be a very good choice by McCain. Given that Governor Palin was a relative unknown, it can imply that McCain did *more* homework in order to decide on her. After all, Palin isn't the only woman GOP governor. (Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle at the GOP convention appealed more to me than Palin.) If it's true that McCain didn't do his due diligence, which doesn't ring true to me, than he's either very lucky or he has exceptional intuition working in his favor, not a bad trait in a dynamically changing world where we can't always rely on doing now as we've done before.

* Andrew Fong said: "McCain strikes me as the guy who's fond of big bold (symbolic) moves and doesn't like the day-to-day nitty-gritty -- e.g. loves the invasion, not too fond of the cleanup."

Wait a tic, Andrew . . . one of Senator McCain's strongest selling points is his advocacy of the 'Surge' and counterinsurgency strategy during a time when many pols, media, Bush admin, and military officials were advocating for an ASAP pull-out from Iraq. (See Michael Gordon's recent NY Times article about Bush's choice of the Petraeus-led 'doubling down' strategy change over many of his top officials' advice.) Andrew, 'Surge' and COIN = (belated) clean-up after the invasion. In contrast, many of the Dems and GOPers who voted for and supported the 2003 invasion - less based on Bush's case for war than our 12 year history with Iraq which had caused President Clinton to make regime change in Iraq our official policy by 1998 - subsequently turned against the post-war in Iraq. They - not Senator McCain - can fairly be accused of, as you describe it, loving the invasion but not being fond of the clean-up.

* UKBen said: "With Obama it's crystal clear that he will do a good job healing the badly damaged image of the US."

I'll buy that, but I'd like to draw upon Dr. Barnett's construction to ask a question regarding the perception of the candidates abroad. How do the Dems and GOP tickets play in the 'New Core' in contrast to how they play in the 'Old Core'? In large part due to my disappointment of NATO contribution in Afghanistan, building upon my disappointment in NATO during the 1990s, I wonder, which audience is it more constructive for us to please? Or asked in another way, does the prospect of Obama's "good job healing" include actual increased contributions by these nations or are we only talking about improved popular opinion polls? Which isn't to say I believe Senator McCain can draw more blood from a stone in terms of our 'Old Core' allies, but as a fan of Dr. Barnett, I am wondering in moving forward, who benefits our bottom-line more and how.

My short reaction to Palin is that I don't know her and am intrigued to find out why McCain picked her. So far, so good. I do find it curious that McCain is overtly positioning himself as a virtual Independent who's critical of the GOP, yet at the same time choosing a VP who energizes the GOP base. Although, Palin is known for taking on the Alaska GOP as an upstart, so perhaps Palin is energizing the GOP base as a reformer of the GOP, not as a GOP insider. I also believe McCain is choosing his VP according to a different POTUS-VPOTUS formula than the Dems. Obama's choice of Biden draws upon the Bush-Cheney POTUS-VPOTUS formula, where Obama's lack of confidence in his own foreign policy judgement demands redundancy in the foreign policy area. Whereas, McCain's choice of Palin reflects a division of labor formula. McCain trusts his foreign policy judgement as much as President Bush Sr trusted his foreign policy judgement during the closing of the Cold War, when Bush picked Dan Quayle as VP. Palin, a governor with grassroots, seems better suited to handle domestic and GOP base issues that probably don't interest McCain as much.

Furthermore, the McCain campaign made a smart move by choosing a governor, any governor. In my lifetime as an American, we've preferred to choose a governor for President, or at least a candidate with high-level executive experience, with good reason. We want a national leader who understands the bottom-line of CEO actions that effect all of us. As a New Yorker and (GOP-maligned) fellow-Obama Columbia alumnus, I know very little about Alaskan politics or Alaska in general, but from what I've heard, Palin has been an effective and popular governor in Alaska . . . even accounting for that huge oil-funded budget and low population she has had to work with. Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush Jr were all governors, while Bush Sr was an 8-year VP. Because Obama, McCain and Biden are all senators, McCain's choice of Palin becomes an effective GOP monopoly of executive experience during this election. Clever. Again, if Palin was an impulsive choice by McCain, he's got some impressive intuition.



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