Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Gov. Palin Takes the Stage

Sarah Palin certainly had a better debut than Dan Quayle 20 years ago. I remember his speech at an outdoor rally in New Orleans at the start of the GOP convention right after being selected by George H.W. Bush. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and Quayle immediately displayed the eagerness – and gravitas – of a puppy. Gov. Palin, by contrast, struck me today as getting the tone just about right – neither too deferential nor assertive, enthusiastic yet serious and under control. She’s starting the longest 10 weeks of her public life, however, so Republicans need to hope that she’s either an incredibly quick study, or that she’s an exceptional talent who has been performing off-Broadway.

I am not happy to see the McCain campaign unilaterally defuse its best weapon against Obama: the argument about his callowness and lack of preparation. The claim that he is not ready for the Oval Office will resonate much less coming from a campaign that insists she is.

It’s tempting, then, to call the Palin selection an unforced error by the McCain campaign. That judgment, however, requires demonstrating persuasively that there was an alternative vice presidential selection that would have been decidedly better. The Palin nomination suggests that McCain and his closest advisors think that the unfavorable 2008 political terrain guarantees that, despite their successes over the summer, this is going to be a hard presidential election for the Republican to win. McCain is a boxing fan, so he knows about underdogs who have “a puncher’s chance” if they show enough aggression. If the McCain campaign believed that the November election was a 50/50 proposition a “first, do no harm” vice-presidential nominee like Tim Pawlenty would have had more appeal. If the presidential futures trading markets are right, however – they make Obama a 3-to-2 favorite - inoffensiveness is insufficient. In any competition, you reduce risks to protect a lead, and take chances to erase a deficit.

On the other hand, the enthusiasm for Palin on the conservative blogosphere today suggests, above all, huge relief that McCain found a way to make a bold, unexpected VP pick without selecting a pro-choice candidate, such as Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s a tactic suggesting McCain wants to win a base-mobilization election against Obama. That approach worked, barely, for the Republicans in 2004, when the circumstances were decidedly more favorable than today’s. Perhaps the calculation is that McCain has enough residual appeal to Independent voters and weak Democrats as “the original maverick” that he can “drill deep” with Republicans while simultaneously doing well – or at least well enough – with non-Republican voters who are up for grabs. That sounds hard and risky, like landing a fighter plane on an aircraft carrier during stormy weather – the sort of thing McCain used to do a lot of.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Mr Voegeli, I don't think that McCain's choice of Palin suggests a base mobilization strategy per se. The choice of Gov. Palin seems to have delighted conservatives (if the talk radio shows and blogoshere are any indication)but her record as a corruption fighting reformer also has a great deal of potential appeal to voters who are not members of the Republican base. The Republican base has shrunk too much for a base mobilization strategy to work like it did in 2004. Thats one reason Romney would have been a bad choice. The Democratic base has not shrunk, so appealing to independents at the price of alienating the Republican base is also likely to fail. Thats one reason why a Lieberman or Ridge would have been such a disaster. McCain's only hope was to run as a conservative reformer, hoping that conservative policies and a maverick image can rally both conservatives and independents. Palin isn't a bad complement. In some ways she is more of a maverick than McCain, and more of a conservative too. Jindal would have been better if he were only a little older and been governor for a little longer.

And even if Palin works out as a VP running mate, McCain remains an underdog.

Gov. Palin was wonderful in her speech today. She sounded authentic, unlike Obama, who always sounds as though he is carefully not saying things that would reveal what his party really stands for.

Both my wife and my mother are now leaning McCain, when they were on the fence before.

McCain an underdog? What a laugher. Get serious.

Even Hillary's supporters are wowed, with some talking of voting Republican just to have a woman in there:

If she's got a problem, it's that rather shrill of hers. Maybe she needs a voice coach. Or maybe she was just excited.

Did you read David Frum's observations, over at NRO?

Some Conservative noteworthies seem DETERMINED to find some cynical read on the selection, which they think a cynical electorate will share. Of all the opportunities that the Obama campaign presents to Republican tacticians, some GOP members have decided to indulge in despondency.

They're dead wrong to do so.

Outside of those adamant Dems and adamant Obama supporters, the American people WANT to see her do well. They're not going to be looking for faults. And she seems the kind of woman who will shrug it off, and keep moving forward.

It's true the media will be over her like a hawk, hungry for something to misrepresent, but that was to be expected FOR ANY selection, ANY VP candidate. We're Republicans, we don't have the media in the tank. That's a given. So of course the media is going to do their level best to portray her as unready, unsuited.

That's real easy to refute however, and when coupled with the good will of the ordinary American, ------------ the Palin pick won't cost, and more than likely, will prove to be advantageous in this contest.

Too damn many Conservative commentators have opened their yaps today to try to drag her down, some because they're clearly disappointed that the person they were boostering didn't get tapped, {POWERLINE comes immediately to mind}. That's NOT helping the ticket, the party, Republican chances for the Fall.

She's a damn fine pick.

She's LOCKED the base in place firmly behind McCain, something few other potentials could have done.

She's created a new energy, which has already been reflected in money and in numbers of people deciding to get involved, and volunteer for the McCain campaign.

From the moment she was named, she stopped cold the media meme from the last week, stopping cold all discussion of Obama's lame speech of the evening before.

These are NOT inconsiderable accomplishments, especially since she's only just been named.

I have to say I'm real disappointed in the latest offerings from Quin Hilyer, David Frum, the fellas over at POWERLINE.

We expect much better from such as them.

Romney, Ridge, especially Lieberman, they ALL had MAJOR and debilitating problems inherent with their selection. Some people need to GET OVER IT!

And Pawlenty didn't bring any excitement to a ticket that was wanting for energy and excitement. McCain was always going to have to kick it up a notch; he wasn't going to prevail simply doing as he's done heretofore, making minor points against the false and fraudulent messiah. SOMETHING MORE was required.

Something more was delivered.

Great post, Dan. Seems that you and I see quite a few things eye-to-eye. It was a great pick for many reasons. The great irony here is that Johh McCain - the man so many on the right blame for destroying conservatism in the GOP - may have actually revitalized and saved the GOP for future generations. Remarkable.

Palin is an exceptional American and anyone who tries to tear her down is going to look petty and mean. I was actually a bit stunned today in seeing how many posts and comments - on both the right and the left side - were blatantly sexist. I really can't believe that in this day and age we still see so much of that. And it was apparent that many of those commenters do not realize how sexist they were being (especially on the right). What is it about people that they automatically assume a WOMAN will not be as STRONG, serious, and capable as a man? Given Palin's incredible background, how could anyone imagine such a thing??? LOL! I was disappointed to see how many of those types of comments had little or nothing to do with her qualifications, experience, and wonderful CHARACTER. Forget that she is "hot". Honestly, that should make little or no difference. It's that she is an outsider, a regular person, a fully developed mature adult woman who takes no guff and went up against "the good ol' boys" and beat them. How impressive is that? I read many very positive comments today from women who love that she started in the PTA. Didn't realize that was a big deal. There are so many things to admire about this woman - whether you are a man or a woman. And to worry or assume that she won't be able to handle the heat is baseless and sexist. And if she does make a mistake or two - so what? It's ok for everyone else to mess up but not Palin?

Obama and the Dems have done considerable damage to their party over the past months. That damage will go far beyond this election/ I am so pleased to see how many Dems are waking up to the hypocrisy of their party. Theya re beginning to realize the GOP aren't the monsters the left portrays them as, and the so-called "progressives" aren't so righteous and saintly. It's about time.

I'm surprised too that there IS an undercurrent of sexism in the criticizm of her selection. Frum's piece over at NRO seems to reek of it.

They can't quite put their finger on why they're against her, why they're "concerned," why they're "anxious" and "worried." There's this idea that she can't cut it. There's a name for this unreasoned nervousness, ----------- it's called sexism.

I'm against women in the service academies. And the idea of women in combat, to my mind, is patently absurd.

But there's no reason to be against this pick. What's she being asked to do IS something a woman can do. Elizabeth Rex did not want for power of mind or will.

A} Does Governor Palin have moral strength and moral courage?

B} Does she have intellectual clarity, does she have a SETTLED body of opinion on the issues of the day?

C} Does she have RESPECT for America's political institutions, and America's place in the world?

D} Does she believe in American Exceptionalism?

She answers those questions. She's a fine pick.

She may yet stumble. But guess what, so might McCain. There's NO guarantee. ANY candidate can commit a blunder. Ford did in a debate against Carter. GW's debate performances against Kerry were ghastly. She can't possibly do worse than he did in that first debate against Kerry. Nobody could.

What Dan said. And lest you think Frum's acceptable disagreement on this characterizes NRO, check out the replies on the Corner from Steyn, Goldberg, and VDH. Voegli's hopefully not right about this making it impossible to attack Obama's lack of experience; and even if he is, well, the attacks already been well-aired and has already sunk in with those centrists inclined to listen to it.

Sorry to hear slick's probably right impression of the blogosphere and the gender angle. The one gender issue Palin should watch is her natural "chirpiness," which you heard a little bit of in her otherwise-brilliant opening tribute to HRC. Doesn't sound presidential. Being an encouraging soccer-mon can get you into high politics in the USA, but even here, you can't remain that at the higher levels and win.

Frum's getting hammered.

And instead of backing away from his brain-dead utterances, instead of retreating from his thoroughly mischievous commentary, ------------ he's doubling down on dimwittedness.

Agreed. I usually like Frum, but what motivated him to write somethign so stupid and mean is beyond me. There are plenty of valid criticism of Palin. Actually, come to think of it, it wreaked of JEALOUSY of all things.

The simple truth is that this young woman, especially without the benefit of a rich/powerful Daddy or Husband, has accomplished more than most men and women ever will. I applaud her and have already spoken to my 3 daughters about her, and pointed out to them that THIS is what a true feminist looks like.

The valid comparison is between McCain and Obama, not Palin and Biden. While Palin is not qualified to be president, neither is Obama. In addition, she has done more in her years in politics -- and shown far more guts, a requisite in a president -- than he has in his. What it comes down to is this, which McCain cannot say, but which we must: Obama is AT LEAST as unqualified as Palin. If she is elected, there is a 10 percent chance that she will be president during McCain's term. If Obama is elected, there is a 100 percent chance he will be president. THAT'S THE ANSWER.

We probably cannot get away with pretending that Palin was chosen with the country's best interests in mind,
or that she is likely to be a good president early in any term she might, God forbid, have. We should admit that she's a risk as a possible president, but be bold enough to insist, correctly, that Eurobama -- the "world citizen" who is actually running for the top job -- is much worse. Which he is.

I agree with David Frisk here. Obama as compared to Palin begins the argument, which segues into comparing both to McCain. Actually, I do not get much of an argument, usually, but dedicated Democrats then point to Biden's experience, at which point I ask if he is running for president or Obama is. It is fun to play this game and I imagine the same conversation going on all over the country and all over the world.

I think Palin's differences, feminine chirpiness and all, will play very well in America outside of professional political circles. She will have to be wonderful, but this is like watching "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and that is a great story.

Thanks, Kate, and she does indeed have a great story.

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