Apologies for my lengthy silence, doubtless appreciated by some.
My institution’s PR office asked me for a comment on John McCain’s VP choice. here’s what I offered:
"Sen. John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate is a bold move, effectively stealing a news cycle from Sen Barack Obama. With this choice, Sen McCain has changed the subject from Sen. Obama’s acceptance speech last night, a performance that would otherwise have occupied everyone’s attention. A safer, more predictable choice--of, say, former Gov. Mitt Romney or Gov. Tim Pawlenty--probably wouldn’t have done so.
"Gov. Palin is the only one on either ticket with executive experience, a point that will frequently be cited on her behalf.
"The fact that she carried a child with Down Syndrome to term is a practical demonstration of her pro-life credentials that will appeal to and galvanize social conservatives.
"While the choice of Gov. Palin for a place on the Republican ticket is not ’historic’ in the sense that Sen Obama’s place at the top of the Democratic ticket is, it nonetheless is a bold attempt to attract the attention of voters who aren’t accustomed to such moves from the GOP.
"Some might argue that Gov. Palin is inexperienced, as, of course, she is, when it comes to national political issues. But it is difficult to make a case against her that cannot also be made against Sen. Obama. Obivously, however, Sen. Obama’s relative inexperience at the top of the ticket will likely be more of a bone of contention than Gov. Palin’s in the vice presidential slot.
"Another important consideration is that Gov. Palin is untested on the national scene. But so was Sen. Obama at the outset of this nomination cycle. In some respects, he’s still untested, never having run against a serious Republican contender.
"Perhaps the most important consideration is that Gov. Palin has not yet been vetted by the national press. If the McCain campaign has not done its homework, Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain could be in for a very rough ride.
"This is a high-risk choice. The upside is potentially very great, but so is the downside."
I watched THE SPEECH last night with the knippkids. My daughter was bored, my son offered snarky adolescent commentary, I kept shushing them.
It was an excellent performance--a well-written, well-delivered speech. The harsh criticism of McCain grated and seemed inappropriate, but obviously not to the folks in the stadium. And by the end of the speech, it was lost in the warm fuzzy, post-partisanship.
For the most part, the ideas Sen. Obama has to offer are new only to people born the day before yesterday. His "substance" is the substance of traditional Democratic liberalism. And I almost wish he were a traditional Democratic liberal of the stamp of FDR and JFK when it comes to foreign policy, but I don’t believe him on that. In his heart of hearts, he’s a soft Euro-liberal
Two throwaway lines irritated me the most. The first had to do with government doing for folks things they couldn’t do for themselves. The example he used was parents educating their children--a gratuitous poke in the eye of homeschoolers. If he’d thought about it, he might not have said it, because he was trying to be as inclusive and inoffensive as possible (for the most part). But the reflex is there: at the core of parental responsibility, he can’t concede the possibility of self-reliance. We’re here to help teachers (as his mother did, by making him do his homework), but the teachers have the primary responsibility.
The second was his attempt to be inclusive on abortion. Can we all agree that we should reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies? Perhaps. But the devil really is in the details there, and I’m not going to give up on promoting a culture of life in order to pass out more condoms in school. I’d have been happier if he had also said something about helping more women carry their children to term. But that kind of talk doesn’t go over well in a party that embraces NARAL and Planned Parenthood.