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Friday, July 11, 2008

McCain should say: "I shall go to Alaska! (And I will take along the press!)"

I tend to agree with Hugh Hewitt's characterization of Richard Baehr's opinion piece entitled How McCain Could Win as "best column of the day." In particular, regular readers will recognize some of these same arguments as having previously appeared on this blog, among other places, but Baehr stitches them cogently and concisely (boldface mine):

So who would help the ticket most as a VP selection? One interesting choice would be Alaska's very popular Governor, Sarah Palin. She would be an immediate media sensation and rob the Obama campaign of its monopoly of saturation media infatuation. Given the way the media was perceived to have ganged up on Hillary Clinton, there might be much greater care about avoiding doing it again with Palin. Of course Palin would be challenged for her youth and inexperience in foreign policy matters. But the reality is that Palin, unlike almost all US Senators (including Barack Obama), has actually run something, and with 84% approval for her job as Governor, seems to be running it well. Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton all ran for President directly from service as Governor. Raising the experience issue with Palin would be a risky strategy for the Obama campaign. After all, Palin would only be running for the #2 spot, and Obama, with arguably less of a track record, is running for the top spot. Palin would also be very effective in helping focus the energy issue, and the need to explore and drill for what we have in this country. [Gov. Palin] could take McCain to ANWR and give him reason to shift on that issue.

I want to re-emphasize and expand quite a bit on that last point. (Included is a map, and another picture of the photogenic Gov. Palin.)


Remember that in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower's entirely successful campaign position on the then-raging Korean War, and indeed on Cold War foreign policy generally, boiled down to one sentence in one famous speech: "I shall go to Korea."

So campaign travel, or even campaign promises to travel, can be awfully important. Now, of course, Sen. McCain has already been to Iraq many times since the 2003 toppling of Saddam's regime. But there's speculation that Barack Obama will use his upcoming trip to Iraq as a basis for pivoting, or at least swiveling somewhat, on his previous hard-line "out of Iraq in 16 months" campaign promises. He'll say that he's returned to the U.S. with a better appreciation for the "situation on the ground" in Iraq, by which he'll really mean he's finally paid attention to experts like Gen. Petraeus (whose presentations and evaluations he's previously scorned when given in their Senate testimony here).

I believe Sen. McCain should likewise travel to Alaska, where he can not only be tutored by experts like Gov. Palin, but he can also assess both the "situation on the ground" and the actual, literal ground.


Now, I don't know how much time, if any, Sen. McCain has spent in Alaska. Simply getting anywhere there by air from anywhere in the Lower 48 will impress upon the traveler how remote it our 49th state actually is, and how vast. Once across the state line, however, surely he'd want to be hosted by the state's governor, so he and his press entourage should naturally stop in Juneau or Anchorage to pick up Gov. Palin.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: ANWR proposed development area To travel from either of those cities to the southern border of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (pictured right: click to enlarge, because the to-scale red rectangle that represents the proposed development area is comparatively tiny), Sen. McCain, Gov. Palin, and the press corps would still have to cross even vaster territory that is still mostly unpopulated and undeveloped. En route, Gov. Palin could help Sen. McCain and the press corps acquire an education about, and overfly examples of, environmentally sensitive energy development already being done in other parts of Alaska. They certainly could see plenty of Alaska's still undeveloped and magnificent natural beauty.

And even after they crossed into ANWR, they'd still have to travel quite a long way to get to the northern coastal areas that are under discussion for potential energy development. And when they finally get there (probably having switched to much smaller aircraft en route), John McCain and the press will have had a first-hand chance to compare those almost lifeless and mosquito-infested mudflats to the rest of the magnificent Alaskan wilderness they'd seen previously.

At that point, Sen. McCain, and perhaps members of the press, may be suddenly struck with an epiphany (as was Jonah Goldberg when he also went there; check out his photos, too): Just because something is "pristine" doesn't mean that it's "precious" or "delicate," and these particular mudflats are neither.

Let Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin then hold a joint, televised press conference — during the Continental 48's prime time, because it will still be nice and bright there in July near the Arctic Circle, with no TV lights needed. Then and there from the ANWR mud flats, let Sen. McCain announce himself as Convert No. 1 in new GOP Vice Presidential Nominee Palin's campaign to explain to Americans how we can choose not be victims in the present-day energy market. Let him promise that among her other roles, she'll be the energy czar in a McCain-Palin Administration.

Then let him sit down, and let Sarah talk.

Governor Palin delivers her 2008 State of the State address before a joint legislative body on January 15, 2008

Let her explain to the public — in the simple, vivid language of a smart, practical hockey-mom turned state governor — how we can help solve our future and our current energy problems by making intelligent, prudent decisions to expand onshore and offshore drilling in and around the U.S., including in Alaska and ANWR. Let her explain how that's only part of the solution; you also have to clear away unnecessary and unreasonable barriers to transportation of existing types of energy, and to encourage research into new types of alternative energy sources so the market can work there too.

Let her explain how, by contrast, the Obama campaign's energy "program," such as it is, is all about victimology. (Obama's energy themes: We're victims of the bad oil companies, who need to be taxed; we're victims of global warming, so we need to cap our lifestyles and tax ourselves more heavily; we were victims of reckless resource exploitation in the past, so we must be frugal victims, falling behind growing economies like China's and India's, as we prohibit even responsible development today.)

Let her explain how, as a life-long hiker, camper, hunter, and fisher in Alaska, she rejects the false choice between being a good steward of the environment and making responsible use of the resources contained in our own vast, rich nation.

And then let the Obama campaign spin in small, sputtering circles, wondering how they lost their mojo and why the number of hyperventilation cases at his rock concerts campaign appearances is dropping so rapidly.

Posted by Beldar at 01:48 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to McCain should say: "I shall go to Alaska! (And I will take along the press!)" and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Yay! It's Palin! from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Aug 29, 2008 12:02:48 PM


(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jul 11, 2008 3:33:25 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Dear me, the Palin bug has bitten you.

First, why was Eisenhower's "I shall go to Korea," successful with the 1952 electorate? Because a) the unwinnable Korean war had dragged on for two and half years sawing back and forth with no real end in sight. MacArthur had intoned "There is no substitute for victory," but for all the wisdom in that epigram, Truman couldn't deliver victory. The 1952 man in the street saw the Allied Supreme Commander in Europe who pushed through a victory, and could do the same in Korea. Truman knew better, denouncing the trip as a gimmick. He said that if Eisenhower had any notions, why not tell him, Truman, and get the war done NOW? Eisenhower just smiled, waited, won the election,went to Korea, looked around a bit, and came home with his plan: let the North Koreans and the Chinese know via the Indian back door that well, maybe Harry wouldn't drop the big one. But I might. As so often happens, having gotten rid of a symbolic adversary, the other side will accept terms that they wouldn't from the old adversary. So here: in five months an armistice was signed, and the Korean War came to its most unsatisfactory conclusion, though America in 1953 would kick me in the pants for saying so.

What's the parallel with the proposed Alaska trip? McCain is not going as an energy expert who knows what Geo W doesn't. For God's sake, Geo W. has the rep of a Texas oil man. How is McCain going to top that? The conversion you are talking about is being presided over by the #2 on the ticket. Try to imagine Nixon taking Eisenhower around by the hand in Korea, explaining what it was all about, with Eisenhower finally going on television and saying, Yup, Dick is right, I see it now. He's got the right idea. Good God. You can't stop laughing at such a spectacle. For Palin to convert McCain is going to emphasize the weakness of the #1, not the strength of the #2. McC's strength is that he is seen as being an adult, to Obama's snotty adolescent. Taking instruction from a woman who is 28 years younger than he is will play hell with that dynamic, not persuading younger voters that McC understands their concerns, while simultaneously disturbing McC's "adult" base.

Further, your notion depends on the honesty of the press. I can imagine the coverage: lots of shots of picturesque Alaska. Gov. Palin's sensible explanation of how the oil could be extracted with minimal disturbance won't be broadcast live, but as a voiceover to the picturesque wonder that is much of Alaska. Only when the mosquitoes start biting hell out of McC will the cameras focus on him. To be sure, there may be some shots of mosquitoes landing on Chris Matthews's nose, sending the proboscis down to suck the blood---and promptly dying as Matthews sucks all the mosquito's blood out of ITS body (repeat ad nauseam will the other bloodsuckers of the Washington press gang.) When the conference is opened up to questions, will they be about the proposed energy policy? No way. Here's a sample of what the press will ask Gov. Palin:

1. "Gov. Palin, in view of the scandals surrounding your fellow Republican Senator Ted Stevens for which he's being investigated, do you think it wise to spend a big pot of federal money in Alaska with all the corruption that has gone on it your state?

2. "Gov. Palin, when you resigned from your fellow Republican Gov. Murkowski's cabinet---Murkowski being the father of Alaska's other Senator, Lisa Murkowski---it was because of a web of corruption. Oil scandals have a long history in the Republican party, going back to Teapot Dome. Is it wise to put such temptations in front of a party that already has a reputation as a big business front?"

3. "Gov. Palin, are you going to have to spend all your time making sure that Senator McCain knows what's going on in the 21st century, not seeing everything through the Vietnam prism, that served him well when he was so careless as to get himself shot down, and had to spend all those years in jail?"

The answers would hardly matter. The hostile questions would do the job. I can't say it often enough: Washington journalists lie without concern. Think back to 21 July 2005. You called Dahlia Lithwick of SLATE a liar, a fighting word in most books. What did she do? She giggled, rolled her eyes, said it was all a joke, and danced away, untouched. She didn't care what you said. Why should she? Her boss, Jake Weisberg approves of what she's doing, and she's giving him what he, and SLATE readers, want. So too with the bulk of the Washington press gang. It isn't true that all Washington journalists are sleazy, tricky, vacillating scoundrels, just looking for ways to stir up trouble for Republicans, telling the truth if they must, but lying if possible---but that's the way to bet. Ana Marie Cox, Joe Klein, Jennifer Loven---there's a long list, all ready to get Obama in, and dam the cost. To be sure, there are some shots being taken at Obama now, but that is because the electorate is paying relatively little attention. Shine your "fairness" credentials now, so when the kidney punching becomes necessary, the shots can be fired freely.

I also think that for McC to win, this will have to be a foreign policy election. Domestically, the Democrats have a stronger hold on the issues. I think you overestimate energy prices as an issue. Remember, gasoline prices typically soar in the summer, and abate in the fall. By Election Day, prices will be lower--if the market is allowed to work. It may not be: OPEC wants Obama in just as badly as Andrew Sullivan does. If they think the Palin trick of getting prices down is working, it's easy to cut production half a million barrels a day for "maintenance" reasons, and watch the price soar. This will bring them dough, and give the Washington press gang a chance to "discredit" free market economics, thus "proving" that Obama should be crowned.

No, for McC to win, he has to show that for all the progress in Iraq, the world is dangerous. Only six months ago, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan. The danger this event signaled is appalling, yet it is already forgotten. McC must sound this trumpet loudly. Ironically, the progress of the surge will make his task all the harder.

I don't mean that McC should ignore domestic issues. But they are not winners for him, not least because his maverick streak runs strong here, and his own base is apprehensive of what he might do. I don't believe for an instant that McC has given up on amnesty for illegals, for example. But foreign affairs is the dominant issue for me, so:

Vote for the Grumpy Old Man.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) DRJ made the following comment | Jul 11, 2008 3:42:34 PM | Permalink

I've got Palin fever. Let's hope McCain catches it, too.

(3) Jim Rhoads aka vnjagvet made the following comment | Jul 11, 2008 4:05:56 PM | Permalink

It is highly likely that the oil/energy situation will continue to deteriorate for the next several months while Iraq will become less of an acute problem (only three US troops were killed in the first 10 days of July).

It is also possible that the gas price problem could be as important for the American public in 2008 as the Korean War problem was in 1952.

In this fact scenario, a McCain Alaska visit makes more sense.

Particularly if Gov. Palin is involved.

(4) DRJ made the following comment | Jul 16, 2008 11:57:17 PM | Permalink

My current two favorite politicians team up here.

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