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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Palin would give voters grounds to consider the 2008 GOP Veep nominee on more than the three traditional occasions

Writing in the New York Observer, Steve Kornacki methodically disputes the purported benefits that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty might bring to the second slot behind McCain on the GOP's 2008 ticket. I came away with a better impression of Gov. Pawlenty's appearance last Sunday on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" than Kornacki did — Kornacki says his repetition of McCain talking points was "utterly formulaic," and that "on television Pawlenty looks, sounds and acts like a generic, uninspiring and thoroughly forgettable politician" — but then again, my more positive impression may have been mostly the product of my extreme distaste for that most slippery and slimy of Democratic talking heads who was appearing opposite him, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL).

One of Kornacki's observations, though, jumped out at me — and indeed, struck me as being a mostly valid piece of conventional wisdom that may nevertheless not be true of all of McCain's potential Veep nominees:

Most voters will probably think about McCain’s vice presidential candidate only three times: when McCain announces his choice, when the VP candidate addresses the Republican convention, and during the VP debate in the fall.

I think those are indeed the three occasions on which most Veep nominees do get the most public attention and thought. And the corresponding piece of conventional wisdom, as a corollary to this one, is that the guiding principle of Veep selections should be to avoid a major blunder. Conventional wisdom, in other words, is very much in keeping with the opinion of FDR's one-time vice president John Nance Garner of Texas, to the general effect that the vice presidency is not worth a "warm bucket of [spit]."

But is this really true? Does it have to be true forever?

Maybe so. As things have actually turned out during my own lifetime, vice presidential nominees haven't ended up counting for much. John Edwards, picked by John Kerry as an utterly conventional choice to help carry southern states, couldn't even carry his home state in 2004 and, if anything, drove up the Democratic ticket's negatives in ways that helped produce an all-time record GOP turn-out. A recession that, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know had already ended by Election Day and the third-party candidacy of political kook Ross Perot did far more to defeat George H.W. Bush's reelection than either his own re-nomination of widely (if unfairly) lampooned Dan Quayle or Bill Clinton's pick of the cataclysmically dull Al Gore in 1992. And the Reagan-Bush ticket in 1984 would doubtless have swamped Walter Mondale even if he hadn't picked, in an obvious political ploy, a poorly vetted and objectively unqualified Geraldine Ferraro as his Veep nominee. Even as razor-close as the 2000 election was, few think that it was influenced in any meaningful way by the Cheney versus Lieberman match-up.

But maybe not. I'm thinking that all that history, and the conventional wisdom that attends it, could be overturned if McCain makes a bold choice this year. And yes, gentle readers, I'm talking of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — again. (My past pro-Palin posts, with many pix, are here, here, and here.)

Governor Sarah Palin with her new baby boy, Trig, listens to Senator Lesil McGuire (center right) discuss SB 265 Omnibus Crime bill just before the signing on June 5, 2008

Unlike Mondale's selection of Ferraro — a congresswoman from New York whose only distinguishing credential besides her lack of a Y-chromosome was her husband's shady real estate dealings — McCain's selection of Palin can be easily justified on grounds other than political pandering to identity politics. Simply put, Palin is one of the rising stars of the GOP without regard to her gender, but based instead on her record as a capable and articulate state chief executive — especially with respect to energy matters, which promises to be the number one domestic issue of 2008.

Palin's positions on energy have been central to her rapid advancement in Alaska, but they're also pitch-perfect for a national audience: Demonstrably pro-environment (with the credibility of an avid and lifelong hunter and fisher). Demonstrably pro-development (with the credibility of someone who's spouse has actually been a blue collar production operator on the North Slope). Demonstrably pro-competition and independent (with the credibility of someone who's also tweaked the major oil companies' noses and set them to competing against one another in transparent public bid processes). And demonstrably anti-corruption (with the credibility of someone who rose to office by exposing the too-cozy good old boys of her own party and then beating them at the polls like rented mules).

Even as I'm writing this, Gov. Palin has half the Alaska Legislature meeting in special session in remote Barrow, Alaska, the actual source of the oil revenues that fund 90% of Alaska's state budget. They're holding hearings on her natural gas pipeline proposal that would increase competition among the big oil companies doing business there and permit Alaska's own major population centers, along with the Lower 48 states, to benefit more directly from its energy resources. Simultaneously, she's acting with the governors of California, Oregon, Washington State, and the premiere of British Columbia Province to form the Pacific Coast Collaborative for cooperation on environmental matters.

In short, she can credibly claim to have done more even just this week to address the need for more domestic energy supplies, without environmental betrayals, than Barack Obama has in his entire lifetime.

(As far as I know, the only specific energy proposal Obama's made has been to impose a windfall profits tax on American energy companies, which would cripple them in world-wide competition; and he's also vaguely suggested that we should submit the American economy and American lifestyle to some sort of referendum among the very foreign countries who'd quite literally kill to achieve American-type economies and lifestyles.)

Hoover Institute research fellow Bill Whelan makes a persuasive case for Palin, as quoted in Investor's Business Daily:

Whelan says McCain faces a balancing act in trying to appeal to each of his "three constituencies: conservatives, independents and the political press corps."

His job is made harder by the public's low regard for congressional Republicans and the party's few experienced big-state governors.

While he doesn't see any perfect fit, Whalen does see logic in naming Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

If Obama doesn't pick Hillary Clinton or another woman as his running mate, a Palin pick would be "mud in your eye to Democrats," Whalen said.

A former basketball star and mother of five who has strong reform credentials, Palin "is a People magazine story waiting to happen," Whalen said.

While I don't advocate that McCain pick Palin mainly or even in large part because of her gender, there surely can be no doubt that the nomination of a major-party vice presidential candidate who's a woman, but who's been chosen primarily on meritorious grounds irrespective of her gender, would be an historic and thrilling moment.

In short: If McCain wants a Veep nominee who's a real asset to the ticket, and who will explode Kornacki's conventional wisdom about the three times voters will focus on his vice presidential pick, then I think Sarah Palin's just the dynamite to do that.


UPDATE (Tue Jul 1 @ 11:50pm): I was too flip in my earlier description of Obama's energy policy. If you look at his campaign webpage on energy matters, you'll see that he doesn't just want to raise taxes on energy companies. No, indeed, there's more to his plan that just that. He also wants to issue dozens of new federal decrees (m.p.g. mandates to the automobile companies, for example), establish new government bureaucratic programs, have lots of meetings at the United Nations (because, of course, developing nations like China and India will decide to match American sacrifices and curtail their development just because Obama asks them nicely, and he's not, after all, named George W. Bush), and generally throw hundreds of billions of federal tax dollars at government-favored technologies (yeah, look how well that's working out with ethanol).

Now, I'm not saying Barack Obama's a communist. But he is a big-government liberal, and this is exactly the sort of unrealistic, idealistic, and anti-capitalistic "command economy" nonsense that drove the Soviet Union into extinction. For the most part, Washington is the problem, not the solution, to our energy problems. The market will provide practical solutions that actually work, if only Washington will get the hell out of the way. Obama's "energy policy" is among the most vaporous and unrealistic of his many, many big-government programs, and it's one that can be effectively exposed as claptrap if but only if the GOP can counter it through an articulate spokesperson. If there's a better candidate for that role than Sarah Palin, I don't know who it would be.

Posted by Beldar at 06:41 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Palin would give voters grounds to consider the 2008 GOP Veep nominee on more than the three traditional occasions and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

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

Tracked on Jul 11, 2008 2:10:44 AM

» Yay! It's Palin! from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Aug 29, 2008 11:44:56 AM


(1) DRJ made the following comment | Jul 1, 2008 9:02:01 PM | Permalink

I agree that Sarah Palin would generate excitement where Republicans really need it - in the base - and would also be interesting to independents.

You go, Beldar. Keep up the good work.

(2) PostalMed made the following comment | Jul 2, 2008 3:20:30 AM | Permalink

I agree. Selecting Sarah Palin would be a bold move, one that would instantly bring attention and interest to what has so far been a rather dull McCain campaign. But Gov. Palin's positions and ability to speak to energy issues would not be her only contributions to this campaign. Imagine what she could do by also addressing chlidren's issues (especially children's health issues), women's issues, environmental issues, corruption issues (remember McCain's call to end the earmarks?) -- all those issues that Republican's aren't believed to care about -- but all from a conservative point of view? I've heard her speak on TV; she can speak intelligently and articulately on the issues, and can probably give a much better stump speech that John McCain (is he just that bad at it or is he having trouble seeing the TelePrompters?). Palin as VP choice being thought of only three times?? I think she might have a legitimate shot of being the first VP candidate to actually get her Presidential candidate elected.

(3) Adam Brickley made the following comment | Jul 2, 2008 8:49:43 AM | Permalink

Great column, Beldar!

Have you been over to "Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President" (palinforvp.blogspot.com)? I'd would love to put you on our endorsement list over there and get you on our mailing list as well. If you're interested, please get a hold of me at [email protected].

Either way, you've done some grreat pieces on Palin. Keep up the good work.

Adam Brickley
Founder, Draft Sarah Palin for VIce President.

(4) DRJ made the following comment | Jul 3, 2008 12:29:45 AM | Permalink

More grist for the Support Sarah Palin mill.

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