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Friday, September 05, 2008

More metaphors from the wild kingdom to describe the Obama-Biden campaign's "Palin problem"

Politico.com has a funny story up now entitled Obama's Palin strategy: Sit and wait. Oh yes, please. That's a fabulous idea.

The Obama campaign has no silver bullet to use against the Palin. Instead, Obama has decided to largely avoid directly engaging her and will instead keep his focus largely on John McCain and on linking the Republican ticket to President George W. Bush. The Obama campaign will leave Palin to navigate the same cycle of celebrity that Obama has weathered, and the same peril that her nascent image will be defined by questions and contradictions from her Alaska past.


"They're like a lion tiptoeing around a turtle โ€” they don't know what to do with it," said Republican strategist Kevin Madden, a former aide to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

With all due respect, my guess is that Mr. Madden's knowledge of nature comes from his many hunting trips with Gov. Romney. Sarah Palin should remind no one of a turtle. And when we're talking kings and successions, if Obama were a lion, his name would be "Scar." The Obama-Biden campaign right now is like a bobcat that decided to take a bite out of a grizzly bear's haunch. It got rewarded with a claw-swipe that ripped off an ear and half its nose. And the bear is not amused, and it's still hungry. The article goes on to note:

[S]ome Democrats suggested that Obama's inability to directly engage Palin would be a liability, and perhaps a mistake. "A failure to take Sarah Palin seriously will cost the Obama campaign," warned Democratic pollster Craig Charney, who said the campaign should be stressing Palin's "fairly extreme stance on social, environmental and energy issues," notably her view that women who have been raped should not be permitted to have abortions.

Obama himself may have little choice. He can hardly allow himself to be dragged into a debate with McCain's No. 2, and arguments about his experience versus Palin's only highlight the contrast between his limited time in government and the decades McCain has spent in Washington.

I think that second paragraph is bang-on accurate, but underestimates the danger. It's not just that Obama himself can't be dragged into the debate. It's that anyone attacking Gov. Palin can't help but raise questions about Obama's experience, whether they want to or not. That's the strategic advantage that McCain seized: McCain is already bulletproof on the experience/achievements criterion, whereas all of the experience (at least as measured in calendar years) in the Democratic ticket is in the second slot. There's no way that anyone can talk about Gov. Palin's experience without the top slot of the Dems' ticket jumping into the conversation โ€” and if Gov. Palin is perceived to even be close to a tie with Sen. Obama on experience, then Sen. Obama has lost the argument.

Gov. Palin's beliefs satisfy the conservative base, but there's not much in her actual record as governor to support the terror-mongering the Dems will try to engage in. To the contrary, there's comfort there for libertarians:

When asked during a televised debate in 2006 about evolution and creationism, Palin said, according to the Anchorage Daily News: "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

In a subsequent interview with the Daily News, Palin said discussion of alternative views on the origins of life should be allowed in Alaska classrooms. "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum," she said.


Palin said during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign that if she were elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum, or look for creationism advocates when she appointed board members.


Palin's children attend public schools and Palin has made no push to have creationism taught in them.

Neither have Palin's socially conservative personal views on issues like abortion and gay marriage been translated into policies during her 20 months as Alaska's chief executive. It reflects a hands-off attitude toward mixing government and religion by most Alaskans.

"She has basically ignored social issues, period," said Gregg Erickson, an economist and columnist for the Alaska Budget Report.

Gov. Palin's father, Chuck Heath, was been a high school science teacher. I would be surprised if he hasn't taught evolution in his classroom, and I'd likewise be surprised if he didn't have a perfectly consistent explanation for how he reconciles that with his Christian faith, but so far as I can tell, the internet does not yet contain the answer to this question.

On environmental matters, to the best of my knowledge, Gov. Palin has nothing to worry about: The Dems' only hope is to peddle the meme that any development is terrible, and in particular that drilling offshore or in ANWR is destructive to the environment. I hope and pray they invest a great deal of effort in selling that, because it will give Gov. Palin even more opportunities to hammer them on current energy prices and their nonexistent energy plan, which is the GOP's very best domestic issue and the issue Gov. Palin has the greatest expertise in.

As for Gov. Palin's position on abortion: Her personal views may or may not correspond to how she would govern, and I never jump to the assumption that someone would necessarily sponsor or support legislation that's an exact match with one's personal views. But let's assume for purposes of argument that Gov. Palin would prefer that the law not permit any abortions except those but for which the mother's life is likely to be lost.

That, in fact, is the morally and intellectually consistent position for someone who believes that human life starts at conception: One can perhaps defend terminating one human life as a justifiable homicide if the only alternative is the termination of two. But otherwise, if you indeed believe that from conception, the embryo and then fetus and then baby are all human beings entitled to equal recognition and protection by the law, then you cannot craft a logical or moral reason why any of them stop being entitled to equal recognition merely because of the circumstances of the conception. It's no more a embryo's fault that his or her father is a rapist, or that he or she is the product of an incestuous union, than it is a two-year-old's fault. And we don't permit doctors, or their mothers, to kill two-year-olds.

There are a certain number of single-issue voters who will never, under any circumstances, vote for a candidate who declines to pledge full and unequivocal support for abortion on demand. But there are a whole lot of other voters for whom the pro-life/pro-choice issue is only one among many, entitled to some weight one way or the other, but not by itself dispositive. Some of them will still disagree with Gov. Palin, either in whole or in part. But some of them will recognize that she's at least being intellectually and morally consistent in her position, and they certainly have to recognize her demonstrated sincerity. I have no doubt that Gov. Palin will be able to articulate her position on this gracefully. There's very definitely a limit to how much the Obama campaign can make of this issue, and as with all others, if they're shrill about it, the backlash may offset whatever gains they make.

Posted by Beldar at 09:32 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


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(1) arb made the following comment | Sep 5, 2008 10:02:03 PM | Permalink

Next week on Mutual of Obama's Mild Kingdom:

"Stalking the Wild Gazebo."

(2) David Blue made the following comment | Sep 5, 2008 11:00:17 PM | Permalink

Sarah Palin accurately described herself, as a hockey mum, as a pit bull with lipstick. I think her bite the energy issue. If she can get Biden or preferably Obama arguing with her over energy policy, she is very likely to win and to make them look relatively uninformed.

She doesn't need a debate on life. Her credentials on this issue are as solid as McCain's on patriotism. There's nothing she can add to them by talking.

But if Biden or Osama lets her turn foreign policy discussions into energy discussions, it's going to be brutal.

She's already shown she wants to do that, by drawing out the foreign policy implications of energy.

And the links are there to be made, and people are interested in this. It's not done to death, like most political arguments.

(3) Blue made the following comment | Sep 5, 2008 11:48:46 PM | Permalink

An excellent summary of the strategic landscape, Beldar.

As far as the abortion issue goes, the majority of Americans are somewhere in the messy middle, with the median voter generally willing to support, say, an-abortion-before-viability standard or something similar.

If Obama were where the median voter is, then he could make an issue of it. But he is not. In fact, because of his clear support for truly excessive abortion rights--and here I am referring particularly to his effort as an Illinois rep to block the Born Alive Abortion Law--any direct attack on Palin as an extremist can be effectivly countered by painting him as an extremist as well. An exchange touched off by attacking Palin on being pro-life in a widely watched debate setting could led to the Born Alive Act being discussed and lose Obama the election.

No, on abortion I think they are going to have to be content with muttering darkly about the composition of the Supreme Court. They can't come after her directly.

(4) Sav made the following comment | Sep 6, 2008 12:19:18 AM | Permalink

I don't suppose anyone realizes that the Democrats, with the approval of Obama, have sent out a radio ad that states as fact that McCain will make abortion illegal. Why the Republicans haven't gone ballistic over the absurdity and falseness of this claim, I'll never know.

(5) cthulhu made the following comment | Sep 8, 2008 3:31:29 AM | Permalink

I suspect that the Dems are going to regroup and try hammering on the abortion issue -- their worldview regarding religion will lead them to believe that "pro-life" will be a deal-killer among independents.

And I also suspect that it will go nowhere. I'm hoping that the response will be something like, "yes, I'm pro-life; yes, I've got a son with special needs....and it causes me some concern, that I may be less able to meet the challenges of being Trig's mother than of my other four children. Yes, I believe that abortion is not the answer, unless a mother's life is in imminent danger. But no, I'm not going to chain women into maternity wards; no, I'm not going to threaten abortion doctors or have police cordon off Planned Parenthood clinics -- saying that I would is just delusional. I have sworn to uphold the laws of my state, and that I shall do. Referring to the government of his time, Christ, himself, said "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" -- and I take my responsibilities to render service to my sworn office VERY seriously."

Considering how much I'd relish hearing such a statement from the radical left (if believable), I would imagine that this would be a great relief for many people sitting on the fence....

....assuming, of course, that it is true.

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