Senator McCain; Pandering With Palin

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[Election 2008]

Senator McCain’s decision to tap Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate has been hailed by Republicans as visionary, independent, and a break from the politics of the past. 

Actually, Senator John McCain is simply pandering to the Conservative Right, trying to siphon off some of the disgruntled Senator Hillary Clinton supporters, and giving America more of the same ole’ politics.

This selection is not the master stroke of a deft politician seeking to build bridges and move the country forward. It is the act of a desperate campaign trying to cater to the politically simplistic desires of its base as Senator McCain attempts to become America’s 44th President.
Governor Palin seems to be a beautiful person and a wonderful American. This country is full of beautiful people and wonderful Americans; but very few of them are capable of serving in the second most important position this country has to offer. This is not about her as a person; it’s about the prima facie contradictions that her selection highlights.
According to an article in Time magazine in May: “McCain wants a thorough process to ensure a running mate who is well prepared.” McCain stated on numerous occasions that he was looking for a nationally-known political heavyweight with no significant drawbacks who could instantly replace the president if necessary.
The decision to select Gov. Palin was made very late and some parts of the normal vetting process were dispensed with in order to preserve the element of surprise. The Washington Post wrote: “Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was not subjected to a lengthy in-person background interview with the head of Sen. John McCain's vice presidential vetting team until last Wednesday.” According to the Telegraph, UK: “Mr. McCain did not find out about the pregnancy of Mrs. Palin's daughter Bristol, 17, until last Wednesday, two days before he announced she was his running mate.” So much for the thorough selection process; to McCain the elements of surprise were more important than the crucial elements that lead to sound judgment.
Gov. Palin is known for her strong pro-life position on both abortion and bioethics issues and this is very appealing to the pro-life advocates in the Republican Party. The difficult decisions that she and her husband Todd have made to support their young pregnant daughter are commendable. Their circumstance does rekindle the abstinence vs. safe sex debate and demonstrates why children need to be fully informed about the realities of life. Adolescents and young adults need to be armed with as much accurate information about abstinence and safe sex options as possible so that when they fail to abstain they can still be protected.
The VP should be ready to replace the president. Gov. Palin said during a much earlier interview on CNBC that she could not speak to the rumors of her being considered for the position. “I still can’t answer that question, until someone answers for me, what is it exactly that the VP does every day?”  Well, I hope Senator McCain gave her a job de scri ption before she agreed to be his running mate.
One of Senator McCain’s crusades has been against pork-barrel spending projects called “earmarks.” He has said “earmarking deprives federal agencies of scarce resources; at the whim of individual members of Congress…they are wasteful and are often inserted into bills with little oversight, sometimes by a single powerful member of Congress.”  He has also said that he would offset his proposed tax cuts by eliminating earmark spending.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Gov. Sarah Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for the town of Wasilla with a population of 6,700 residents. According to the Washington Post, “there was $500,000 for a youth shelter, $1.9 million for a transportation hub, $900,000 for sewer repairs, and $15 million for a rail project.” 

Senator McCain has introduced Gov. Palin as a compatriot in his battle against wasteful federal spending. This is a clear contradiction between the statements of Senator McCain and the actions of his running mate. The old adage is true; “politics makes strange bedfellows.”
We have yet to hear about Gov. Palin’s perspectives on foreign policy. Effective foreign policy is based upon a clear world view. It is difficult to develop a clear world view when you have not traveled the world. It is troubling to learn that Gov. Palin received her first passport in 2007 and has only taken one trip outside of the United States.

This revelation does not concern Mrs. Cindy McCain, who said on ABC-TV’s “This Week” that Sarah Palin understands what's at stake in national security issues in part because she is governor of Alaska, whose borders nearly touch Russia's. A close border with a foreign country does not equate to understanding the complex geopolitical landscape. Well traveled she is not.
Palin’s perspective on the Iraq war is quite troubling. The LA Times writes: “When asked about Iraq, she said, ‘I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq.’” That was her response; yet Senator McCain touts her experience as “Commander In Chief” of the Alaska National Guard?

According to the Associated Press Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God… there is a plan and that plan is God's plan." 

Palin is ignoring the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction and the invasion of Iraq was baseless, immoral, and illegal. Her religious justifications for the invasion sound very similar to the Muslim fundamentalists that attacked America; they were carrying out “the will of God.” This is why religious fundamentalism has no place in foreign or domestic policy. 
After all of this, what is really troubling is the manner in which Gov. Palin’s supporters are trying to stifle any questioning of her as “sexist.” In watching the media coverage over the past few days, conservatives such as Senator John Bainer, Bay Buchanan, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson are aghast at questions about Gov. Palin’s experience and qualifications. One problem with their responses is that in their attempts to deflect questions about Gov. Palin’s qualifications with answers that focus on her management skills, they also call into question Senator McCain’s lack of executive and management skill. They can’t have it both ways.
This selection was not bold. Senator McCain was not looking for an independent reformer. If Senator McCain really wanted an independent, reform-oriented, female, Republican, he could have selected former New Jersey Governor and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the administration of President George W. Bush, Christine Todd Whitman. She was the second woman and first Republican woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election in the United States. She was removed from her position as Administrator of the EPA for being truly independent and reform-minded.  That’s why she was not considered.
In July, Senator McCain said: “This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” 

It seems to me that Senator McCain is willing to compromise his principles and pander to those whom he referred to in 2000 as purveyors of hatred in order to win an election.


Black Star News columnist Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “On With Leon,” a regular guest on CNN’s Lou Dobb’s Tonight, and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Go to or email:
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