Friday, September 05, 2008

If Obama Is God...

then Joe Biden is St. Peter. Talk about an ass-kicking today. I wanted to hug my screen watching this.

Sexism, Experience, and Elections

2008 has been a very interesting year for elections, as it is the first year we've seen not one, but two female candidates involved in a race for the White House. Senator Hillary Clinton came oh-so-close to becoming the Democratic nominee, while Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, has been nominated by the Republicans for vice-president. In it, though, there have been some inconsistencies in the criticism about the media's treatment of these female candidates, and also, in the larger picture, a continuing debate about how much experience matters. I will tackle both of these subjects in this post.

The sexism issue has been blown out of proportion all year long, and sadly so. While complaining of a double standard in the media, both Senator Clinton and Gov. Palin are themselves creating a double standard, one which ties into politicians' longstanding gripes about media coverage of candidacies. When the media digs in deep, and runs waves of stories that give unflattering portraits of the truth behind the image that politicians are seeking to build, politicians always complain. However, both Sen. Clinton and Gov. Palin bump this up a notch by complaining of sexism in the media, of an old boys network. Never mind that many of these stories and interviews were done by female reporters, such as Campbell Brown, Katie Couric, Andrea Mitchell, etc. Never mind that both these woman made such strong cases for being treated with seriousness and then undermined it with their complaints.

Quite frankly, if Senator Clinton or Gov. Palin want equality, then they cannot use the excuse of sexism in the media for negative publicity. Men do not have that excuse to use, and plenty of male candidates took a beating this year, such as John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, and the like, all for different reasons (personal affairs, extremist ideas, robotic personalities, etc). The media is wont to attack whoever they feel is vulnerable at the time. When Sen. Clinton spoke of being under sniper fire in Tuzla, and video showed no such thing happening, she was rightly mocked for making an exaggerated claim. When Gov. Palin has spoke of rejecting the bridge to nowhere when contemporaneous evidence shows otherwise, the media has every right to call her on making a fictitious claim.

Doing this isn't sexist. Yet, when the heat was turned up, both these candidates turned to claims of sexism, and it does both women a disservice. There is no doubting that both Sen. Clinton and Gov. Palin are strong women, deserving of respect, achievers of high office. Why on earth, then, would they resort to a claim that widens the divide that they seek to bring together? Why claim sexism when all that does is make them look unequal, not up to the offices which they seek? If they want to be seen as equal, they cannot do that. Gov. Palin herself said as much in March, when she said:
She does herself a disservice to even mention it really. You've got to plow through that. You've got to know what you're getting into."

She [Palin] says "any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism...I think, man, that doesn't do us any good, women in politics, women in general, wanting to progress this country."

Gov. Palin had it right, but now her and the McCain campaign are hurting themselves by doing the same thing she rightly criticized Sen. Clinton for doing. She's right, it doesn't do good, and she should come out and say she doesn't agree with McCain's spokespeople for saying sexism is driving these stories. She should defend herself and women as ably as she did in that Newsweek interview I quoted. Gov. Palin showed on Wednesday she's capable of holding her own, and the McCain campaign didn't need to say it was sexist for the media to run the huge swath of stories they did.

Had they let Gov. Palin spend the weekend defending herself, they might've gotten a poll bounce out of it, because having her come out strong in front of the cameras instead of sending inept spokespeople onto CNN would've sent a signal that she doesn't need men to defend her, that she can defend herself, and that would have sent a strong signal to the Clinton supporters they are trying to court. By assenting to this, Palin hurt herself, and it is disappointing that she blew a chance to make a statement about equality that no one could've ignored.

As for experience, this has been one of those things that has been part and parcel of presidential campaigns since the beginning of our Republic. It's always been argued, especially so in our post-World War society. Nixon in 1960, Carter in 1980, Bush in 1988 and 1992, these are just a few examples where "experience" was the tagline.

But how much does it matter?

Right now, this is one of the big arguments between the McCain and Obama campaigns. Both Obama and Palin are short on experience nationally, while McCain and Joe Biden have a lot of it. Does it make that much of a difference?

Historically, we've had some fantastic presidents that were short on experience. Talk about inexperienced, Abraham Lincoln had a political resume shorter than Obama's, with only eight years in the Illinois Legislature, two years as a congressman, and a failed Senate campaign in 1852. Yet, by the sheer force of his intellect and will, he held together America in its darkest hour, with a Civil War rending the nation in two, and along with Generals Grant and Sherman, won the war before being fatally shot.

Harry Truman, with a short national resume, stepped into giant's shoes replacing Franklin Roosevelt in the midst of World War II, and managed the end of the war and the subsequent peace magnificently. He recognized Israel within 24 hours of its founding, he engineered the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, and he had the political courage to fire General Douglas MacArthur in the middle of the Korean War for insubordination when "Mac" was as popular as anyone.

Theodore Roosevelt had been Vice-President for a matter of months and New York's governor for only two years when he became President, and he reformed government, fought monopolies, built infrastructure (including the West Wing of the White House and remodeling the Executive Mansion), built our navy into the envy of the world, negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in the process, created the national park system, heck, they named the teddy bear after him.

John Kennedy was tagged as inexperienced by Richard Nixon and Eleanor Roosevelt, yet he ran a bipartisan administration (several Eisenhower people served in his cabinet), strove for balanced budgets despite grave security threats, worked to bring about equality, appointed the first black to a Cabinet position, and brought an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a very dangerous point in our history, and did so without compromising our safety. Ronald Reagan was blasted as inexperienced and dangerous by Jimmy Carter, but he restored our military strength, got our economy out of the gutter, gave us our pride back, and was there to cash in when the Soviet Union started to crumble.

These are five examples of presidents whose "inexperience" turned out to not be a problem at all. Lincoln and Roosevelt did especially well (check out Mount Rushmore lately?) despite their inexperience. Experience may be important, but history bears out that it's not necessarily the most important thing. Obama does have one thing right: Judgment matters an awful lot. Ultimately, this fall, Americans may be concerned about experience, but if history is a guide, whose judgment they consider superior will determine the winner of this election.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

No, She Doesn't, Tom

Tom Shales was all over Sarah Palin's speech last night.

She proved herself in the great arena; that's what counts politically. Nobody could watch that speech and still consider her a joke, no matter how flimsy her credentials and qualifications may seem on paper. The joke, it seems, is on those who'd been laughing at her. Last night the laughing ended -- and the cheering began.

This was the most empty speech I've seen in a very long time.

Style points, yes. She got up there and put on the beauty queen act and threw red meat to the wolves in the audience. She made lots of jokes and took some NASTY swings at Obama (insulting community organizers? Really? They'll be organizing alright, organizing voters to vote for Obama this fall).

When it comes to substance, though, she has NONE. There was none of it in that speech, and none of it in her few appearances so far. Maybe 30 seconds to a minute even minutely focused on policy, and what was it? More drilling! "As someone who knows the North Slope, I know we've got plenty of oil to go around." That was a big applause line, but like all of her other lines, reality gets in the way. The current North Slope production is less than 900,000 barrels a day, according to a January 2008 DOE study of the area and its future production, with only an estimated six to seven billion barrels left in the fields. That will last until 2015, roughly.

If ANWR were opened, while it would lead to a tremendous amount of natural gas being opened up, DOE still estimates only an additional 36 billion barrels of oil being available. That. Is. Peanuts. So, plenty to go around? Eh, not so much.

Just like her Bridge to Nowhere claims, just like her earmark claims, just like most of her claims, the truth is FAR separated from them. She fires up the base, but she's going to turn everyone else off, because she is going to have to face tough questions, and she's going to get exposed for the empty vessel she is, all nasty rhetoric, no grasp of reality.

Furthermore, I wouldn't put down her guard yet. She's made lots of enemies in Alaska, and you know they're salivating at exposing her. She didn't get that "Sarah Barracuda" nickname for nothing. What we've seen this week is the tip of the iceberg, and as long as this election is about her, McCain will have no shot at winning.

Tom, the cheering only began inside the Xcel Center. The rest of the country was probably turned off by the nastiness, and most will still be offended at her miserable excuse for a resume.