John McCain has suspended his campaign so he can go back to D.C. and work on fixing this whole economy thing. OK, whatever. But as David Letterman pointed out last night, at least one person on McCain’s campaign doesn’t need to head back to D.C. — Sarah Palin. So far, though, McCain has seemed loathe to allow her out in public. If he believes she’ll make a great VP — or president, if he doesn’t beat the actuary tables — why not have her take his place for a few days?
CNN’s Campbell Brown made a great point yesterday. Keeping Palin hidden away from the press — even for her very first meeting with a foreign head of state — constitutes gross sexism on the part of the McCain campaign. “Stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower who will wilt at any moment. This woman is from Alaska, for crying out loud. She is strong; she is tough; she is confident. And you claim she is ready to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff … By treating Sarah Palin differently from other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves. Free Sarah Palin.”
Huzzah to that!
Take, for example, Palin’s first major television interview with Charlie Gibson. Palin made it very clear that as president she wouldn’t take any guff from foreign powers, suggesting we may need to go to war with Russia. Even when she clearly had no idea what the Bush Doctrine is, she kept her cool, maintained that Bush-like air of confidence, and kept right on going. She sticks to talking points even better than John McCain does now. McCain, incidentally, used to ridicule these-are-my-talking-points responses on the Straight Talk Express, but as his communications director from 2000 put it, “He’s learned over the past eight years that the world of politics he’d like to inhabit is not the world he inhabits.”
Even better, Palin sticks to her talking points even when an interviewer makes it clear those talking points don’t really work. From her interview last night with Katie Couric:
Couric: We began, though, with reports that the lobbing firm of Senator McCain’s campaign manager received payments as recently as last month from morgatge giant Freddie Mac, even as it was failing. I asked for her reaction during our exclusive interview.
Palin: My understanding is Rick Davis recused himself from the dealings in that firm, um, I don’t know how long ago, a year or two ago, and that he’s not benefiting from that and you know, I would, I would hope that that’s the case.
Couric: But he still has a stake in the company, so isn’t that a conflict of interest?
Palin: (long pause) Again, my understanding is that he, he recused himself from the dealings with Freddie and Fannie, any lobbying efforts on his part there and I would hope that that’s the case.
The rest of the interview goes much the same way, with Palin answering questions Couric didn’t ask, and Couric asking the question again to try and get an answer. It really must be seen to be believed:
So the question remains, with Palin clearly proving her talent at sticking to pre-written talking points, why would McCain keep her away from the press? She’s tough, confident even when she clearly has no idea what’s going on, and does a better job not going off script and shooting herself in the foot than McCain ever did.
It befuddles me, then, that in a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll 49 percent of respondents said they felt Palin is not qualified for the job of president, while only 40 percent said she is. On the other hand, almost two-thirds of respondents, 64 percent, said Joe Biden is qualified; just 21 percent said he is not. Incidentally, that’s roughly the inverse of George Bush’s job approval rating at 28 percent to 66 percent, meaning fewer people think Biden would make a poor president than think GW makes a great one.
In all seriousness, it really looks like the more people see of Palin the more they understand this hockey mom from Alaska simply does not have what it takes to serve as our president. As much as the “who would I rather watch football with” question affects voters (Obama by a slight margin, BTW), it seems that on some level people realize their football watching buddies wouldn’t make good presidents. Americans want a president they could catch a game with, but also someone who can do the job. Candidates must demonstrate a base level of competence before the football question even comes up.
It’s no wonder that McCain to keep her under wraps — his campaign has gone so far as to suggest postponing the vice presidential debate, which would give Palin more time to bone up on things like the Bush Doctrine and, you know, the federal government.
The American people and our nation’s press must demand that a person asking to serve one heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the history of the world hold news conferences and answer tough questions. We not only need to know, but we have a right to know, and Palin has a duty to share with us, her values, beliefs, experience, and how she plans to lead this country as our vice president and possibly as our president.
As of right now Sarah Palin has not demonstrated she possesses the basic skills necessary to lead this country.
UPDATE: CBS News put up another piece of Katie Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin, and frankly the Governor scares the hell out of me. I don’t know what’s sadder, that Palin seriously thinks Alaska’s border with Russia qualifies her as having foreign policy experience, or that she could actually become Vice President. Or that she thinks planes from Russia cross over Alaska on their way to the US.
Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governor’s races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small business issues.