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Recently I was gigantic. Or so it seemed because I was attending a school open house and sitting in a tiny chair designed either for a small child or an elf with one buttock. Context is everything.

I was thinking about context as I observed with fascination McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The immediate response from my lefty friends was that McCain was insane to pick a running mate with such a thin resume. That's one possibility. The other explanation is more interesting.

My first response to McCain's decision was to assume that Republicans did not suddenly forget how to win elections. If selecting Palin was a brilliant strategy in disguise, how exactly was it supposed to work?

Context.

McCain had a context problem. He was an old (too old) white guy from the failed establishment running against a younger and more exotic agent of change. It was a losing context. His choice of Palin changed the context.

Since selecting Palin, the discussion in the media and in kitchens across America has shifted from "Can you be too old to be President?" to "Can you be too young and inexperienced?" McCain has cleverly put his critics in the position of arguing that experience is a good thing. And McCain has more of it than Obama. If you believe that people only vote for presidents, not vice presidents, this was a clever move.

The Democrats' other big argument against McCain was that he's a phony maverick who won't really change anything. It's hard to make that case while at the same time criticizing him for making such a surprising pick for Vice President. You can argue with Palin's credentials, but you can no longer argue with McCain's willingness to buck conventional wisdom. That book is closed.

On the more obvious side of things, picking a young woman insulates McCain from being the charter member of the Old Boy's Club. It's politically correct to say voters are smart. But clearly there are millions of exceptions. Some voters prefer candidates who look like them, end of story. Palin will increase McCain's support from female votes and hardcore conservatives.

Palin also has the benefit of making McCain look more presidential by comparison. Call it the Dan Quayle effect. By way of contrast, Obama is in the position of having a running mate who is clearly more experienced than him, just as smart, and lacks only charisma. That exacerbates Obama's problem of looking like a celebrity and not a leader.

If Palin survives all the scandals and rumors, the argument against her comes down to experience. But how important is experience for a president? Quick, name a presidential mistake that was caused by inexperience as opposed to stupidity, laziness, bad luck, or any of a dozen other reasons. I'm no historian, but I can't think of any presidential mistakes attributed to inexperience.

Palin would have been the wrong choice for just about any other presidential candidate. But in the context of McCain's campaign against Obama, it might have been a brilliant campaign strategy. Is this another example of McCain being underestimated, or was it simply a brain misfire of an old man who ran out of time?

Frankly, I can't tell.
 
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Sep 9, 2008
Scott,

It's never been a major Democratic argument that McCain's too old to lead this country's executive branch until January 2013 -- although it may, in fact, be true. And if you think McCain's selection of Palin challenges the perspective of McCain as stodgy, I have to ask, who actually thought he was stodgy in the first place? Wasn't he supposed to be "a maverick" -- that is, just the sort of person who'd nominate a relatively young woman with some (but not much) experience in government as his VP?

Ironically, all of the above has approximately nothing to do with the major story of the weekend, namely the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It was probably a good move to prevent a true economic disaster. Can we maybe talk about that for a while, rather than meaningless soap opera-style "issues" such as age and sex?
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
By the way Mr. Scribbler... how do you discern the difference between a mistake made on the basis of inexperience as opposed to stupidity, laziness, bad luck, or any of a dozen other reasons ??? Its really not possible except in the most blatant of cases such as a 12 year old child. Truly your cartoons are funny but you should not use the same level of simplicity in politics. I have seen it time and time again in Arizona with Benson the cartoonist. Funny yes. Deep? No.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
You will live to see your words shown false. In Palin the USA has found her Margaret Thatcher. She would be an asset to anyone. We have found our Iron Lady and can not wait to see Mr Greasy Joe Biden the human chia pet chewed up and spit out at the debates. He is about to be made a monkey of and being he thinks he is the smartest guy in the room its going to be more funny than a Dilbert 'toon.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
Here's another one to add to that lack of wisdom kills list - the cuban missile crisis. Kennedy wasn't stupid or unlucky but he pushed things just a little too close for comfort with the Russians. Fortunately, he won and they backed down.

Problem is, experience and wisdom are two different things. Experience you can only get from actually having done things before and NONE of the candidates has been there to take the 3AM phone call. I'm still favoring Obama because he at least had the wisdom to see through the BS and vote against the Iraq war in the first place. Many of his speeches have led me to believe that he is the most wise candidate of the lot, despite his lack of experience.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
I think she fits in with "country first."

McCain believes he is the best man to be President. He can't be President if he doesn't win. So he made the pick that, apparently, makes it most likely for him to win. I think it's perfectly reasonable, unless he were to nominate someone really incompetent. Palin's political track record does not prove any incompetence, whether you like her views or not. Her approval rating in Alaska is ridiculously high.

 
 
Sep 9, 2008
Democrats and Republicans: same crap, different piles.
Your blog only reiterates that there is no difference between either party.
None of their arguments are solid, they are just nitpicking at each other and getting nowhere.
Neither candidate deserves to control our country.

-Mene Tekel
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
And by the way I'm shocked the comments feature doesn't allow html tags.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
kalirion: <I>what are the going odds for McCain keeling over in office?</I>

From <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0908/13096.html">Politico</a>:
<I>According to these statistics, there is a roughly 1 in 3 chance that a 72-year-old man will not reach the age of 80, which is how old McCain would be at the end of a second presidential term. And that doesn’t factor in individual medical history, such as McCain’s battles with potentially lethal skin cancer.

“For a man, that’s above the expected lifetime at the present,” said Michael Powers, a professor of risk management and insurance at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

The odds of a 72-year-old man living four more years, or one full White House term, are better. But for a man who has lived 72 years and 67 days (McCain’s age on Election Day this year), there is between a 14.2 and 15.1 percent chance of dying before Inauguration Day 2013, according to the Social Security Administration’s 2004 actuarial tables and the authoritative 2001 mortality statistics assembled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.</I>

I agree with Scott's analysis: picking Palin was a brilliant campaign move, assuming no-one notices that it rather gives the lie to McCain's claims to put country above party.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
The first Presidential mistake that I can think of that was caused by inexperience was the Clinton healthcare fiasco. If the administration understood the way Congress worked, they probably could have passed a bill. The Bay of Pigs is a good answer, too.

There aren't too many, though, so your point is taken.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
I dont consider myself to be well travelled, but have been fortunate enough to have worked with a lot of people in different countries with vastly different points of view ... but I cant convince myself that even one amongst them would consider a 72 year old fit to work in any organisation... forget lead it. Is no one worried that Mccain is 72 ... or am i just paranoid. Oh well ... no one can predict the future and truth is almost always stranger than fiction... but lets not hold our breath to see how this story unfolds...
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
Not too often that you hit the ball out of the park on political analysis, Scott. Good one.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
nice argument.

context DOES matter. in fact, It's hard to find examples where context is not crucial to understanding facts. a fact by itself has no value for himself.

i like the angle of analysis... can't tell if it's right since i'm not from the USA so i don't have all the information I need, but conceptually is a very strong idea.

 
 
Sep 9, 2008
Come on Scott. Is this some kind of a test? How could you leave out the most obvious reason why picking Palin is a brilliant move? There are tons of female Clinton supporters who just wanted a woman president and hate Obama for ruining it. Now they have their chance again (what are the going odds for McCain keeling over in office?)
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
Scott says: If Palin survives all the scandals and rumors, the argument against her comes down to experience.

You're kidding me right? Experience is the LAST thing on my mind for a vice-presidential candidate, especially one with a laundry list of things that absolutely terrify me when im lying in bed at night.

Her stances on creationism, abortion, contraception, party "loyalty", being a self-described "barracuda", thinking that she has ANY idea what God's plan is and having the audacity to base her public service work on said plan, and just the general politics-as-usual misrepresentation of what she's really all about are enough in my mind to stick with my "hell no for McCain" vote.

Picking Palin, especially if there's any truth to the rumors it was "forced" on him because he couldn't have his first 2 picks would make it a very "un-maverick"y maneuver. And the only reason that a McCain-Palin ticket represents change is because it puts our first really hard core right wing conservative in a position of national promise.

How much change can someone nicknamed Sarah Barracuda" really accomplish? The name doesn't inspire cross-isle cooperation in the senate and the only bi-partisan action we're likely to see from McCain is to watch him ask for something to get passed so he can flip-flop later and veto it.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008

StuartV wrote:

What I think is funny is that, by acknowledging that her selection was based in part on the fact that she is a woman (i.e. they specifically wanted a woman for his running mate), McCain and the Republicans have made a de facto statement that it is okay to discriminate based on sex. How come nobody is making a big deal out of that in the mainstream media?
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Same reason they didn't say it was racist when 95% of African Americans vote for Obama because he's black, but it IS racist when someone says they will NOT for the same reason.

turkey goblet wrote:

Was I the only one who noticed the Republican National Convention attendees looked dumb and the Democratic National Convention attendees looked like they had a clue? Seriously, the repub attendees looked dumb.
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Seriously?!?! They all looked pretty ridiculous to me, the Dems didn't look any less ridiculous. The Repubs merely looked bored most of the time.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
As a person born and raised (and currently living) in Alaska I'll say that Palin's nomination doesn't change my vote at all. I love what she's done for our state regarding oil, infrastructure, etc. But her stance on gay rights, creationism in schools, and sex education makes her unfit for the national realm. Palin is an amazing governor.... and that's exactly where she should stay.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
Normally I only post here when I disagree or have something to add, but this time I'm just going to say "holy crap, you're right." I may quibble with bits, but the idea that picking a completely under-qualified VP made him look better by context is right on the money. I wouldn't call it "country first" (classic strategy of calling "something the exact opposite of what it is"), but it is getting him attention and the money he needs.
 
 
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
Oh, Scott, you poor naive thing.

Sure, some voters "prefer candidates who look like them", but voters who look like Sarah Palin are FEW and far between. McCain may pick up some votes from women because of Palin's presence on the ticket. But, I'll bet you a dollar he'll lose even more votes from women because they are jealous of her. Their jealousy will manifest in statements like "she shouldn't be abandoning the rearing of her children to go be Vice President." If Palin was homely, she would "look like" a *lot* of the women who are saying that, and then they'd be spewing empathy, not derision.

What I think is funny is that, by acknowledging that her selection was based in part on the fact that she is a woman (i.e. they specifically wanted a woman for his running mate), McCain and the Republicans have made a de facto statement that it is okay to discriminate based on sex. How come nobody is making a big deal out of that in the mainstream media?
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
What I've never been able to figure out is why these things never seem to work both ways.

Sen. McCain chooses inexperienced Gov. Palin so that his detractors will say, "She's too inexperienced to be President", and thus subconsciously saying "Sen. Obama is too inexperienced to be President." Brilliant.

But why when Sen Obama picks old-guy Sen. Biden, do we not hear "Sen. Biden is too old to be President"?

Critics of Gov. Palin are told that they are sexist for questioning her desire to be both an involved parent and a politician.

But why isn't Sen McCain criticized for being sexist for picking someone whose sole contribution to the ticket is to appeal to disaffected Sen. Clinton supporters on the assumption that they'll rally to her simply because she's female?

I guess no one PLANS to be a hypocrite. Hypocricy happens.
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
Hi Scott,

Better watch out. This is how issues become unimportant to the population. The rest of the campaign will be all about who performs well at which debate. The pundits will focus more on style than substance when they discuss who won the debate. Did NObama sound like Kennedy? Does McCain sound like Bush? How sexist was Biden in his comments to Palin? How did Palin look? These will be the discussions and the economy and war will be secondary issues. Save us Scott. Release your survey results and at least we can have discussion of relevant issues. Just be thankful it is not a Romney/Palin ticket.

dsg
 
 
 
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