After the selection of Sarah Palin one month ago, Republican politicians and right leaning columnists were falling all over themselves with glee. They praised John McCain for showing guts with his pick of Sarah Palin. He demonstrated a shrewd strategic sense. He knew that running on experience would carry him only so far--most likely to a respectable defeat. He understood the implications of Obama's passing over Hillary and that makes him a bold and confident leader. He had the sense that Palin's anti-establishment conservatism, pro-family feminism, and tough-minded reform streak would add something important to his campaign.
The right was absolutely giddy at the liberal media establishment, and the supposed feeding frenzy about the Palin family. They exclaimed the attacks on Palin hyped interest in her speech, enabling her to win a huge audience for her smashing success in St. Paul at the RNC Convention. They exclaimed that the scrutiny of Palin allowed the McCain-Palin ticket
to become the populist standard-bearer
against an Obama-Media ticket that has disdain for Middle America.
Somewhere in between the time she was picked a month ago and today, the narrative has seen a dramatic change. It was John McCain himself who said he had only met Sarah Palin once and had two telephone conversations with her before he selected her. His campaign says that she was thoroughly vetted, but none of his campaign staff conducted any of the vetting. Instead theyoutsourced the work
to a different group. Was it a bad thing for the media to do some of its own vetting of a candidate that is so new to America and who has been thrust on to the national scene. Apparently so according to the GOP. The press, as well as members of the right
, have an obligation to question Mrs. Palin’s qualifications.
Besides giving that rousing speech at the convention, Mrs. Palin has given no indication yet that she is capable of handling the monumental responsibilities of the presidency if she were called upon to do so. Her past jobs as mayor, chair of the state’s oil and gas commission and governor have not required her to know about a slew of fields of knowledge that are pretty much required for a president or vice president. Until a few weeks ago, Sarah Palin didn’t need to formulate policy responses on how to track al-Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan, or determine where to draw the line in interrogation of captured terrorists, or assess how the nation as a whole should respond to a globalized economy or come up with how to deal with a Wall Street meltdown. What she did need to know – energy policy, tax policy, some social policy issues – she knows well enough and she can articulately express those views at length.
The United States has found relative good fortune in the Vice-Presidents who have had to step in over the last several decades for presidents who either died or, in Richard Nixon’s case, were forced to leave office. Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson became distinguished presidents in their own right. Gerald Ford successfully guided the nation through the immediate aftermath of one of the most traumatic political crises in its history. If you are one who believes Sarah Palin is in that league, there is no problem. But her lack of unscripted public appearances leads me and probably most honest observers to think otherwise.
Alex Burns from politico.com concluded:
" I think there are a small number of people who will publicly say that they're worried about her abilities as a candidate. I think there is a larger number of people who privately express kind of a muted criticism and concern."
In all frankness, alarm bells should be ringing, warning lights should be flashing and SOS' should be sent off. One would not put an unqualified pilot in the cockpit of a jetliner, or a captain of a schooner at the helm of an oil tanker. The potential for catastrophe is far, far greater with an unqualified president.
Add to that the question: Why has the McCain campaign done its best to shield Mrs. Palin from any sustained media examination of her readiness for the highest offices in the land? The idea that the voters of the United States might install someone in the vice president’s office who is too unprepared to appear on, say, “Meet the Press” or “Face the Nation” is mind-boggling.
She has done only three sit down interviews in the month that she has been the Vice-Presidential nominee. To me, It was frightening to watch someone who could become the Vice-President of the United States struggle in interviews designed for the voters to get a pulse of who she is, beyond the fairy tale version the McCain-Palin campaign attempts to portray her as. This is real life, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Mrs. Palin was lacking substance in a her interview with ABC
's Charles Gibson. She used a repetition of talking points throughout her interview with FOX
's Sean Hannity. And she stumbled her way through her interview with CBS
' Katie Couric. She fumbled her way through her opinion of the economy during the largest bank failure in the history of the United States during the Couric interview.
In my opinion, she has been an embarrassed herself during those interviews. In her defense, it is not totally her fault, but the fault of her campaign handlers who have not let her be herself. She is obviously a smart and engaging individual. Lets face it, you don't become Governor of any state without having a certain level of competence, depth and personality. There is evidence of such in her footage during the Alaska Gubernatorial debates. In this upcoming debate the stakes are decidedly higher.
If it turns out that she has just had a few bad interviews because she was nervous under the bright lights of the national stage or whatever, the additional scrutiny will serve her well. If, on the other hand, it becomes clear that her performance, so far, is an accurate reflection of her qualifications, it would behoove John McCain and the Republican Party to put the country first — as Mr. McCain loves to say — and find a replacement
for Ms. Palin on the ticket. That idea has not been lost on a number of ardent conservative pundits
. At the same time, she still has her supporters
John McCain did not help Sarah Palin at all last night in a joint interview with Katie Couric. I assume the interview was designed to do some damage control of a statement Governor Palin made to a citizen that expressed a view on Pakistan that contradicted that of Senator McCain's. The Senator is seen talking for Sarah Palin and even appearing to interrupt her desire to answer a question from Katie Couric at one point.
Watch CBS Videos Online
Essentially what her performance to date has done, in addition to the actions of the campaign, has been to create some very low expectations leading up to Thursdays Vice-Presidential debate in St. Louis
. This places Palin in a very good position to turn a negative into a positive with just an adequate performance. If she is able to gain some semblance of confidence in her ability to lead at the debate, she would still have a few more questions to answer. The main ones being: How fast can Palin build on that knowledge base? What’s her learning curve?
If, God forbid, she had to take office in February 2009, there would be understandable concern. We will see if any of those concerns are alleviated soon enough.
Just as it did during last Fridays Presidential Debate, Digital Journal will be conducting a live blogging event
with Digital Journals David Silverberg joining Samantaha A. Torrence and David Dohnberg as hosts this upcoming Thursday. I expect it to be an exciting and opinionated occurrence.