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“Is this a joke?” That seemed to be the question du jour when my phone started ringing off the hook at 6:45am here in Alaska. I mean, we’re sort of excited that our humble state has gotten some kind of national ‘nod’….but seriously? Sarah Palin for Vice President? Yes, she’s a popular governor. Her all time high approval rating hovered around 90% at one point. But bear in mind that the 90% approval rating came from one of the most conservative, and reddest-of-the-red states out there. And that approval rating came before a series of events that have lead many Alaskans to question the governor’s once pristine image.
There is no doubt in my mind that many Alaskans are feeling pretty excited about this. But we live in our own little bubble up here, and most of the attention we get is because of The Bridge to Nowhere, polar bears, the indictment of Ted Stevens, and the ongoing investigation and conviction of the string of legislators and oil executives who literally called themselves “The Corrupt Bastards Club”.
So seeing our governor out there in the national spotlight accepting the nomination for Vice Presidential candidate is just downright surreal…
You will see so far that comments are one for, one against…
This morning’s Australian has Geoff Elliott saying Reckless pick bad news for Australia.
ALLIES like Australia have reason to be worried about John McCain’s vice-presidential pick.
One doesn’t wish McCain ill, but if he wins in November, at 72 he will be the oldest president to enter the White House. He’s had bouts of cancer, including aggressive surgery on his face to remove a melanoma.
Imagine the scenario, heaven forbid, if he were to die in his first few months in office. Sarah Palin, with no foreign policy experience and untested on the national and international stage, would be calling the shots, setting policy on US engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, where our Diggers are, or have been, in harm’s way.
It would make a president McCain’s decision on who is secretary of state, defence secretary and national security adviser even more important than it usually is.
What McCain has done in selecting Palin is an entirely political decision to win him the general election, which proves again that self-interest always triumphs in politics.
But in terms of foreign policy, in which Australia has most interest, this is a reckless move and potentially stressful toour alliance in the event that early in the next administration Palin were elevated to the presidency.
The comeback from the McCain campaign is that Barack Obama is even less experienced than Palin. As a political argument, this is understandable and worth running, but it is intellectually dishonest.
You don’t pull off what Obama has done in the past 18 months and not be qualified to lead. In fact, this is what the whole process is about – testing candidates in the public glare seven days a week for nearly two years so Americans can make their judgment on who should lead their parties.
Obama has passed that test with his party’s voters, and is now being tested again against McCain in the general election.
Obama’s intellectual heft plus his state department in waiting – about 300 foreign policy advisers are already signed on to his team – shores up his credentials.
And his pick of Joe Biden, 65, as his VP means that should Obama come to harm, the US and its allies will have in a president Biden – a life-long senator and two-time presidential candidate – an expert in foreign policy and international relations.
That’s not to say Obama’s decision on Biden was not a political decision either, designed to neutralise the argument that he lacked experience.
But from an Australian perspective, there appears little risk in the pairing of the Obama-Biden ticket.
Senior Republican sources with knowledge of McCain’s thinking say the Republican faced two scenarios in his VP decision.
Either he was travelling well in the campaign against Obama, so choose an establishment VP candidate such as a Mitt Romney. Or that the headwinds are so strong against Republicans this year that there was little chance he would win, so he had to try to go for a game changer.
“This selection shows where McCain thinks the campaign was at – that they faced the prospect of a wipeout in November,” a source said.
McCain can be expected to placate allies by saying that he, as commander-in-chief, will be calling the shots and doesn’t need someone, as Obama needs Biden, to help him through – in this way again highlighting Obama’s lack of experience.
Fair enough, and McCain’s knowledge and experience in foreign relations is beyond dispute. But it’s another political argument, since Canberra is comfortable with Obama, tested as he has been through the Democratic process and as he is shown to have remarkable administrative abilities. Canberra’s main concern with Obama is on trade policy, in which he has sounded the usual populist rhetoric, although less so now he is the presidential nominee and has moved to the centre of US politics.
Palin? For the US, she might be a great vice-president – her reformist agenda is admirable and she has star quality and a fascinating life story. But that’s for Americans to debate.
Australia, rightly, has no say in the electoral process in the US. We are observers. But this is a poor decision. The Howard government and now the Rudd Government have had to do some hefty political lifting at home to ensure that, despite the mistakes in Iraq and the unpopularity of the Bush administration, the alliance with the US remains core foreign policy.
But as an ally who has fought alongside the US forces in every conflict America has been involved in for the past 100 years, there is reason to be worried. As an ally, we deserved better than this from McCain.
At the same time, the Australian also rehashes an article from the Weekly Standard by William Da NeoKon Kristol; it’s not in the online edition, but can be found at source:
A spectre is haunting the liberal elites of New York and Washington–the spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism, rising out of the American countryside, free of the taint (fair or unfair) of the Bush administration and the recent Republican Congress, able to invigorate a McCain administration and to govern beyond it.
That spectre has a name–Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska chosen by John McCain on Friday to be his running mate…
I begin to suspect the fiction involved here is that McCain picked her; I suspect he hardly knows her.**
An older article in the Australian is worth visiting: Carl Ungerer on May 27, 2008.
THE US presidential campaign may seem like half a world away but it will have real consequences for the future of Australian foreign policy and our national security interests.
The next president, Democrat or Republican, will want to make a decisive break from the policies of the Bush administration, especially the quagmire in Iraq. The age of imperial hubris is over.
Each of the candidates, John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, has pledged less unilateralism and more consultation with allies. But how much more? On what issues? And what does this mean for Australian foreign and security policy settings?…
McCain’s Machiavellis: An eclectic mix of old-fashioned conservatives with some hard-headed realists. The team is led by Randy Scheunemann, a long-serving Republican staffer and former adviser to Senate leaders Trent Lott and Bob Dole.
Among the rest of team are some interesting and contradictory voices: the father of realist foreign policy, Henry Kissinger, and the two architects of the neo-conservative revolution under George W. Bush, William Kristol and Robert Kagan.
This has led some commentators to suggest that McCain’s foreign policy would be confused at best and possibly schizophrenic. The campaign also lists Richard Armitage as an adviser. This is the only bit of good news. Armitage is a long-time friend of Australia, has made many visits here and is close to the Rudd Government.
McCain’s team will be bullish on Iraq and demand a robust set of policies towards Iran, including support for military action to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The global war on terrorism will be a dominant focus of the US, and Australia will be expected to do more, both regionally and internationally, in the fight against al-Qa’ida…
Kristol and Kagan would appear to be in the ascendant right now. That, people, is a real worry.
- Thomas’s promised post is now up: Sarah Palin – my judgement.
- See also Wikipedia.
- ** On that I seem to be mistaken. See Wikipedia above, and see also a new post by Thomas: Rash choices foster big mistakes. Desperate for the Christian Right vote, I guess.
…John McCain chose this woman to be his running mate after a 5 minute meeting with no vetting. Was that a responsible choice to make? John McCain chose not to delegate any responsibility over the VP selection process to someone responsible. Is that the act of a president? And John McCain has put Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency with no thought and no responsibility…
Note: 8 September
On the Palin letter referred to in the thread below, see Snopes.com.