So, when John McCain first picked Sarah Palin, I got it.
She reminded me of the mothers of the girls I grew up with in Illinois, with their smooth hair and neat bangs, their big white teeth, the jokey toughness. Those women always seemed impressive to me, and I could tell that they seemed that way to everyone else, too. They were the heads of PTAs, the ones who spearheaded ballot initiatives to improve school funding, who formed committees to Keep Our Creek Clean, or Save The Old Downtown, or Build Our New Community Center. Their houses were always a little bit cleaner, their children’s extracurriculars a little more exotic (not soccer, but figure skating; not camp, but Outward Bound). In short, they were effective.
Don’t get me wrong: Palin’s policies are so anathema to me that I could never vote for her. (She lost me at “Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America … he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights?”) But over the last few weeks, I have found myself defending the idea of Sarah Palin. I insisted that someone who was “just” a mayor, and “just” a one-year governor could be qualified to run for Vice President. I thought of all of those women that I grew up with, and how incompetence was never one of their faults, and I thought that Palin’s candidacy was plausible. There is a difference, I reminded people, between “inexperienced” and “unqualified.”
And then I saw Palin’s interview with ABC, and holy crap is she ever BOTH.
Here is the thing about running for vice president: you are supposed to give a damn.
You you don’t need a PhD, you don’t have to be a two-term senator, you don’t even need to know trivia terms like “Bush Doctrine.” But you do need to be interested enough in the major issues to read the occasional newspaper article. If the country goes to war, and you publicly support that war, then you need to know why we are fighting it. That is to say, you may not need to know what the Bush Doctrine is called, but you do need to know what the Bush Doctrine is. You need to know that we did not get into this war because Saddam was behind the Sept. 11th attacks, or because of an “imminent” threat against the U.S.
And that information wasn’t a secret! If Palin had read a handful of news stories during the run-up to the Iraq war, they would have given her enough information to sail through Gibson’s interview. But instead she had to resort to blather and obfuscation.
And not just about the war. Global warming may not be man-made, but “we gotta do something about it” anyway? Do what, exactly, if you don’t believe that greenhouse gases contribute to the problem? Are we supposed to dress the planet in a gigantic sunbonnet? Install an airconditioner on the moon?
There is no upside here. If Palin isn’t interested enough to educate herself on the issues, then she will be at the mercy of the people who advise her. And they’re not elected. We have no idea who they are. We have no idea what they will tell her, and we can be that they will not take responsibility for it when things go awry
In short: I don’t care if Sarah believes in dinosaurs. (Though she should, because dinosaurs are awesome). But I do care if she believes whatever else her handlers tell her, without any basis for deciding if it is reasonable or not.
Sarah Palin: not just inexperienced. Unqualified.