Saturday, August 30, 2008

The St. Petersburg Times weighs in on Palin

Ugh. How predictable. The opening:
John McCain can forget about trying to make a campaign issue out of Barack Obama's relatively thin foreign policy resume.
First, Obama's foreign policy resume is not "relatively thin." It's just plain thin. Second, the selection of Palin keeps Obama's inexperience in the mind of anyone who would question Palin's inexperience. Even the anonymous editorial writer led off with a sugar-coated version of that bitter pill.
In an effort to blunt Obama's postconvention momentum, McCain made history Friday by choosing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, the first woman to be nominated for vice president by the GOP. It is a risky move that stunned even some party leaders who fear that voters will have trouble imagining the former beauty queen as commander in chief, if it should ever come to that.
Well, the "former beauty queen" has already served as the commander of Alaska's National Guard as the governor of that non-contiguous state, abutting Canada and a stone's throw from Russia. One wonders what happened to the Times editorial noting what a "risky move" it was for the Democrats to nominate a freshman senator with "relatively thin" foreign policy experience and no apparent understanding of economics.

After a paragraph intended to paint Palin as out of her league compared to Joe Biden, the Times editorial gets to its real point:
McCain is betting the farm on gender. He is gambling that his choice will appeal to women voters, particularly disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters, and create an air of excitement at this week's Republican National Convention in St. Paul. But party leaders are concerned that the choice of Palin could complicate McCain's central attack line against his Democratic opponent — Obama's lack of experience on national security issues.
Gender was undoubtedly a part of Palin's selection, given the lousy treatment Hillary Clinton received from the Democratic Party and to some extent from the mainstream media. Democrats sour on the fact that Obama passed up his strongest running mate (Clinton) in favor of one of the all-time Washington insiders to back up his claims of new politics might give McCain some consideration based on that alone.

But Palin represents far more than just a female candidate. She is a Washington outsider who helps sharpen McCain's image as the true agent of positive change in the federal government. She also has that feature that is so important in national electoral politics. She is eminently likable, and that represents a minefield for Biden. Biden, of course, is the guy who hitched his wagon to "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." In short, Biden can stick his foot in his mouth even when he's trying to praise his opponent.
Although McCain is a familiar figure to most Americans, he has muddled his political identity this year by changing long-held positions to appeal to his party's conservative base.
What long-held positions has McCain changed other than his willingness to drill on the transcontinental shelf? The Times apparently has no time for examples.
The presumptive Republican nominee for president has his work cut out for him. Obama landed some hard blows against him at the Denver convention. Somehow, McCain has to recognize the Bush administration and then distance himself from an unpopular two-term president who led the country into an unnecessary war, presided over a soaring federal deficit triggered in part by irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy, and disregarded fundamental constitutional protections.
Biden thought the war was necessary (it was, given intelligence reports at the time), the federal deficit was triggered by responsible tax cuts for the wealthy that helped revive the 2001 economy. The irresponsible part was in allowing entitlement spending to continue its balloon pattern, though Bush gets credit for at least attempting to fix the Social Security mess by making private accounts a Social Security option.

Did any of the editors at the Times ever figure out that former presidential nominee Al Gore's Social Security lockbox notion would have had the same type of effect on the budget as Bush's Social Security plan--only much worse? Color me skeptical.
If the Democrats achieved anything last week, they wrapped the last eight years around McCain and warned he would bring more of the same. This is McCain's opportunity to break out of that straitjacket and reassert the independence and wit that once made him such an attractive candidate to a wide swath of voters that included independents and conservative Democrats.
That success was achieved dishonestly:

Mr. Obama used the spotlight to denounced the “Bush-McCain foreign policy” that has squandered international goodwill and undermined long-term American interests in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

“If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice – but it is not the change we need,” Mr. Obama said, and “if John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.”

Mr. Obama also blasted Mr. McCain as out of touch with ordinary Americans’ economic struggles, invoking the quip that got Phil Gramm ousted as an official McCain adviser.

“A nation of whiners?” Mr. Obama said, drawing boos from the crowd without naming the Texas senator behind the assessment. “I don’t believe that Sen. McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle class as someone making under $5 million a year

Other than that the point is granted.

The advice offered to McCain is hilarious.
This may be odd advice for a Republican convention, but it would be a mistake to spend this week offering up the usual sound bites against abortion, taxes and activist judges. McCain has an opportunity to lure away some Democrats who aren't sold on Obama or are disappointed Hillary Clinton is not their party's nominee. Throwing red meat to Republican conservatives could drive away those voters.
Judges are the key to the abortion issue; it won't have to be emphasized. Americans favor judges like Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas when they understand the issue, as with the Kelo decision. Taxation is the key to the economy, though neither Obama nor the Times editorialists appear to have a clue about that. The McCain ticket probably just needs to appeal to voters on what voters perceive as the two most important issues facing the country. Palin helps McCain steal the thunder from Obama's rhetoric of change. McCain doesn't need your advice.
McCain, an American hero and former prisoner of war, can be expected to emphasize his foreign policy experience and qualifications to be commander in chief. But polls already show most voters believe he is more qualified than Obama in those areas. A better strategy would be for the candidate who cannot remember how many houses he owns to show some empathy for Americans struggling to make ends meet and offer concrete solutions beyond extending tax cuts for the wealthy. That would be of particular interest in Florida, where job losses in July ranked the highest in the country and the unemployment rate is the highest in 13 years. Fighting to eliminate congressional earmarks in the federal budget, however commendable, does not resonate with homeowners behind on their mortgages.
The Times goes low in bringing recycling the team Obama talking point on McCain's real estate holdings.

What "concrete solutions" to the housing crisis does the Times recommend, other than simply having "the rich" foot the bill (in the grand Democratic tradition of economic fairness, of course)?

If the federal government doesn't reign in its high-spending ways then home foreclosure will be the least of our worries--along with the risk of a deep recession based on Obama's proposed protectionist policies (the same type that helped deepen and prolong the Great Depression).

If only newspapers were willing to help educate people about economic realities in their editorials instead of merely shilling for their preferred political party ...

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