Friday, 29 August 2008

Sarah Palin - On Second Thoughts...

My first reaction when I read about Sarah Palin's selection as McCain's running mate was cynicism. I felt it was an unabashedly sexist move by the Republican campaign, essentially calling across to disenchanted Democratic women voters, "Don't cry over Hillary, we've got a woman here now. Vote for us!"

I've since read a bit more about Gov. Palin, and I feel a grudging admiration. Even factoring out the sexist manipulation, John McCain probably couldn't have done better in his choice. The Alaskan governor seems the genuine article, all right. She's the maverick that McCain only pretends to be, and her short track record as Governor already shows that she goes after results without caring for the party establishment or cosy arrangements between power-brokers.

I'm ambivalent on abortion, as I've said before. I think abortion is a bad thing but I also believe it shouldn't be made illegal (because that'll only drive it underground, which is worse). Gov. Palin is a conservative and opposes abortion. Unlike many others who merely talk the talk, she and her husband have been in the extremely painful situation of having had to make the choice when their unborn child was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome. They stuck to their principles and had the baby. It's not for us to argue the wisdom of their decision. What it says to me is that she walks the talk.

Another son of hers is to serve in Iraq soon, which bolsters her patriotic credentials. That should stand in contrast to others in her party who avoided serving in Vietnam. Again, we can debate the wisdom of the war itself, but no fingers can be pointed at Gov. Palin on the grounds of keeping her own family safe while others' kids are sent off to fight.

The only thing that repels me personally is her lifetime membership of the National Rifle Association. Alignment with the gun lobby to me suggests a fundamental flaw in one's approach to life. A president with that trait may perhaps be just that bit more willing to choose a military option over a diplomatic one. After 8 years of adventurism springing from precisely such an approach to life, can the world afford any more?

But for better or worse, she's here now, and Obama-Biden have a real fight on their hands. This is shaping up to be the most exciting US election in recent times. At a time when Obama has been softening his message to appeal to the centre, McCain has revolutionised his campaign by importing a true maverick (i.e., not necessarily one who goes against Conservative dogma but one who ignores the political establishment of the day and its backroom deals, which takes a lot of courage). If anything should happen to old man McCain after a possible Republican victory, she'll be the one minding the store. From what I've read of her so far, she wouldn't hesitate to demolish the Bush legacy.

Perhaps (dare one say it?), Sarah Palin is now the one who represents change we can believe in?

Update (Oct 2008): I still admire Sarah Palin for her remarkable personal qualities of toughness, strong will and high achievement, but after watching her performance over the past few weeks, I also think she's a fruitcake. She's a right-wing religious nut who believes that a pastor's prayers cleared the way for her election to the governor's office in Alaska. She reminds me of the paranoid Brigadier in Dr. Strangelove who had weird beliefs in vital essences and held onto conspiracy theories about fluoridated water. I wouldn't at all be comfortable with her sitting in the White House with her finger on the 'nucular' trigger. Who knows what God would tell her to do?

Sarah Palin - Now why would McCain choose her?

I'll be blunt. Sarah Palin has a good reputation as a new broom who swept Alaska clean, but that's not why McCain chose her as his Veep.

Cynical as always, the political machine (and yes, this is a bipartisan trait) has picked the candidate with the best potential to bring in the votes, never mind how.

McCain's campaign calculates that there are millions of seething women out there who are frustrated at their favourite candidate Hillary Clinton's defeat in the Democratic primaries. Not to put too fine a point on it, they're counting on sexism to bring those disaffected voters to the Republican side. They're gambling that millions of women will put aside issues of party affiliation, policies and plans, and vote purely on the issue of gender.

I hope they're proved wrong. It would be terrible if sexism turns out to be a winning strategy.