Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Sarah Palin is truly a maverick, but not in a good way

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Originally published on on Thu, 10/23/2008 – 9:51am

Sarah Palin is a maverick, a trendsetter extraordinaire. No irony, no “air quotes.” It’s completely true.

But she is a maverick in a way that is not kind to her or John McCain. Palin has broken a trail into the depths of vice-presidential nominees.

The people elect the vice president, yet the voters have no say in the selection. We are at the whims of the presidential candidate, and the judgment that we hope parlays itself into an appropriate pick.

But Palin has set new lows that continue to befuddle the American public.

She’s a maverick in the sense that she doesn’t know what a vice president does (still). She’s a maverick because she said she wouldn’t initially release her medical records (and may never release them ultimately). She’s a maverick because she doesn’t care that she gets things wrong, or doesn’t know stuff.

If Robert Draper’s Sunday Magazine piece in The New York Times is any indication, Palin was seen more as a game-changer without actually finding much about her knowledge.

“Reviewing the tape, it didn’t concern (McCain campaign manager Rick) Davis that Palin seemed out of her depth on health-care issues or that, when asked to name her favorite candidate among the Republican field, she said, ‘I’m undecided.’ “

Even if you accept that Palin was vetted on the Troopergate allegations and Bristol’s “pregnancy,” there wasn’t a vetting process for what she knows about national politics or, as we have found out, “what the vice president does.”

It would be difficult to top Keith Olbermann’s assessment on her latest attempt (wrong every time so far) to tell us what the vice president does.

Palin didn’t know in July in a TV interview with CNBC; footage presumably the McCain campaign was aware of. The campaign staffers probably thought it was refreshing for someone to be totally honest and ask “what the vice president does.”

On that point, they are probably correct. Most Americans probably don’t know what the VP does, and that’s reasonable. I’ve known for a long time (maybe not the 3rd grade, but close to it) what the vice president does, but I was that kind of a kid.

So for Palin, a grown-up politician who certainly thought she might be selected, in the summer of 2008, still didn’t know. As we have seen from the KUSA-TV Denver interview, Palin still doesn’t know, and she is the Republican Party nominee for the position.

It’s not so much that she didn’t know or still doesn’t know, but she doesn’t care to find out. Of course, despite her many failed attempts to tell us, not one reporter who has asked the question has ever corrected her and told her to her face that she was wrong.

Republicans view vice presidents differently than Democrats and even Independents. Ironically, the McCain/Palin parallel stretches back to Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon in 1952.

An older war hero stretches convention and goes for a young upstart with not too much experience who has made a name as a rabble-rouser. Yes, Nixon had more experience in 1952 than Palin in 2008, and a lot more knowledge and curiosity. But Nixon was blasted as being too young and too green. His purpose was to placate the right-wing faction, similar to Palin, and the right-wing faction loved Nixon.

Spiro Agnew was Nixon’s Nixon in 1968, though Henry Cabot Lodge, a polar opposite among Republicans, was good enough for Nixon in 1960.

George H.W. Bush brought back the tradition in 1988, selecting someone with technically more experience in Congress than Nixon in 1952 or John F. Kennedy in 1960, but someone who wasn’t curious about knowledge of affairs a vice president should know. And the low bar of Dan Quayle lasted until 2008, when Palin surpassed him in spades.

For reasons that had nothing to do with them, Nixon and Quayle became vice president. Republicans see Palin in that role, but this time might be different. Whether Palin is responsible for this is a question that will be debated for years to come.

Republicans cite Palin’s executive experience, and say she has as much experience, if not more, than Barack Obama. While this isn’t technically true, Republicans miss the bigger picture.

Obama knows more about our government, how it works, and what it can do than Sarah Palin. Obama is curious about what he doesn’t know. The way he came into the Senate in 2004, talking to people on both sides of the aisle, and asking a lot of questions.

Most people when entering a new situation would carefully observe and ask questions to get a feel for their role. But not the mavericky Sarah Palin. If she wings it with her memorized schtick, and smiles, Palin figures she is in. That is how you win beauty pageants, not the second-highest political position in the country.

The bar is now lowered, yet you should worry. Some day, probably from the Republicans, there will be a vice presidential candidate that makes Sarah Palin look like Dan Quayle.


Written by democracysoup

October 23, 2008 at 9:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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