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Experience and Sarah Palin.

Whichever candidate is elected President, it will be the first time since Kennedy that someone went straight from the Senate to the White House -- and Kennedy came from a very politically experienced family. Senators -- like most academics, reporters, and we bloggers -- tend to be know-it-alls and second-guessers. When I hear Senators speak, I can't help thinking of Forghorn Leghorn (based on a comedic Senatorial character, Senator Claghorn). Senators (and bloggers) usually act as if they could do everything better, but the institutions that Senators have the most influence over (eg, the federal government, Fannie Mae) tend to be relatively poorly run.

Joseph Biden Questioning SC Nominee Samuel Alito (drawn from memory)
"Pay Attention, Son."

Successful governors and business CEOs learn to say No. They deal with limited resources. If you haven't dealt with bureaucracies and made tough choices about priorities, — and succeeded at it — you tend to want to add too many new programs.

A President should have held at a minimum a major elective governmental position (such as VP, Governor, or Senator). Assuming that, I believe that the best actual experience for being President is, in descending order:

(1) Vice President,

(2) White House Chief of Staff (plus a major elective position),

(3) Governor,

(4) Business CEO (plus a major elective position),

(5) Mayor of one of the few very largest cities,

(6) major Cabinet Official (plus a major elective position),

(7) Senator.

I am disappointed that neither Senator McCain nor Senator Obama have substantial administrative experience in situations of scarcity. For each man, his most significant administrative experience so far has been his own campaign for President. I was surprised that Barack Obama did not pick a VP with administrative experience (such as Bayh), and I was even more surprised that many commentators (including here at VC) thought that Biden had the sort of experience that Obama lacked. Biden has knowledge of foreign policy, not substantial foreign experience. If Obama wins, I hope he picks David Axelrod as his chief of staff; that guy knows what he's doing.

I was also hoping and assuming that McCain would pick a governor for VP, though I thought it would be Pawlenty. I follow politics more closely than most, but there are only four sitting governors who before today I had heard interviewed for more than a 30-second sound bite: the governors of California, New Jersey, Illinois (my home state), and Alaska.

I had heard Palin interviewed for several minutes (as well as hearing some sound bites) and before today thought of her as the governor with the best reputation in the nation for fighting pork, the governor with the best reputation in the nation for taking on the corrupt heavyweights in her own party, and one of the nation's most popular governors. I guess I hadn't realized until today that she had been in office only two years. Now that Warner has stepped down in Virginia, I thought of Palin somewhat vaguely as perhaps the nation's best sitting governor. Today I learned more about her that I like and more about her that I don't like (e.g., her view on abortion and her ridiculous and embarrassing approach to creationism).

I remember when George H.W. Bush picked Dan Quayle. It was obvious from the start that he was a lightweight. If only I knew Dan Quayle personally (rather than knowing friends of his), then I could paraphrase Quayle's debate opponent, "I knew Dan Quayle; Dan Quayle was a friend of mine; Governor Palin, you're no Dan Quayle."

I can assure you that the tepid response to Quayle's announcement in 1988 was nothing like the excited response to Palin today, and Quayle's first informal remarks were at best underwhelming. Palin's remarks were far more impressive, as are her accomplishments. It was said at the time that Quayle's greatest political accomplishment was getting a friend confirmed for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals despite strong opposition. For most of the people making the Quayle comparisons, either they are too young to remember him, or they are engaging in wishful thinking.

As with any new candidate for President or VP, we don't actually know whether he or she would be a good President. There's always a risk of disaster. If I thought it likely that John McCain would drop dead in his first year in office, then I think the lack of foreign policy experience for Sarah Palin might be a very serious risk. But looking at probabilities, even if John McCain were to die in office, it is probable that it would be later in his first (or second) term. By that time, it is likely that Palin would be better prepared by experience to act as President than were these men on their first day as President: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush — or for that matter, Barack Obama would be. That's why the actual pragmatic standards for being VP are different than the standards for being President.

If Obama or McCain were to die in office, by the time either Joe Biden or Sarah Palin replaced them, they would probably have spent several years getting good experience as VP. With Palin, we know not only that she has administrative experience, but that she has been successful in that experience. McCain brings foreign policy knowledge, as does Biden, and Obama brings brilliance, but we really have very little idea how well these three men can manage a government.

Unlike the Palin risk (becoming President with no substantial foreign policy experience and less than a year's experience as VP), which is unlikely to occur, the Obama risk is likely to be realized: becoming President without having any substantial administrative experience as a governor or business CEO. I think everyone -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- hope that Obama's brilliance and decency can make up for his experiential deficits.

I raise Bill Stuntz's interesting, and somewhat related, views on experience here.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Stuntz on Experience and Accomplishments.--
  2. Experience and Sarah Palin.
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Having worked in the federal bureaucracy for a decade, when at some points we had a former senator as cabinet official...

A senator's experience consists of supervising an office of maybe 20 people. He or she is one of a hundred votes. Those may be traded in mysterious ways (I'll vote against you and you won't hold it against me, because I and nine others will switch if you come within ten votes of winning). Never worked under a governor or president, but I'd guess their function is different.
8.30.2008 2:07am
metro1 (mail) (www):
Barack Obama has zero executive experience. Joe Biden has zero executive experience.

John McCain has military command experience. Sarah Palin has executive experience as Governor of the largest state in the Union - with two international borders - and as Mayor of the fastest-growing town in Alaska. (Personally, I like small-town America).

On the experience issue, McCain and Palin win.

Besides, the "foreign policy experience" argument is non-serious. What was the "foreign policy experience" of Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher?

A great President is a great leader. Leadership skills are most clearly seen in people who have actually led: like McCain and Palin.

The "foreign policy experience" argument is actually a negative to me. I'd rather have someone with clear leadership skills as an American chief executive (like Governor Palin) - or military command experience (like McCain) - not someone who sat on some foreign affairs committee in Congress (like Biden). Of course, Obama has NONE of these types of experience.

Also - Palin's approval ratings in Alaska have consistently been over 80%! She's a leader. So is McCain. Obama and Biden are legislators - they've never held an executive or command position in their lives.

On experience McCain and Palin win.

Worth noting also: Palin has more experience than Obama's almost-VP-pick, Governor Kaine of Virginia. Notice how the Democrats didn't complain about Governor Kaine's lack of experience?

Sarah Palin runs a State. Barack Obama runs his mouth. (And Obama's on the TOP of the ticket - sheez).

Best blog post on Palin:

Rachel Lucas on Governor Sarah Palin
8.30.2008 2:17am
metro1 (mail) (www):
http://www.rachellucas.com/
8.30.2008 2:18am
Lyle (mail):
Jim,

I'd like to take issue with your depiction of Sarah Palin's views on creationism. According to this Anchorage Daily News article she doesn't favor teaching creationism in schools.

can't get the link working)

Also, if you are a practicing Christian ipso facto you believe God created the world (cause if you don't you can't also believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God)... though you might also believe in Evolution (as the Catholic Church recognizes).

What exactly is 'embarassing' about this?

I'm agnostic, from the South, and don't find anything 'embarassing' about treading softly on other peoples' serious religous beliefs.
8.30.2008 2:18am
anon3 (mail):
Jim,

"Today I learned more about her that I like and more about her that I don't like (e.g., her view on abortion and her ridiculous and embarrassing approach to creationism)."

How open minded of you. So nice of you to allow other people to be mistaken without subjecting them to ridicule.

What you may not know, given your insular world, is that most people who oppose abortion do not impute evil or stupidity to those, like you, who don't really mind babies being killed. They consider that you are sadly mistaken or misguided. But of course, they are not enlightened intellectuals.

Have you ever seen a child who was born at, say, 29 weeks? And you think it's okay to kill that child as long as he/she is in the mother's womb?

What's more embarrassing: your position on infanticide or her position on creationism?

Think about it.
8.30.2008 2:21am
Joe Kowalski (mail):
I would argue that executive experience, while a big plus, isn't everything. Legislative experience, and having a strong familiarity with how the legislative bodies do their work can be a huge skill in actually getting useful legislation through. All too often, governors get into office without such experience and they end up floundering when it comes to actually getting legislation through.
8.30.2008 2:22am
ChrisIowa (mail):
I mostly agree with your list, except that I would put the CEO of a major corporation, even with no political experience, above a Senator.

In the case of Palin, don't discount her experience as mayor, Even though it is in a small town, it is more like the position of President than is Senator in the skills that are needed in the office. I wouldn't favor picking a small town mayor for President, but as a lead-in through a Governorship it should be considered very useful training.

Of all our Presidents, very few have had any foreign policy experience going into office, and it hasn't hurt us too badly. If Palin fills the remainder of a McCain term, the foreign policy apparatus (advisers and appointed officials) will already be in place and functioning, which is an advantage over most Presidents on entering office.
8.30.2008 2:35am
metro1 (mail) (www):
Joe:

Being a good chief executive and being a good legislator require very different skill sets.

You want a President who is has a proven track-record as a chief executive. Palin has that as Governor and Mayor. McCain has military command experience. Obama and Biden have never supervised anything bigger than a 20-person Senate staff. And they want to lead the 1.8 million federal workforce and lead the most powerful nation on Earth? Absurd.
8.30.2008 2:35am
James Lindgren (mail):
To say that I don't like her view on abortion is not the same as saying that I ridiculed her view. I didn't and wouldn't. [Disclosure: I did pro bono for Natl Org of Women on arbortion clinic bombing case.]

I did ridicule her view, which I saw quoted online that creation science should be taught in schools along with evolution. Was that source mistaken?

I agree with another poster that believers in evolution (and the Big Bang) still do not have a natural explanation for what came before the Big Bang or how it got there. The possibility of a single God creating the materials for the Big Bang and starting it can be neither proven nor disproven.
8.30.2008 2:40am
neurodoc:
...the best actual experience for being President is, in descending order:
(1) Vice President,
(2) White House Chief of Staff (plus a major elective position),...
So, if experience is all important, Dick Cheney must hands down be the most qualified person of all time to serve as President.
8.30.2008 2:42am
Lyle (mail):
Jim,

Yes, the source was inaccurately described to smear her as someone who wants creationism taught in schools. She's on record specifically saying she doesn't think creationism should be part of Alaska's public school curriculum.

Here's the quotes for the Anchorage Daily News article:

"I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum.


I can't get the link to work. My apologies.

-Lyle
8.30.2008 2:54am
Lyle (mail):

'Creation science' enters the race
GOVERNOR: Palin is only candidate to suggest it should be discussed in schools.

By TOM KIZZIA
Anchorage Daily News

Published: October 27, 2006


This is the article I'm quoting.
8.30.2008 2:59am
MrGraffen:
I think McCain's decision took real guts. I don't think he wants this presidency. But he could do the job, if he wanted it. Unlike Palin, who stated plainly she was unaware of what the vice presidency office involves. It feels like a democratic conspiracy, practically.
8.30.2008 3:24am
Bandon:
I'm tired of those who offer simplistic sound bites as if they were the equivalent of "straight talk" and religious beliefs dressed up to impersonate science. Give me honest, nuanced, complex answers to complex questions and the kind of inspiration that can move us all to work together for the common good.

I'll take brilliance and decency any day! When was the last time we had those atributes in a president?
8.30.2008 3:30am
Careless:
After reading Post's posts, this reminds me of the difference between this site and Kos, almost all of the (non-Post) time. Palin isn't perfect, she isn't the devil, and the other candidates don't fall into the other categories, either.
8.30.2008 4:09am
Sk (mail):
"Whichever candidate is elected President, it will be the first time since Kennedy that someone went straight from the Senate to the White House -- and Kennedy came from a very politically experienced family."

What does this mean, and why is it significant? I think you are suggesting that Senators aren't really experienced enough to be president, but since JFK came from a family with lots of politicians in it, he has the necessary experience anyway? Why?

Also, is it even correct? JFK came from a family that in the future became very politically experienced. But was it experienced when he was in the Senate? Wasn't he the first (i.e. all the experience in the 'family' came during and after he was president?) If so, why does that make him unusually suited to be president?

Sk
8.30.2008 4:18am
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Obama brings brilliance

He does? What proof do you have for that?

He gives an excellent speach, if he's got a Teleprompter telling him what to say. When he has to actually think and then talk, he uniformly does poorly.

So poorly that McCain was willing to do repeated "Town Hall" debates with Obama, and Obama turned him down.

So, did he turn him down because his true ideas are so unpopular that he can't afford to be any place where he might end up reavealing them?

Or did he turn McCain down because he is not at all verbally "quick", and is therefore afraid of coming off poorly against McCain?


What has Barack Obama accomplished in his life? Not "what has he been given?" Not "what elections has he won?" What has he accomplished?

How has Obama made the world a better place? What brilliant articles has he written, that explicated something perviously not understood?

What programs has Obama championed, that became law, and improved the real world situation?

Anything?

This is the guy who said during a Democrat Primary debate that he would meet with US Enemies "without any pre-conditions." And has spent thelast couple of months back-tracking for that rather stupid idea.

This is the guy who still blathers about "poverty" being a cause of terrorism, when anyone who's bothered to look at the issue knows that's not the case.

Senator Barack Obama is a shallow leftist with the ability to give a good speech, who had the benefit of running for President in the Democrat Primaries against a bunch of fellow lightweights, a group dominated by a woman whose pretty much sole claim to fame was that her husband had been President, and who had the luck to have given a good speech at the 2004 DNC, and to have (like all his local peers) opposed the Iraq War from the beginning.

If he posesses any actual real "brilliance", he's spent pretty much all his life hiding it. So, tell us, Jim, where did you find it?
8.30.2008 4:49am
af7850 (mail):
It is bold and reckless to vote for someone with absolutely no experience. Thus, a vote for Obama the greenhorn is the risky, reckless choice. Sarah Palin has vetoed more bills than any other candidate. She has executed the laws of government more than any other candidate. She has responsibly structured budgets which responsibly reduced wasteful spending more than any other candidate. Even if McCain drops dead on day one, Palin as president will be a success, as we will have avoided the succession of the least qualified candidate (Obama) to office.
8.30.2008 5:12am
Displaced Midwesterner:
One aspect of Obama's brilliance is actually quite similar to that of our current Prez: the ability to provoke many detractors into apoplectic fits.
8.30.2008 5:20am
Tony Tutins (mail):
I think the two compare very well: Obama has just 18 fewer months as Governor of Alaska than Palin has. As far as accomplishments go, Palin withdrew a contract to build an oil pipeline from BP, and signed one with Trans-Canada Pipelines. She also sold off a jet plane belonging to the state.

Quayle's greatest political accomplishment was getting a friend confirmed for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

But Daniel Manion had impeccable conservative credentials, son of the long-time dean of Notre Dame Law School, Clarence Manion, who was one of the founders of the John Birch Society, and founder of a weekly radio, later TV program, Manion Forum, perhaps the only outlet presenting conservative ideas at that time (early 50s). The articles of another son, Christopher, appear on Lew Rockwell.com
8.30.2008 5:21am
lonetown (mail):
"I hope he picks David Axelrod as his chief of staff; that guy knows what he's doing"


...On behalf of ComEd and Comcast, (Axelrod's) firm helped set up front organizations that were listed as sponsors of public-issue ads. Industry insiders call such practices 'Astroturfing,' a reference to manufacturing grassroots support..."

Catchy term. And "manufacturing grassroots support"... Is that anything like manufacturing a presidential candidate, David? Who's a socialist but you manufacture him to look like MLK?

Real good judgement there????
8.30.2008 6:00am
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
What has Barack Obama accomplished in his life? Not "what has he been given?" Not "what elections has he won?" What has he accomplished?


Heh. He hasn't won any significant elections, either; this is his first election against serious opposition, though he's doing ok for his first time out.
8.30.2008 6:10am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Also, is it even correct? JFK came from a family that in the future became very politically experienced. But was it experienced when he was in the Senate? Wasn't he the first (i.e. all the experience in the 'family' came during and after he was president?)
Sk, you may want to look up a guy named Joseph Kennedy. Or John Fitzgerald.
8.30.2008 8:40am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

For most of the people making the Quayle comparisons, either they are too young to remember him, or they are engaging in wishful thinking.


Not really. They know that the media is looking for a narrative which they can fit their reporting into. It doesn't matter if the narrative makes sense, because once the narrative is settled on, the media will create news to fit the narrative... witness how hard they tried to generate "Angry McCain" stories... even going so far as to do their absolute best to provoke him so they could capture the response... and when he didn't rise to their bait in any remarkable manner, they ran the headline they had pre-written anyway.

And the same thing will happen with Palin if the democrats' suggested metaphor is adopted. It doesn't matter if Obama makes triple the gaffes that Palin does... the american public will only hear about the ones that fit the story the media wants to tell.

So I doubt you'll accomplish anything by pointing out that the smear has little basis in truth... that just makes it more attractive to people of a certain mindset.
8.30.2008 8:50am
bellisaurius (mail):
Where do former generals without executive elective experience fit in? The list is hit and miss, but Washington, Jackson, Ben and William Harrison, Taylor, Pierce, Grant Hayes and Garfield all did it (some did hold legislative post, or military governorships, to be fair).
8.30.2008 9:27am
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
"The possibility of a single God creating the materials for the Big Bang and starting it can be neither proven nor disproven."

Can you prove that?
8.30.2008 10:17am
David M. Nieporent (www):
"The possibility of a single God creating the materials for the Big Bang and starting it can be neither proven nor disproven."

Can you prove that?
Yes, but it won't fit in the margin of this page.
8.30.2008 10:19am
FlimFlamSam:
This business about "no foreign policy experience!!!" is a little absurd. No one outside of Congress, President and Vice President, a few cabinet officials, the state department, and some professors have any real "foreign policy experience." And yet none of those have been common sources for American Presidents (aside from the obvious President and Vice President, and neither of them are running).

So I'm not sure where Sarah Palin is supposed to get this "foreign policy experience," and I'm not sure anybody has cared much about foreign policy experience in any previous presidential election. So I think it's an unfair slam against her, unless the slammer genuinely believes we should only be electing congressmen and state department flunkies as president and vice president.
8.30.2008 10:28am
Robert McCulloch:

For each man, his most significant administrative experience so far has been his own campaign for President.


I think this minimizes the fact that one of the few tasks as demanding as being president is running for president.

Recall the various stories about the confusion/dissension/etc. in Clinton's primary campaign, as compared to the level of organization that Obama's campaign has shown over the last year. I don't think that closes the experience gap between Obama and McCain overall, but we certainly have a lot more evidence of Obama's executive competence than whatever Palin brings to the table.
8.30.2008 10:41am
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
Your list of needed experience would have disqualified Lincoln, of course, which perhaps shows the limits of an "experience" criterion. Although a Democrat who will gladly vote for Obama, I'd observe that Bill Clinton was very experienced on January 20, 1993 and JFK was reasonably experienced on January 20, 1952, but both screwed up early in their terms. George W Bush had education and executive experience, yet managed to screw up the management of the war (both Obama and McCain agree on that) for several years.

The single most important attribute of Obama, and one he shares with Lincoln, is that most everyone agrees he's a great listener. That's not something McCain is noted for. The question for Obama is whether he will assume GW's role as "Decider".
8.30.2008 11:07am
Dave N (mail):
Bill Harshew,

2 quick points--first, JFK did not become President until January 20, 1961 (and Dwight Eisenhower also managed to be missed in another poster's list of military leaders who became President).

Second, and more substantively, is that you consider Obama more of a listener than McCain. I would counter that their Senate careers demonstrate more of a willingness on McCain's part to work across the aisle to accomplish things and actually question partisan orthodoxy. For all of his ability to parrot his opponent's views in the process of disagreeing with them, can you point to a single area where Obama has broken with the Democratic Party?
8.30.2008 11:23am
Dave N (mail):
McGraffen is putting Palin's comments on the Vice Presidency in the worst possible light.

The reality is that the Constitution gives the Vice President exactly three duties: 1) Preside over the Senate; 2) Cast tie-breaking votes there; and 3) Help make the determination of whether the President is competent to remain as President.

The reality is that since about Eisenhower, the Vice President has been a Minister Without Portfolio, doing various jobs for the President--including attending foreign funerals that the President would rather not attend.

Starting with Jimmy Carter, the Vice Presidency was ramped up significantly. While Ford's Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, was a former long-time governor of New York, Ford didn't use him for much. Mondale, for the first time, was assigned a West Wing office and no-appointment access to the President.

The Carter model has followed in most succeeding administrations, though Reagan apparently did not rely on G.H.W. Bush as much as Carter relied on Mondale. As President, Bush41 gave Quayle no-appointment access but few significant porfolios.

In many respects, both Presidents Clinton and Bush43 treated their Vice Presidents as partners--and both Al Gore and Dick Cheney have been directly involved in setting government policy.

What Palin was saying, it seems to me, was "I don't want to be Vice President unless the President is going to give me significant policy roles. So I will want to see how the President-to-be defines the role of Vice President before I know whether I am interested."

That, to me, seems not only reasonable, but admirable as a statement that she isn't in politics for the titles.
8.30.2008 11:34am
anon3 (mail):
Jim,

Jim,

Consider killing a 29 week old 'fetus' that is born prematurely. Consider killing that same baby while he is still in his mother's womb.

Sarah Palin cannot explain why the former is infancticide and the latter is not. Apparently you can.

Whose position on abortion is embarrassing?
8.30.2008 11:38am
Dave N (mail):
David M. Nieporent,

We usually agree (and have sometimes even been confused by other posters) but I have to comment on your rebuke to Sk.

Yes, JFK's father was a political player, and yes, his grandfather was Mayor of Boston. But I still do not see how their skills compensated when JFK became President directly out of the Senate (and I am not crititicizing JFK in this analysis).

If that were true, then Patrick Kennedy should be something more than the dim bulb that he is, given his provenance.

For that matter, the current President is both the son of a President and the grandson of a United States Senator and while I do not think he is as bad as his critics claim, he is a very different person from both George H.W. Bush and Prescott Bush.
8.30.2008 11:44am
trad and anon:
I'd like to note my dismay that this site seems to have degenerated to the point where the contributors are trading pro-Palin and anti-Palin talking points.
8.30.2008 11:54am
loki13 (mail):
trad and anon,

More interestingly, the more some posters learn about Palin, the more convinced they are she is a perfect pick. The more others learn about her, the more convinced they are she is an airheaded albatross.

I think the final analysis i what most high-level Republicans believe- huh? She is a huge gamble. The next week will be great. If she can survive the national media onslaught for the next two months, McCain's gamble will have paid off. If not, it will come off as a tactical victory, and a strategic blunder of epic proportions, especially considering how well he had been doing.

IOW, considering he had made the race into a near dead-heat (nationally, if not in the elcetoral college yet), why did he feel the need to throw a hail mary? IMHO, it this pick says more about McCain's gambling spirit (either great, if you're a Republican, or horrible recklessness, if you're a Democrat) than it reflects on Palin.

As the people of Alaska are saying- great for us. Awesome for Alaska! But WTF are the mainlanders thinking?
8.30.2008 12:07pm
Big E:
A President should have held at a minimum a major elective governmental position (such as VP, Governor, or Senator). Assuming that, I believe that the best actual experience for being President is, in descending order:

(1) Vice President,

(2) White House Chief of Staff (plus a major elective position),

(3) Governor,

(4) Business CEO (plus a major elective position),

(5) Mayor of one of the few very largest cities,

(6) major Cabinet Official (plus a major elective position),

(7) Senator.


Isn't it enough that a President meet the constitutional requirements?
8.30.2008 12:27pm
amouse (mail):
I think it's misleading to lump all gubernatorial experience together. Because states and state governments are so diverse, governors from different states have wildly different levels of experience. From what I read yesterday, the Alaska state legislature meets for 90 days a year. The state is, clearly unique in ways that probably cut both for and against Palin. But being governor of Alaska, from an experiential standpoint, simply isn't in the same league as being governor of California, New York, Ohio, etc. This is to say nothing of the (usually southern) states where the legislature meets every other year.

Having an experience category of "governor" just doesn't tell you much.

Same,too, with the category of "mayor." I'm no fan of Giuliani, but there's no way his experience as mayor of NYC is in any way comparable to Palin's experience as mayor of Wasilla.
8.30.2008 12:31pm
McGee:
"As the people of Alaska are saying- great for us. Awesome for Alaska! But WTF are the mainlanders thinking?"

Quite true, as an Alaskan, I think the picture of Alsaka, given the high poverty, oil profits surplus bigger than California, and rampant drug and alchohol abuse, will be devastating. I woke to this bemused editorial. Editorial in "The Anchorage Daily News:"

"A great day for Alaska; but for the country . . .?

Alaskans were stunned and delighted that John McCain chose Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Delighted because one of our own has burst into the national spotlight. You go, girl!

Stunned because a woman from such ordinary circumstances - a self-professed hockey mom from a small Alaska town — is running for vice-president.

Alaskans are delighted because the eyes of the world will be on Alaska as Sarah Palin campaigns for the vice-presidency.

And it's stunning that someone with so little national and international experience might be heartbeat away from the presidency. . . .

Like McCain, Palin doesn't mind using government to dictate individuals' personal choices. She staunchly opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, which will help energize the religious Republican base. . . .

For all those advantages, Palin joins the ticket with one huge weakness: She's a total neophyte on national and international issues.

Her inexperience won't necessarily sink the Republican ticket. George Bush the elder picked an obscure, young Indiana U.S. senator named Dan Quayle and managed to win the presidency, despite questions about his judgment in selecting a lightweight as his running mate. In this case, McCain's selection at least has the benefit of bringing gender diversity to the Republican ticket. . . .

Gov. Palin can expect withering scrutiny on the national campaign trail, likes of which she's never seen in Alaska. If she can withstand it, Alaska may lay claim to the nation's first woman vice-president.
8.30.2008 12:46pm
Dave N (mail):
amouse,

You are right that it cuts in multiple directions. I would note that Alaska (similar to New Jersey) has a very strong governor. The only statewide elected officials in Alaska are Governor and Lieutenant Governor (in New Jersey, it is just the Governor). So while in many states, the buck stops with different elected officials, in Alaska (and New Jersey) the buck stops at the Governor's desk.
8.30.2008 12:50pm
Patrick22 (mail):
All this arguing over what is experience is silly. If you get the majority of electoral votes you are qualified to be President. It was McCain that was arguing otherwise and it is his argument that he undercut, not Obama's.

And FWIW, Mayor of Wasilla, AK is a ceremonial job with no budgetary or executive power.

Palin was Gov. of Alaska for 18 months or so. It is funny that all the Republicans are hanging their hat on that when her only budget included a $1.5 Billion windfall profits tax on oil companies that was redistributed to citizens.

Palin basically embodies every quality or policy of Obama's that McCain and the RNC has tried to attack.

McCain not only undercut every issue he has been running on, but he has given Hillary a reason to campaign for Obama. She was basically hoping he lost, so she can run again in four years. But now, if he loses, Palin is VP and the leading female politician.

An entertaining but disastrous VP pick.
8.30.2008 12:51pm
SamW:
They do without an Attorney General or elected Supreme Court? Cool.
8.30.2008 12:52pm
metro1 (mail) (www):
When it comes to experience - there are negative types of experience.

For example - Joe Biden has lots of experience plagiarizing others - he did it in law school and in 1987 during his Presidential campaign.

"Experience" is an argument where the Dems have nothing but bad news: a one-term Senator from Illinois and a serial plagiarist. Great experience.
8.30.2008 12:57pm
Dave N (mail):
They do without an Attorney General or elected Supreme Court? Cool.
Snarks without factual basis just make the poster look stupid. Judges in Alaska are appointed by the governor. So is the Attorney General of Alaska. But thank you for playing.
8.30.2008 1:15pm
SamW:
I believe that the best actual experience for being President is, in descending order:

(1) Vice President,

Doesn't that depend on what the President does with you? I mean, attending funerals is not experience for much. As VP, Harry Truman, got exactly zero experience in being President and had to fall back on his Senate expereince and his expereince with the corrupt Pendergast K.C. machine (he was "the Senator from Pendergast"). Lyndon Johnson was going to leave the VP because he was so bored and shut out, and also had to fall back on his Senate experience.
8.30.2008 1:21pm
Dave N (mail):
SamW:

See my post at 10:34. Slightly different issue, same analysis.
8.30.2008 1:27pm
SamW:
"Snarks without factual basis just make the poster look stupid. Judges in Alaska are appointed by the governor. So is the Attorney General of Alaska. But thank you for playing."

Posters with thin skins just wind up looking like ***holes. I think its cool because I think a non-election model is a good model for the third branch, at the State level. Thanks for playing and being such a loser, Dave N.
8.30.2008 1:29pm
amouse (mail):
Dave N-

The strength of the executive in the system definitely matters (see, e.g. Texas). But for me, the budget issue is more relevant. The fiscal situation in Alaska is just nowhere near that of a populous lower-48 state, must less the Federal budget. Making a good state budget and shepherding it through the legislature requires great skill in balancing interest groups, egos and short and long term interests. It is a pretty distinct skill that, like Prof. Lindgren, I think would translate pretty well into being President. However, I've seen no evidence that she's done any of that. Indeed, the WaPo chat with an Alaska reporter yesterday (sorry, can't find the link right now) he said she wasn't particularly interested in the nuts and bolts of governing. Anyone who's at all worked in or near a state government knows that there's not much worse than an uninterested or not-engaged chief executive. Now, she's only had 24 hours to introduce herself, so I'd definitely want to hear more about her record before drawing any firm conclusions, but the initial indications aren't promising.
The massive amount of oil and gas money sloshing around Alaska likely means she doesn't really have any usable experience re: making a gov't budget. I'm certainly willing to be proven wrong, but I suspect I won't.
8.30.2008 1:30pm
amouse (mail):
Link to WaPo chat:


Washington, D.C.: Why don't reporters and legislators have a high opinion of the governor?

Gregg Erickson: It is clear that she has not paid much attention to the nitty-gritty unglamorous work of government, of gaining consensus, and making difficult compromises. She seems to be of the view that politics should be all rather simple. That often appeals to the wider public, but frustrates those who see themselves as laboring in the less glamorous parts of the vineyard.
8.30.2008 1:39pm
amouse (mail):
Sorry. Link here:

8.30.2008 1:39pm
amouse (mail):
Last try. Sorry:

Link
8.30.2008 1:41pm
Dave N (mail):
amouse,

My understanding is that the Alaska budget situation is more complicated than that. According to the Permanent Fund's own website, it is not a piggybank to be raided by the Legislature, though it may spend "earned income" (as opposed to oil revenue).

While I realize it is a press release from an anti-tax group, this link provides an example of the kind of budget problems Alaska faces, despite the existence of the Permanent Fund.
8.30.2008 1:48pm
Dave N (mail):
amouse,

I would also note that the interview you linked (which is from an Alaska reporter who does not like Governor Palin, for whatever that is worth) mentions a budget problem for Alaska as well:
Gregg Erickson: One example: The Republican chair of the Alaska State House Finance budget subcommittee on Heath and Medicaid says he can't find anyone in Palin's executive office who cares about helping bring that budget under control. He is furious with her about that.
8.30.2008 1:55pm
Dave N (mail):
SamW,

My aren't you a bit touchy? I made a statement of fact. You snarked. I responded factually and lightly snarked back. You call me names. Classy.
8.30.2008 1:59pm
A.W. (mail):
Jim,

First, thanks for saying administrative experience counts more. I have said for days that on that metric, she is more qualified than all the other people in this, including mccain, combined. But even mccain has a leg up on his rivals, for he commanded fighter jets in 'nam. Its not a lot in terms of experience, but its something.

But that highlights another thing missing from your analysis: military experience. Bluntly I thought Wes Clark had more relevant experience than, say, John Kerry. Military experience matters because it means you have a history of command, so obviously rank matters. And if there is a concern that you need to be political, the modern pentagon military provides a lot of that, too.

Just sayin'. And personally I put governor higher than most of those, because it is the same job, only smaller. But that is just me. That's just details. On the over-arching point, that administrative experience matters more, we agree 100%.
8.30.2008 2:03pm
amouse (mail):
Dave N-

There's lots of good stuff in that article, accounting for the point of view of course. Alaska reporters and bloggers are never going to be as popular as they are this week.

One more thing - it's not every governor that can simply pay every state citizen $1,200 directly to ease the burden of rising gas prices. I guess Schwartzenegger could out of his own money, but then he'd have to go back to acting. Alaska's just different. She's not had to deal with a substantial budget crisis along the likes of which seem to happen in Washington annually.
8.30.2008 2:09pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
So I'm not sure where Sarah Palin is supposed to get this "foreign policy experience,"
Anyone who can deal with Eskimos and Canadians and get an 80% popularity rating from the odd people of Alaska has plenty of foreign policy experience.
It is clear that she has not paid much attention to the nitty-gritty unglamorous work of government, of gaining consensus, and making difficult compromises.
I think government would be a lot smaller and a lot better if there was less "bipartisanship." McCain-Feingold is one example.
8.30.2008 2:11pm
Dave N (mail):
amouse,

But that doesn't explain why Erickson reported that some Republican legislator was mad at her because he didn't think she was bringing the governor under control.

I would also note that one of the (many) reasons that Frank Murkowski was defeated was that he wanted to change the nature of the Permanent Fund and allow the Legislature to tap it like it was an annuity. His proposal to allow that was voted down and Murkowski's approval/disapproval rating sank to 23%-73% at the time he started his 2006 re-election campaign (where Palin defeated him in the primary).
8.30.2008 2:24pm
Dave N (mail):
error alert: But that doesn't explain why Erickson reported that some Republican legislator was mad at her because he didn't think she was bringing the governor budget under control.
8.30.2008 2:26pm
Michael B (mail):
Beltway Biden is nearly the quintessential Foghorn Leghorn of the U.S. Senate. He doesn't embody the cartoon character perfectly in all particulars, but he possesses an ample number of the personality tics and affectations such that he could easily be considered the preeminent candidate for the title of "Senator Foghorn Leghorn," v. this illustrious example, not from Thomas's hearings, but from Ginsburgs'.
8.30.2008 2:30pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

But even mccain has a leg up [regarding administrative experience] on his rivals, for he commanded fighter jets in 'nam

As far as I have been able to determine, before he was shot down, McCain commanded nothing but his single-seat aircraft. While command of self is important, I don't think it constitutes administrative experience.

Military experience matters because it means you have a history of command, so obviously rank matters.

Unfortunately, McCain will not be able to throw Congress into the brig if they don't do what he wants.
8.30.2008 2:40pm
Seamus (mail):
So how much foreign policy experience did Truman have when he got thrust into the White House by FDR's death? About as much as Palin has, IIRC.

(Of course, there are those who might say that getting us into a land war in Asia, after letting Dean Acheson effectively tell Kim il-Sung he could go ahead and invade South Korea, may have underscored the dangers of letting a lightweight like him become president. But the Korean war came after a series of successes, including breaking the Berlin blockade, keeping Greece and Turkey out of the Soviet bloc, and implementing the Marshall Plan, so I'm going to let him get by.)
8.30.2008 2:44pm
amouse (mail):
Dave N-

Agreed. My point now only is that we have more to learn and the initial indicators are, at best, mixed. With 60+ days until the election, having named an unknown, it would reflect badly on the McCain campaign to hide her away from press and town hall availabilities. If she's got the chops, let's see them. If not, we should not be left guessing. I don't think her speech this week and one debate will be enough data on which to make a judgment.

Larry A-

Governments have to pass budgets every year. (Or in the case of some states, every other year). They don't have a choice, and a smartly passed budget will make government more efficient, not less. I also don't think discretionary non-budgetary laws like McCain-Feingold are analogous to the budget. Though I suppose the staffers at the FEC might disagree, McCain-Feingold doesn't meaningfully affect the size of government, either.
8.30.2008 2:45pm
metro1 (mail) (www):
When it comes to experience - there are negative types of experience.

For example - Joe Biden has lots of experience plagiarizing others - he did it in law school and in 1987 during his Presidential campaign.

"Experience" is an argument where the Dems have nothing but bad news: a partial-term Senator from Illinois and a serial plagiarist. Great experience.

As usual, Mark Steyn has it right:

Mark Steyn's take on Governor Sarah Palin:

* * *

What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I'm not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.

* * *

Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain't run nothin' but his mouth. She's done the stuff he's merely a poseur about. Post-partisan? She took on her own party's corrupt political culture directly while Obama was sucking up to Wright and Ayers and being just another get-along Chicago machine pol (see his campaign's thuggish attempt to throttle Stanley Kurtz and Milt Rosenberg on WGN the other night).

* * *

Exactly right.

See, also, Rachel Lucas' take on Governor Sarah Palin
8.30.2008 2:47pm
Dave N (mail):
amouse,

I agree with your current position completely. I am a McCain supporter who thinks McCain took a major risk and Governor Palin will have to prove herself.

That is what the rest of the campaign will do (or not).
8.30.2008 3:26pm
MarkField (mail):

So how much foreign policy experience did Truman have when he got thrust into the White House by FDR's death?


The relevance of Truman is doubtful (as is true of most such comparisons). Basically, foreign policy experience has been very important to the US at two distinct periods in our history: from the Founding until the end of the War of 1812; and from WWII until today. What we see is that the elected Presidents during these two periods tend to have lots of foreign policy background, but during the middle period they don't. In addition, you have to account for some lag time -- Monroe and JQAdams came after the war of 1812 and they had lots of foreign policy experience because that had been the requirement before. Truman could be chosen for VP despite his lack of foreign policy experience, because it took a while to realize how important that would be. When he ran for re-election, of course, he had a great deal of OJT (and Dewey had none).

Now, this isn't a universal rule: Reagan had no foreign policy experience, JFK had little, Buchanan had a good deal of it. It's just a tendency.
8.30.2008 4:04pm
RW Rogers (mail):
Jim, somewhat off-topic, but here goes anyway: Your series of posts about Obama have been positively outstanding. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to find them because of the way Volokh Conspiracy is formatted. Any chance that you have maintained a list of them that you could share in a single post?
8.30.2008 4:19pm
Michael B (mail):
"Today I learned more about her that I like and more about her that I don't like (e.g., her view on abortion and her ridiculous and embarrassing approach to creationism)." Jim Lindgren

One of two things. Either what you learned about her "approach to creationism" is fundamentally, and perhaps beguilingly flawed or your own view of the various topics (scientific, philosophical, policy oriented, etc.) that impinge upon that issue is more than a little dubious.

Palin, on some of her more notable views on the subject, excerpt, emphases added:

"In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms:

"'I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum.'

"She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum.

"Members of the state school board, which sets minimum requirements, are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

"'I won't have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism,' Palin said.

"Palin has occasionally discussed her lifelong Christian faith during the governor's race but said teaching creationism is nothing she has campaigned about or even given much thought to.

"'We're talking about the gas line and PERS/TERS,' she said Thursday, referring to the proposed natural gas pipeline and public employee and teacher retirement systems."

h/t LGF and Solomonia
8.30.2008 5:01pm
R123:
What about Speaker of the House?
8.30.2008 6:06pm
Lewis Elion (mail):
"(e.g., her view on abortion and her ridiculous and embarrassing approach to creationism)'.

Obviously you have not read any books on the theory of origin of the species since you left high school and are not aware of the dangerous bent of science today to suppress any opposing views, non "my side" research and make the most ridiculous of conclusions based upon the flimsiest of evidence and obey even the rudiments of that scientific methodology that demands a theory be disprovable by some act somewhere. As far as abortion is concern haven't you read of when babies are babies? Again progress has been made in research showing exactly when one is murdering a helpless human.
8.30.2008 6:36pm
loki13 (mail):
Lewis,

Did the books come with crayons?

(I know, I know, lowering the level of discourse . When you can't be part of the solution, beomce a part of the problem.)
8.30.2008 6:44pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Dave N:
Yes, JFK's father was a political player, and yes, his grandfather was Mayor of Boston. But I still do not see how their skills compensated when JFK became President directly out of the Senate (and I am not crititicizing JFK in this analysis).
I didn't mean to imply that they did. (Although I think that being around politics -- or any industry -- one's whole life does give one some familiarity and comfort with it.) I was solely responding to the factual inquiry as to whether JFK's family had political experience before JFK.
8.30.2008 6:55pm
Dave N (mail):
David M. Nieporent,

Fair enough. I read more into your post than you meant.
8.30.2008 7:00pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
By the way, Dave N:
You are right that it cuts in multiple directions. I would note that Alaska (similar to New Jersey) has a very strong governor. The only statewide elected officials in Alaska are Governor and Lieutenant Governor (in New Jersey, it is just the Governor). So while in many states, the buck stops with different elected officials, in Alaska (and New Jersey) the buck stops at the Governor's desk.
We passed a constitutional amendment in NJ, so we're getting a Lieutenant Governor starting in 2010.
8.30.2008 7:00pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

the dangerous bent of science today to suppress any opposing views

True. "Big science" continually ignores my attempts to link warts with toad-handling.
8.30.2008 8:09pm
Mike99 (mail):
Obama's "brilliance and decency?" Terribly sorry, but I just don't see either one. While Obama is a Harvard educated lawyer, one's alma mater doesn't indicate any specific level of intellect, but merely provides the opportunity to attain some degree of education. Some college graduates take full advantage and thereby benefit. Others, not so much.

His accomplishments in his chosen field of law? Apparently none to which anyone can point. His accomplishments as a "community organizer?" Again, apparently none that can be listed. His accomplishments in the Illinois Senate? Apart from voting "present" for the most part to avoid leaving any legislative footprints, apparently none. His accomplishments in the U.S. Senate? Apart from spending most of his time running for president, and failing to register votes on much of the controversial legislation during his time in office, again, apparently nothing at all. He was the head of an organization in Illinois that dispensed some 100 million dollars to apparently extremely left wing groups and individuals to improve Illinois education, to apparently no effect whatever, and he and his acolytes are doing their best to keep any information about his single, failed executive endeavor from coming to light. And when out of sight of a teleprompter, Obama discovers 57 states, sees dead soldiers in the audience, stutters, endlessly ums and ahs, and has no idea whatever he really thinks about any given topic. Again, brilliance? Sorry. Just not seeing it.

And decency? Dear, oh dear. Do decent people knowingly associate with unrepentant terrorist murderers, using them for an introduction into radical Chicago politics, accepting their money, working daily with them, and their terrorist spouses who thought that the height of cool was the Manson family plunging kitchen implements in the bodies of their victims? Do they call the grandmother that raised them an "average white person," and throw them under the bus only to pull them out again when it's politically expedient? Do they tout as their spriritual mentor for 20 years a lunatic racist who damns America and preaches that the government invented AIDS to kill a minority group? Do they proclaim that they could no more abandon such racist loons than abandon their own grandmother, and then toss them under the bus when it's convenient? Do they participate in and adhere to every tenant of corrupt, Chicago machine politics? Decency? Sorry. Just not seeing that either.

Real people in the real world measure brilliance and decency not through press releases, autobiographies and intentions, but through real deeds, demonstrated over time. By the measure of real people, Obama is hardly brilliant or decent.
8.30.2008 8:20pm
loki13 (mail):

Real people in the real world measure brilliance and decency not through press releases, autobiographies and intentions, but through real deeds, demonstrated over time.


Real people measure political success with who wins elections, not who spits out more talking points in blog posts. Real people also don't make baseless attacks on people they only know through their own twisted prism. I'd love to see you (or, goodness, me) put through the wringer of either attack machine. That so little negative -despite the hype machine- has come up in the political careers and personal lives of both McCain and Obama testifies to their fundamental decency (although I prefer Obama's policies, and think McCain was a little skeevy in his treatment of his first wife; then again, he had been through a lot).
8.30.2008 8:56pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
lindgren:

I did ridicule her view, which I saw quoted online that creation science should be taught in schools along with evolution. Was that source mistaken?


No.

michael b:

what you learned about her "approach to creationism" is fundamentally, and perhaps beguilingly flawed


Wrong. That's not the problem. The problem is that you're only telling part of the story.

There's some confusion about the creationism thing, because she made two separate statements that are somewhat different in meaning. Some people are quoting one statement, and some (like you) are quoting the other. Both statements can be found in an article here. First she said this:

Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both [evolution and 'creation science'].


That's the basis for the statement that some people are making, that she said creationism should be taught in public schools. The statement is correct. That's what she said. Later on, though, in a separate interview, she said this:

I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum.


It seems be pretty clear that the latter statement is a case of backpedaling. She realized that her original spontaneous remark went a little too far. But I think it's fair to conclude that her original statement is closer to what she actually believes.
8.30.2008 8:57pm
Bobby65NY (mail):
Gov. palin is certainly more qualified than Barack Obama as far as executive leadership/decision making/leadership.My God, some people are intending to vote for a "community organizer" for President?He has spent 18 months ,of his 24 as a Senator, running for President and has ZERO legislative accomplishments to speak of. I saw that doofus Sean Hannity ask Gov. Dukakis to name 1 achievement of Obama as a community organizer or Senator and Dukakis tried to cange the subject faster than Usain Bolt runs!What a joke. I'm an Independent voter (Reagan,Bush 41, Perot, Clinton,Bush,Kerry is my history) and Obama is scary to imagine as President.He is a wholly media made creation and their fawning over his every move,Chris Matthews,Olbermann, is embarassing and unprofessional.How can you argue theres no media bias when you see that stuff?Its embarassing.How could a Democrat really think Obama is more qualified than Biden,Dodd or so many others?At least McCain was the best pick for the Republicans.No matter where you stand you cannot question his honor,integrity and courage.Read about his p.o.w. days.Its inspiring how courageous he was.I'll vote for him.
8.30.2008 9:58pm
loki13 (mail):
metro1,

Please go back to a place where your posting style is more appreciated. Continuously cross-posting the same tired points over and over (and over) again does not make them stronger, and responding to (relatively) non-partisan posts with that drivel is not the way to win friends and influence people.
8.31.2008 12:20am
RAH (mail):
This dovetails into my thinking and experience and effectiveness. Palin seems to be an exceptional natural leader and very charismatic also. The political foes that fell to her in an entrenched political system is amazing.
8.31.2008 12:25am