Reassessing Palin:

I don't think that Sarah Palin did badly in the debate tonight. But at the same time, I do have to say that I'm not particularly impressed with her overall performance over the last few weeks. Certainly, I'm not as optimistic about her as I was in this post in August. As in August, I'm only modestly concerned about her lack of experience (though it would be better to have a Veep nominee with greater foreign policy background, as I pointed out at that time). But I am somewhat disturbed by her apparent lack of knowledge about various important issues.

I'm not going to go through the litany of her various gaffes. They have been extensively documented elsewhere. Taken individually, many of them are probably defensible - explicable by her getting tongue-tied or having a bad day or other random factors. However, the sheer number of them does suggest that she really does lack knowledge on some of these issues and that the gaffes are not just aberrations (or at least that many of them aren't).

As I have said before, my main reason for viewing a McCain-Palin victory as the lesser of evils in this election is that it is the only way to maintain divided government, which I view as an important obstacle to growth in the size and scope of government; it is particularly important given the extensive big government agenda outlined by Barack Obama, which he will be able to implement with the help of a strongly Democratic Congress. I also still think that Palin is more libertarian then most other major-party politicians, though she certainly ran away from that with her populist rhetoric in tonight's debate (probably for tactical reasons).

At the same time, ignorance about major domestic and foreign policy issues is a negative for a leader who, if McCain wins, will be within a heartbeat of the presidency - a presidency held by a 73-year old man whose health could deteriorate. No president can actually be an expert on the full range of issues faced by modern government; there are far too many of them. But it is important for him or her to have a basic knowledge that on some important issues Palin seems to lack. Palin probably has the ability to increase her knowledge. Ignorance, as I have often pointed out, is not the same thing as stupidity. She is a capable politician who has been successful in previous offices. However, other things equal, I would prefer a VP who doesn't require on the job training.

I don't think that Palin's weaknesses on this point should be decisive in choosing whom to vote for this fall. There are too many other vastly more important issues. Even when I was more positive about Palin than I am now, I still said that her "presence on the [Republican] ticket" made it only "marginally more appealing" to me. However, because I did give a more positive assessment of her in this space in the past, I thought it would be appropriate to share my revised views. At this point, what was once in my mind a marginal positive is at best a wash; her libertarian tendencies are to a large extent offset by her apparent ignorance on various key issues. Among other things, that ignorance would make it more difficult for her to influence policy in a libertarian direction in a McCain-Palin administration.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Debate:
  2. Reassessing Palin:
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The Debate:

Now that the VP Debate is behind us, I'm actually relieved that it produced no stunning gaffes or garbled nonsense from either candidate. Biden was solid, and Palin did not sound as hopelessly out-of-her-league as she did when talking to Katie Couric.

Good. We can, perhaps, take a collective deep breath. We all know what we need to know about Palin, one way or the other. Those who think (like me) that she is not competent to be President of the United States saw nothing last night to suggest that she is, while those who think otherwise, I’m sure, feel that her performance vindicated their view. No “game-changers,” as they say, so we can turn our attention away from questions about the virtues of small town life, moose hunting, and whether Sarah Palin reads newspapers or not, and return to the only real question that matters in this election: Who is going to get the United States out of the colossal and potentially catastrophic mess it finds itself in at this moment? Anyone not terrified by the news from the financial markets isn’t paying attention. This election looks so much like the 1932 election it’s eerie. The Republicans have been in power for a considerable period of time. The Stock Market has crashed, and the champagne has stopped flowing on Wall Street. A liquidity crisis is looming; in the old days, when things moved more slowly, it took several years to set in, but we’re unlikely to have that long a window this time. The Democrats have nominated the Brilliant Orator (whom many belittle as some kind of effete intellectual snob, or even a “socialist”); the Republicans have put forth Herbert Hoover – a very smart and capable man without much of an idea about what has gone wrong with the economy or how to fix it. (McCain even looks like Hoover, for crying out loud). The '32 election changed the course of the 20th century. So if we’re going to argue about something (and we are, and we should), that’s what we should be arguing about.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Debate:
  2. Reassessing Palin:
Comments