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.
Gov. Palin is a classic Alaska story. She is an example of the opportunity our state offers to those with talent, initiative and determination.
Selecting Palin may prove to be a brilliant political stroke for McCain. Like him, she’s an independent who bucked her party establishment and has worked with liberal Democrats. She’s an ethics-reforming outsider who will help blunt Barack Obama’s claim to be the candidate of change in Washington.
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.
But as governor, she has downplayed those hot-button social issues. Soft-pedaling her convictions in those areas may help her appeal to women disillusioned by Hillary Clinton’s absence from the Democratic ticket.
Palin’s husband is a blue-collar union worker, which may help the ticket appeal to economically anxious Americans who have lost ground after eight years of George Bush.
Palin is comfortable around guns and snow machines and fishing boats. She has a son in the military, soon to be deployed to Iraq. Those non-traditional female credentials help communicate the toughness that Republicans want to project in their campaign. Her youth and good looks are a handy complement to McCain, who is the oldest first-time presidential candidate in U.S. history.
McCain’s choice of Palin was somewhat surprising because she most definitely is not a standard-issue Republican. She worked with liberal Democrats in the Legislature to pass a multi-billion-dollar tax increase on Alaska’s oil industry. She went back to Democrats again to win approval of her natural gas pipeline deal, which bypasses Alaska’s major oil companies in favor of a Canadian company.
In fact, Palin is almost totally alienated from the Republican Party establishment here. She tried and failed to get rid of ethically compromised party Chair Randy Ruedrich; they’re not on speaking terms. In the August primary, Palin urged fellow Republicans to desert long-time Congressman Don Young in favor of her inexperienced and uninspiring Lt. Governor, Sean Parnell.
McCain picked Palin despite a recent blemish on her ethically pure resume. While she was governor, members of her family and staff tried to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the Alaska State Troopers. Her public safety commissioner would not do so; she forced him out, supposedly for other reasons. While she runs for vice-president, the Legislature has an investigator on the case.
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.
A bold stroke for gender diversity didn’t work in 1984 for Democrat Walter Mondale, who lost in a landslide despite selecting the first woman to be on a national ticket.
Gov. Palin will have to spend the next two months convincing Americans that she’s ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. She got off to a good start on that score, with a well-executed speech Friday accepting McCain’s offer. With her family story, talk of her political independence, and graceful acknowledgment of Hillary Clinton’s historic candidacy, she projected a likable, competent image.
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.
What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers
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