Monday, September 08, 2008

Qualifications Don't Matter?

At the American Conservative, Dan Larison continues to display shell shock over McCain's choice of Palin:
But one sign in Albuquerque may have summed it up for Republican stalwarts: “Sarah - you had us at hello.” ~The Los Angeles Times
That really is the point, isn’t it? All Palin had to do was to show up, and these people were overjoyed regardless of what Palin had or hadn’t done. Much of the enthusiastic response from rank-and-file Republicans seems to be based in a simple desire for validation from the higher-ups, and in satisfying this disturbing hunger for approval it is as if all of McCain’s errors are forgiven and forgotten. This is exactly what Bush thought would happen when he nominated Harriet Miers on the assumption that evangelicals and religious conservatives would see her as one of them, and to some extent that is what happened. When the Bush administration tried to browbeat critics of the Miers nomination (which, I must stress, was a terrible nomination) with accusations of sexism and elitism, the same kinds of people who are now flinging those charges at Palin’s critics were outraged and became even more fiercely opposed to Miers.
What's the difference this time? Larison expresses concern about the "irrationality of mass democracy" and suggests why individual voters might react differently to the two situations. But the difference isn't coming from the bottom. I suspect that the "grass roots" would be as hostile to Palin as they were to Miers if they were told by their opinion leaders that they should oppose Palin. The difference is, key opinion leaders are ecstatic about Palin because they believe she is firmly wedded to a particular orthodoxy, and to them that is far more important than any understanding of the issues, experience, or objective qualification. They were uncertain about Miers - did she hold their political beliefs, and if so was she sufficiently dogmatic in her beliefs that she could be counted on to consistently hold their way as a Supreme Court Justice - so they advocated against her. They don't have those doubts about Palin.

You want to talk sexism? Take William Kristol, who can't seem to avoid making treacly, condescending comments about women.
Look the only people for Hillary Clinton are the Democratic establishment and white women… it would be crazy for the Democratic party to follow the establishment that’s led them to defeat year after year… White Women are a problem - but, you know… we all live with that…
“It’s the tears. She pretended to cry, the women felt sorry for her, and she won [the New Hampshire primary].”
If not Pawlenty or Romney, how about a woman, whose selection would presumably appeal to the aforementioned anguished Hillary supporters?
When speaking about men, Kristol finds experience to be of the utmost importance:
The two leading G.O.P. prospects have been Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor, and Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. But with Biden’s foreign policy experience as a contrast, could McCain assure voters that the young Pawlenty is ready to take over, if need be, as commander in chief?
What word would Kristol give to his application of a different standard to the genders, such that what disqualifies a man in no way disqualifies a woman?
Should voters be alarmed by a relatively young or inexperienced vice-presidential candidate? No.
Kristol didn't suddenly triumph over his misogynistic tendencies. He's comfortable with Palin's rigidity on certain issues he deems key, and thus to him her inexperience and lack of qualification is irrelevant. One moment he's lobbying for Lieberman, and in almost the next breath he's lobbying for Palin. While I have joked about the differences between those candidates, let's not overlook the commonalities near and dear to Kristol's heart - with her sincere Pentecostal beliefs she is unlikely to retreat from the Iraq war, and perhaps broader war in the Middle East, Kristol is comfortable that her positions on the war align with her own. Just as he was comfortable with Lieberman's dogmatism on the war.

Note also that although Kristol was quick and strong in his dismissal of Pawlenty on the basis of inexperience, his lobbying for the choice of Palin long predates that column. There was not one sincere word in his opposition to Pawlenty.

Even now, as he defends his vice presidential candidate of choice, Kristol finds himself unable to speak to her merits. Instead he sneers at the media for daring to ask such questions as,
Who is Sarah Palin to suddenly show up on the national stage? We didn’t vet her. And we don’t approve of her.
You know, a media reaction like this:
I'm disappointed because I expected John McCain to nominate someone with a visible and distinguished track record on the national issues - someone like Joseph Lieberman, Condoleezza Rice, or Mitt Romney - to say nothing of Elizabeth Dole, Meg Whitman and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Sarah Palin has an impressive record as a small town mayor and a couple of years as governor. She has no national or foreign policy credentials that I know of.

I'm depressed. Having polls this close meant everything rode on this nomination - and that McCain had to be ready to choose a strong nominee. Apparently, he wasn't. It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that McCain flinched from a fight on social issues. Palin is undoubtedly a decent and competent person. But her selection will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of McCain.

I'm demoralized. What does this say about a possible McCain administration - leaving aside for a moment the future of the country? Surely this is a pick from weakness. Is McCain more broadly so weak? What are the prospects for a strong McCain presidency? What are the prospects for gaining solid GOP majorities in Congress in 2008 if conservatives are demoralized? And what elected officials will step forward to begin to lay the groundwork for conservative leadership after McCain?
Yes, that approach is absolutely deplorable when you're not at the heart of it. Then it was "How dare they call us sexist for opposing a clearly unqualified candidate." Now it's, "Qualifications don't matter, and it's sexist to even look at her history as governor and mayor." The common theme? People like Kristol spin up accusations of sexism as a shield against addressing the issues - why is Miers unqualified, or why is Palin qualified?

The Vice President has two job responsibilities. First, she presides over the Senate and casts an occasional tie-breaking vote. Second, she sits around waiting to see if the President dies, in which case she assumes his office. Kristol assures us that this second role is some sort of historical footnote.
Should voters be alarmed by a relatively young or inexperienced vice-presidential candidate? No. Since 1900, five vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency during their term in office: Teddy Roosevelt in 1901, Calvin Coolidge in 1923, Harry Truman in 1945, Lyndon Johnson in 1963, and Gerald Ford in 1974. Teddy Roosevelt took over at age 42, becoming our youngest president, and he’s generally thought to have proved up to the job. Truman was V.P. for less than three months and had been kept in the dark by Franklin Roosevelt about such matters as the atom bomb — and he’s generally thought to have risen to the occasion. Character, judgment and the ability to learn seem to matter more to success as president than the number of years one’s been in Washington.
Did you catch that? Experience is irrelevant even in a President, because what really matters is "Character, judgment and the ability to learn". I suppose that makes this comment a demonstration of media misogyny?
And what exactly is her extensive experience in foreign policy or in anything? She's been a senator for six years. Obama's been a senator for two years. So, I mean, big deal.

She hasn't passed any legislation. He hasn't either. She sat in the White House while her husband was president.
And let's not forget Kristol's sneering at Obama's inexperience. Asserting different standards for a white candidate than a... no, let's not play Kristol's game on that one.


  1. You feel completely comfortable sneering at others that discount Palin's inexperience, but rejoicing when Obama has none because it makes him an outsider?

    Oh, I forgot, I can't question Obama because he is... a fraud.

  2. Is this what I get for telling you not to flame-bait in political discussions? I hate to see you work so hard to prove my point.

  3. Aw. You make the nicest friends.

  4. It's funny that the writers at the magazine Buchanan founded (American Conservative / AmConMag) seem to almost all hate Palin, but Buchanan appears to have found true love. When he described Palin as "one of us" and Obama as "one of them", although he tried to explain it in political and religious terms, did anybody really miss what "one of them" meant? I mean, could the subtext be more obvious?


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