August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin, Not Qualified

After the American Century

John McCain has selected as his running mate a person who clearly is not qualified to be president. Palin has a BA degree in journalism and mass media from the University of Idaho in Moscow. Danish readers may think a degree in journalism suggests a high quality person who managed to get into a very competitive program. But all state colleges and universities have such departments in the US, and they are not hard to get into. Palin attended not a top school, nor a second rank school, but a mediocre school located in Moscow, Idaho. Anyone spending a few minutes looking at their current faculty will see that there appears to be not a single scholar of distinction among them. Look at the curriculum, and it is evident that history, law, critical thinking, and other vital subjects one might expect of a president are all lacking.

So armed with this light-weight degree from a third-rate institution, Palin returned to Alaska, lived in a small town, had five children, and got involved in politics. All very admirable, but note that Alaskan politics are nothing like politics in the other 49 American Studies. Alaska continually elects Republicans, and is close to being a one-party state. Alaska has no state income tax, because its oil revenues are so large. Indeed, all residents of Alaska get a check each year from the State government, from the oil surplus. The financial problems faced by all other US states are entirely different. Being governor of a state with such a surplus does not prepare one to deal with ordinary economies. Furthermore, Palin has a bit less than two years of experience as governor, being elected as a reformer as part of a protest against extensive corruption in the Republican Party in Alaska. All that oil money washing around gets tempting.

It appears that Ms. Palin is not corrupt, which is something of course, though she is under investigation for abuse of power. She fired a state employee, apparently because he would not dismiss her ex brother-in-law, who seems a nasty piece of work who beat up her sister. One assumes that this heart-warming story of family values in action will be explored mercilessly in the coming weeks.

How did McCain come up with this mistaken nomination? We know that he cannot use computers, but perhaps his staff can. Imagine that they put into a data base the names of all Republicans holding state and national offices. Then they selected a running mate based on ideal criterea. The running mate should be under 50 to counter McCain's age, married with children, anti-abortion since his record is a bit weak on that, pro-gun ownership, a Bible-thumper to satisfy the Huckabee fanatics, and a completely unknown woman, to show that McCain really is a maverick. Once all the candidates were sorted with these criterea in mind, there was only one left: Sarah Palin!

I thought George Bush Sr. would always keep the prize for choosing the least qualified person to be president, in Dan Quayle. He was a pretty face behind which yawned a vast empty space where the mind can usually be located. He was the man who made himself immortal by apologizing to a group of Latin American leaders, by saying, "I'm sorry I do not speak Latin." But Sarah Palin looks like such a strong entry in the incompetent-nominee Veepstakes that Bush, Sr. has good reason to be worried. I'll bet, for starters, that Palin doesn't speak Latin either.

John McCain has failed the first important test of his leadership. He has selected a person too provincial. too poorly educated, and too inexperienced to be a plausible replacement for himself. She has no knowledge of the law, no experience operating in a state with normal economic problems, and no foreign policy experience. Compared to Joe Biden, there is no contest at all.

By himself, John McCain is a disquieting, backward-looking candidate, who is out of touch with computer technologies and the problems of ordinary people. I thought that was bad enough. But add Ms. Palin, and the Republicans have a grossly unacceptable team. It is inconceivable that any major European political party would run a person with so few qualifications as their number two candidate. Actually, until Dan Quayle it was inconceivable that the Amercans would.

I want to thank John McCain for this wonderful blunder, which should make the next two months much more entertaining - not least because many Republicans and some of media apparently do not yet see that she is not qualified.