Friday, September 05, 2008

Will This Dog Hunt?

It's been a week since John McCain announced his choice for his running mate as vice president and I still can't get over it.

I was in Greenwich, Connecticut last Friday afternoon sitting at a local watering hole killing some time until my train back to New Haven arrived, when I saw the news on CNN that he had selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin. My first thought; somebody has stolen the plot of the movie "Dave" and turned it into the GOP ticket!

The idea that Palin is capable of running this country in the event that McCain wins the election and is unable to, is totally preposterous.

Having served as the mayor of a Podunk town hardly qualifies her to be on the ticket. And anyone who tries to dismiss her lack of experience by saying, "She's only running for the No. 2 job," as columnist William Kristol wrote Monday in The New York Times, has not learned the lesson of the death of Tim Russert: anyone, of any age, can suddenly drop dead without any warning.

Less than two years serving as the governor of Alaska shouldn't put her in the express lane to heartbeat away from the presidency.

I know, the Republicans keep talking about all of the decisions she has had to have made as the state's chief executive. Like what? Deciding whether to extend the ice fishing season by an additional two weeks?

Only two states have fewer inhabitants than Alaska. Although it's the largest state by area, about 65 percent of the land in Alaska is owned by the federal government.

It's also the least densely populated state. At 700,000 residents it's smaller in population than San Francisco. And in San Francisco all of those people are packed into 47 square miles.

And unlike San Francisco, Alaska pays people to live there.

And then there was the bombshell that was dropped on Monday, when it was revealed that Palin's 17 year old daughter was five months pregnant.

After my post Tuesday where I made mention of Palin's daughter being in a "family way," several readers wrote to me.

Lou Cannon, former reporter for the Washington Post, the author of several books and a regular reader of this blog, thought I was wrong to bring Palin's family into the debate.

Sure, statistically, teenage marriages have a high rate of failure but the stats about teenage single mothers also aren't encouraging. And in any case these are people, not statistics. Obama had it right when he said this discussion shouldn't be part of our politics.

I'm the first to agree, her kids ought to be left out of this. But the way she has chosen to spin the circumstance of her daughter's pregnancy is fair game for criticism, starting with the way she made the announcement.

Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned.

So much for McCain's "straight talk express."

Are we to assume this is typical of the way Palin will deliver bad news to the country?

What about simply saying, "Our daughter is pregnant and she will be keeping the baby."

And what about Palin's apparent approval of her 17 year old daughter marrying the 18 year old father?

Although it may have been "the right thing to do" at one time, I think we are past that point in our society when you marry someone simply because you have gotten them pregnant. Two wrongs don't make a right. The pregnancy was obviously unwanted and a "mistake" and to compound that mistake by seemingly approving of her daughter's marriage to the 18 year old father, I think, says volumes about the Governor's social standards and judgment.

Sarah Stephanie Calkins wrote in to say:

I too am troubled about the idea of marriage for this girl. But what troubles me even more is the fact that this daughter was hung out to dry. What should have been a very private matter was made public for political reasons for her mother's and McCain's benefit. Now her personal situation is being played out on the national and world stage and as a parent I find it disgusting that her parents put themselves in the public arena where this was bound to happen. Talk about a sacrificial lamb!

And if she really was aware of her daughter's pregnancy before she was asked by McCain to be her VP, then I too have to question her judgment by accepting a spot on the ticket. By electing to go forward and run for vice president, Palin ensured that her daughter's teenage pregnancy would come to light and be the subject of ridicule that it is. McCain says that Obama "would rather win an election than win a war." I say that Palin would rather be on the Republican ticket than protect her daughter's privacy.

Reader Sandy Starkey had this comment:

More troubling than her notion that marriage will solve the problem is that she might some day have the power to deny others their right to choose. If her daughter chooses to marry, okay. We know that choice is probably a tragic one, but hey, it's her daughter's funeral, right?

One of the more sage observations I've seen on this issue came not in response to what I wrote in this blog but rather, in a letter to the editor that was published in the New York Times Wednesday by UCSB professor Gayle Binion, who had this to say:

Given that Governor Palin is willing to impose her views on private family matters on others, in terms of her opposition to abortion and her commitment to abstinence-only sex education, it is legitimate to question such a parent's responsibilities to her children. In pursuing the vice-presidential nomination, was Ms. Palin willing to put her ambitions ahead of the interests of her daughter? Surely she knew that her nomination would bring worldwide attention to her daughter's pregnancy. Is this a positive example of commitment to family values?


So how did Palin end up being on the ticket? Her opposition to abortion must have been the overriding factor which caused McCain to pass over more qualified candidates who happened to be pro choice.

Cannon, who hastened to point out that he believes the Palin nomination was unwise, faults McCain for choosing her rather than Palin for accepting. "I've never known a politician who felt he (or she) was unqualified for any office."

Or a blogger who felt he was unqualified to express an opinion.