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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The real problem with Sarah Palin

It should come as no surprise that Republican presidential candidate John McCain chose, at long last, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate.

Wait, no, the announcement came as a huge surprise.

After making such a big stink about Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama being “unqualified” for the office of president, surely the choice of Palin raises some eyebrows. One wonders if they considered doing a Gallup poll to see if the most common response to the choice was “Really?” or “Sarah who?”

Thus far, the media has largely focused on a few issues that make her choice as a VP candidate highly questionable – namely her lack of experience, the fact that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, and her gender.

These issues do not concern me for the most part. She lacks experience in some areas. Governing Alaska, whose population the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau placed at just barely over 670,000, is hardly equitable to governing the entire nation’s over 300 million citizens. Her most notable qualification before becoming governor was being mayor of a town with a population of less than 10,000. This would tend to make her foreign policy credentials highly circumspect at best, which is troubling given the image the U.S. has been cultivating abroad lately.

Experience, however, should not be a heavily discussed issue among these candidates. As much as Democrats are wont to point out her gross inexperience, Obama is not terribly well versed in foreign policy himself. Moreover, despite his much more extensive legislative experience (he has served as either a state or U.S. Senator since 1997), Obama has not governed a state or even a town. To combat their inadequacies, however, Obama has Joe Biden and Palin has John McCain, not to mention the cabinet either potential administration would set up. Simply put, if either ticket wins, the United States won’t go to hell in a hand-basket because of political experience (you’ll note the qualifier in that statement).

What goes on in the personal life of Palin’s daughter isn’t really my concern, your concern or the nation’s concern. Her daughter is not a candidate, what she does is her business; nor should it reflect positively or negatively on Palin that her daughter is pregnant. Whether or not you see the fact that she’s 17 and pregnant as a good thing or a bad thing is your own personal judgment call, and it has no business being talked about in the same breath as national politics (except to say so, like I just did).

What do concern me about McCain’s VP choice are her political machinations while she was a mayor. Information about her dealings there has become increasingly public due to the voracious appetite of the world’s most intense vetting process: American political journalists.

Several news reports, most notably from The New York Times, have said that she is one of the first, if not the first, mayoral candidate in Alaska to bring political parties into play. City elections are supposed to be non-partisan. That didn’t stop Palin from securing advertisements from the Republican Party of Alaska.

Palin’s practices once she became mayor are what trouble me the most. As soon as she assumed office, she either asked for the resignation or fired city employees who she didn’t feel “supported her administration.” Two of the employees were the police chief and librarian. Local residents and former city officials have said that Palin approached the librarian about the idea of banning certain books from the library (nobody was able to say which books).

The librarian ended up keeping her job and no books were banned; in a letter to the local paper Palin described the talks about banning books as rhetorical. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t like the idea of anybody in the executive branch even entertaining thoughts on censorship, rhetorical or otherwise. And while it’s true that city employees serve at the pleasure of the mayor (as a judge noted when he ruled against the police chief in a wrongful termination suit), firing someone with over 20 years of experience as a policeman because he doesn’t agree with you seems like a poor choice.

Additionally, Palin’s mayoral campaign ran with a strong undertone of religion, touting the fact that she is a born again Christian, while her opponent described himself as “not a church-going guy.” I look for several things in my political leaders; religious affiliation is not one of them. What they want to do on their own time is their business, and it shouldn’t enter into the equation of whether or not they can govern.

Attempting to censor books and opinions (religious or otherwise) are not qualities I want in someone who could wind up being president.

One wishes that McCain had spent more time vetting and chosen a more viable candidate than make such a shallow choice intended to pander to the religious right and women voters no longer able to vote for Hillary Clinton.


RICHARD PROCTER wants readers of last week’s column to know that Sarah Palin could also be called “Princess who serves at tables,” at least according to his research. E-mail him yours at rhprocter@ucdavis.edu.


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