I've been sort of making a conscious decision not to weigh in too much, or at all really, on the U.S. presidential election. This for a few reasons: One, I'm not in the U.S. Two, I'm trying to support some political positions that I consider important and I don't necessarily want to muddy that by supporting individual politicians. (Though, I will say, and have said, that I long considered John McCain to be the only serious person on either side of the nomination process.) And, three, I haven't felt like I've had a ton of value to add on this to date.
But, throughout last night and today, I've gotten to the point of just having to say something. So, let me just say two words about Sarah Palin. SARAH PALIN!!!!! This woman is just awesome. It's been said in some quarters that her selection to be John McCain's running mate is nothing short of electrifying. Well, I for one am well and truly electrified.
Here are just a few reasons why I think she's the best thing since sliced anything. (Note: if you'd rather hear her, than me talking about her and I'd probably recommend this jump straight down and catch her speech at the announcement event.)
- She's an only-in-America story. A child of a school teacher and school secretary, she joined the PTA, got elected to the city council, got elected as mayor and then became the youngest and first woman mayor of Alaska. Now she's a heartbeat away from being a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Only in America.
- The people she represents adore her. Her approval ratings as governor have been as high as 90% and rarely lower than 80%. People who know her say she is smart, tough as nails, principled, and effective. Everything I read about her so far and I've been reading everything I can bears this up.
- She has a life, not just a political career. She's a mother of five, she's worked as a TV news broadcaster, she's managed a commercial fishing operation with her husband, and she runs marathons (among other things).
- Speaking of which, she was point guard and captain of her high school basketball team where she earned the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" for her aggressive style of play. She won the state championship by hitting a free throw in the last seconds, despite a stress fracture in her ankle. (I confess I was previously kind of excited that Obama might be our first Basketball-American president. Happily settle for VP.)
- Her record of accomplishments. She's battled and rooted out government corruption including and in particular in her own party; she's cut property taxes and cancelled pork barrel projects (such as the Bridge to Nowhere); she's taken on the oil companies to promote energy independence and protect the interests of Alaskans; she's fearlessly taken on the good-ole boy network.
- She's a total Washington outsider a real citizen-statesperson, of the kind we've had way too few of pretty much since Jefferson.
- She's a lifetime member of the NRA. A lot of people will hate this, and fair enough. She's also a moose-hunter which, as an animal-rights person, I'm not too keen on. But you can't agree with everyone on everything. (Like the ACLU, the NRA gets a very biased and unfair rap from some quarters, with little recognition of the critical Constitutional arguments they put forth.) But I think we can all agree there's something very cool about a former beauty queen (did I mention she was runner-up Miss Alaska entering beauty contests to help pay for college?) who hunts moose (which can stand 7ft at the shoulder and weigh well over 1000 pounds), and then cook up a mean mooseburger. (The Times of London yesterday introduced her to Britain as "a 44-year-old, moose-hunting, mother of five". Wow.)
- Speaking of her children she's staunchly pro-life. A lot of people will dislike this, too. For the record, I'm personally pro-choice. That said, Roe v Wade is a lousy piece of Constitutional law. And, much more critically and to the point, I recognise that if you think a fetus is a person, then being opposed to people having the right to end that person's life is an entirely consistent position to hold. In fact, you wouldn't want those people to hold any other position. I don't want to get into a huge abortion discussion; I just want to say that I don't expect pro-life people to agree with me, and I don't want to try and make them. What I actually want to say is that it's easy enough to be pro-life in principle until you're facing a difficult pregnancy or a handicapped child. Well, Sarah Palin's fifth child was diagnosed with having Down's Syndrome; and she gave birth to that baby. There are probably a few ways you can feel about this, too. As a coda, I'll add only the words of a doctor in my debate club: He noted that there's sort of a "eugenics light" going on these days, at least in Britain because of pre-natal screening, lots of problem babies, including and in particular Downs Syndrome babies, are being aborted. And, he concluded, he finds this kind of a shame, because: "If you're ever met or interacted with people with Downs Syndrome, they're really, really nice people." Anyway. A principle is something you hold even when it stops being convenient to do so.
- Speaking of which, her eldest son enlisted in the Army at age 18. He was inducted last September 11th. And this September 11th he will deploy to Iraq with the infantry. Your feelings about the war will be what they are; but this young man is choosing to serve. Somewhat taught him about the debts of citizenship, and the obligation of service. And we may soon have a President and VP both with children in theatre. Certainly you'd prefer that to politicians sending other people's children to war.
- Speaking of which, she's head of the Alaska National Guard and has traveled to Kuwait to visit those troops deployed in theatre.
- Experience. The Obama campaign wasted .0005 seconds before rushing out of the gate to attack this woman as being inexperienced. Well, in point of fact, she started serving in elected office in 1992. Obama started in 1997. That's five years longer. And she has exactly infinitely more executive experience than Obama's none: She's run a company, a town, and a state. Obama's run, to borrow from the Reverend Jackson, "nothing but his mouth". Compare records of accomplishments his consists of writing autobiographies and running for president.
- And she's about to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? Hell, yeah, I say! It's long past time that we had our first female head of state. They've got one now in New Zealand. They had the Iron Lady in 1979 in Great Britain. And Israel had theirs (the incomparable Golda Meir) in 1969.
If, like most of us, you're new to Palin, you can get her background from Wikipedia here. Or, better yet, if you haven't seen it, here's Palin's introduction to the world at the rally in Dayton where McCain announced her as his pick. (Oh I should add to that list that they played Van Halen at the opening and closing of this event. I'm not a huge Van Halen fan, but I do love that song.) And another addition she's a fantastic speaker! If you're in a hurry and want to hear her, and not McCain, jump to the 3rd and 4th segments.