Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Sarah Palin Chronicles - Volume 3

The Sarah Palin phenomenon has finally peaked, so maybe now we can figure out who she really is and do we want her for VP. We have just under 2 months of this ongoing job interview, where the nation’s voters can evaluate which pair of candidates are best for the job openings in January 2009.

Is She Ready?

Clearly Sarah is and has always been ready for almost anything. Growing up in Alaska, she has learned self-reliance and has developed both poise and self-confidence, needed for any position of public leadership.

In reality the US VP is like a “minister without portfolio” – clearly an advisor of the President, but unlike the Secretary of State or Defense, the VP is without a specific role in the Administration. As such, she seems to be the kind of person who could do whatever McCain would ask of her. But she doesn't have years of experience to provide the insight and wisdom that other more experienced politicians could give.

Being a heart-beat away from the big job, is she ready for that? Clearly, she has the self-confidence to step up to Chief Executive. But does she have the knowledge, experience, perspective, and judgment to be President?

That’s what we need to think carefully about.

Let me go over what I know about Sarah and how a New Libertarian Socialist would evaluate her for the job of VP.

What about her religious beliefs?

As a Libertarian, I believe we are all entitled to whatever religious beliefs we wish to uphold. And I would not discriminate for or against her based on these beliefs. Yes, they may influence her political philosophy and decisions she may make in office. But I look to her record in office to see how religious beliefs have or have not impacted her actions.

My review of her terms as City Councilor, Mayor and Governor does not reveal any actions that emanate from her religious beliefs. As Councilor, she supported allowing bars to stay open late, even though her denomination opposes the use of alcohol. Yes, there was a controversy about banning of books, but no books were actually banned. Yes, there were times she invoked the name of God in relation to the war in Iraq, but she has explained the context of that quote.

So, what about her pro-life stance? As a Libertarian, I do not believe the state should limit the access to safe abortion. While Libertarians are strongly for life and liberty, I don’t believe that politicians or state/federal bureaucrats have the moral authority or wisdom to draw the line between when abortion should be legal and when it should be illegal.

All that said, my evaluation of Sarah considers what a VP would do about abortion of other pro-life issues. The answer: probably nothing!

Republican VPs Bush, Quayle, and Cheney, though elected on a pro-life platform, did absolutely nothing in any official capacity to limit abortion. Only another Supreme Court decision or a constitutional amendment would fully reverse Roe v. Wade. So there is little chance she might every do anything that would change the availability of abortion in the nation.

My conclusion: her religious beliefs will have no significant impact on her performance as VP.

What about her knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs?

Clearly, her experience as Governor gives her an understanding of the oil industry and environmental issues. But on other issues from health care to the national economy to foreign affairs, she still has much to learn. As VP, she’ll have time to learn on the job. If she has to move up to the Oval Office, she would have to be dependent on advisors to develop both positions and policy, at least initially.

On the other hand, our current President is not exactly the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Clearly, Cheney and the Cabinet are creating policy and making most of the decisions. If GWB is the benchmark, Sarah at least can talk coherently and run circles around Bush as a communicator!

My conclusion: not quite ready for prime time, but willing and able to learn. If nothing else, she can communicate effectively with the American pubic.

What about her decision making? Her ability to work with the legislative branch? Her skills in executive office?

Here we’ve seen some mixed results. As Mayor, she was able to cut some taxes and use bonds for public works (road, sewers, bike paths), but also created a new tax for a sports complex. As Governor, the gas pipeline deal shows an ability to work across party lines and made more progress than previous administrations.

The “bridge to nowhere” illustrates a flip-flopping. She was pro-bridge in her run for Governor, but 8 months in office, she cancelled the project when gained national fame as an example of pork barrel spending. Then, there are reports in the New York Times and USA Today about vendettas, firing of officials who crossed her, valuing loyalty over competency, and blurred the line between government and personal grievance. That are disputed interpretations of these events is evident of partisan interpretations.

Running for Governor, she championed ethics reform and was to enact a bipartisan ethics reform bill.

My conclusion: Hmmm. Can be effective with bipartisan legislation. Sometimes changes opinion with the political winds. Overall, she is all over the board on taxes (she’s cut some, raised others), and her bipartisan effectiveness also blurs her actual opinions. But not following any strict partisian pattern could be a sign of someone who can think for herself – thinking for oneself gains points with me. Now the controversy over alleged vendettas and cronyism is somewhat par for the course for many a politician. But anyone who values loyalty over competency looses points with me.

Overall Grade: B-

What about Sarah as Sarah?

Despite many differences in political and religious views, I have to say I still like Sarah. I have to respect her for being one of those women who can do a good job of balancing work and family. Though an urban creature, I am fascinated by the wilderness and sheer beauty of her native Alaska. And like me, she is a mix of English, Irish and German. And I just love that cute little Piper Palin! So, I’m still fascinated by this VP candidate.

Would I Vote for her?

That’s the big question. Unless we’re convinced that McCain isn’t healthy enough to last a full term, we’re really not voting for or against Sarah – we’re voting for McCain or Obama. And with either candidate, we also more or less get their party platform, policies, and advisors.

So, I get to escape without answering the question. My decision will be based on the policies of McCain and Obama and how I think each would govern. That’s something for another blog entry.

[But here's a hint: I can't trust McCain 2008 -- is he the "old" McCain who boldly opposes torture or the "new" McCain who would continue the Bush era erosion of our freedoms? Sorry, Sarah. I think you're a pretty good Governor for Alaska, and, for now, we'll be better off if you keep you current job.]

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