30 August 2008

John McCain's unexpected Choice

Senator John McCain, candidate of the Republican Party in this year's US presidential election, has surprised most people with the choice of his so-called 'running mate'. However, as misleading as this word - used by American politicians and media - might be, it is not for a sporting event he chose his partner, but for the White House.
'Running mate' is a popular - even though daft - substitute for the word 'Vice President'. Whoever is chosen for this position will undergo the same media scrutiny and unfair attacks from opponents as the person chosen to 'run' for President. (It is rather telling that here in Europe people 'stand' for elections, while in the USA they are 'running', as if they have to get away from something...)

Well, this entry is not really about linguistic fineries, even though language always plays a role in politics, often in various and significant ways. (Maybe I will write about the use of language in the modern political landscape at another time...)

This is about a woman called Sarah Palin. Sarah who? Yes, I did ask myself exactly that, too, when I heard the news. Even as a rather active and well-informed political analyst I had never come across the woman before, nor heard her name mentioned at all. No surprise really, as Sarah Louise Heath Palin (right), to give her full name at least once for the record, became the governor of Alaska only in December 2006.

Even though Alaska is the largest of the fifty US states by size, it only has a population of about 683,000 (a little more than Dublin City and half of the Dublin Urban Area) and hardly anything important ever happens in this remote part of the world with its subarctic climate. Most of the state is a vastness of uninhabited forests, mountain ranges and island, covered in ice and snow for many months of each year. And as about 65% of the land belongs to the federal government and is managed through its agencies, the governor has real responsibility for only a third of the state.

So, without wanting to diminish the position of the governor of Alaska, it is certainly not the most important or challenging job one could find within the political landscape of the USA. And as such also not the one that would qualify its holder easily for the overall leadership of the nation, which includes more than ever huge international responsibilities.

One has therefore to wonder why John McCain, a very experienced politician and a truly 'old hand' in Washington, chose Sarah Palin, a virtually unknown woman with extremely limited experience, as his 'running mate'. Nobody really knows, and it is not even certain if McCain made the selection himself.
Anyone 'running' for political office in the USA is now surrounded and supported by large teams of advisers, consultants and pollsters, each of which has some influence on the decisions made. It is therefore all teamwork these days, no matter who the person in front is.

During the past two months various names have been circulated within the Republican Party for the position of presumptive Vice President. John McCain met all the potential candidates and a number of them spent a weekend with him at one of his houses in Arizona. Political observers in the USA - as they do - speculated over the person most likely to be selected, but not once did the name of Sarah Palin come up. In fact, McCain only met her once before announcing his surprising choice of 'running mate'.

So why is she now the second name on the Republican ticket? What qualifies her for such a high and difficult office? And what makes her more suitable than the about a dozen people previously mentioned, most of them Republican state governors with a lot more experience?

Well, nothing really. In fact, on the basis of education, personal clout and development, political stature and the real experience of legislation, administration and leadership she is about the least qualified person I could think of. All she achieved educationally before eloping with a blue-collar oil-rig worker and part-time fisherman is a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Idaho (the state Sarah was born in before her parents moved to Alaska). She worked a short while as a sports reporter for local TV stations, but stopped that in favour of having four children and helping her husband on a fishing boat. And yes, of course, there were the beauty pageants. I almost forgot.

In 1984 the then 20-year-old Sarah Heath (pictured left) became 'Miss Wasilla', the beauty queen of her small, cold and boring home town, then a minor settlement with less than 2000 inhabitants. She moved on from that to become second in the state-wide Alaska beauty contest of the same year.
Not knowing the other contestants, it is hard to comment on this element of Sarah's career. True beauty is a rare commodity, and even more so in small communities. 'Among the blind the one-eyed is king' is a saying that comes to mind. And even the most remote places just want to have their bit of fun as well...
However, by becoming runner-up in the 'Miss Alaska' pageant, Sarah won her scholarship to the University of Idaho, also rather second-rate in the greater educational structure of the USA.

In 1992 Sarah Palin entered local politics for the Republican Party. She served four years on the town council of Wasilla, which had meanwhile doubled its size due to the oil boom. In 1996, when she was elected Mayor after a pushy and quite controversial campaign, Wasilla had almost 5000 inhabitants. (Currently the number of Wasillans is officially listed as 6715.)

After six years as Mayor, Sarah's ambitions grew and she wanted to leave small-town politics for the richer pickings of the state. In 2002 she 'ran' for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, but was beaten already in the Republican primary. Old party hands thought that she lacked the experience necessary for the job.
Four years later, after a couple of years on the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, Sarah came back with a vengeance and went right for the top job this time. In an unexpected and still controversial move she unseated the incumbent Republican governor (and ex-Senator) Frank Murowski and began to fight the massive corruption which her own party created over many years in Alaska and its rich oil and gas industry.

With less than two years in office, this work is far from finished. So if cleaning up Alaska and its corrupt and narrow-minded political landscape is really what Sarah Palin wants, she should have refused the offer made to her by John McCain. But - in all fairness - few would say 'no' to such an offer coming their way...

For the Republican Party the announcement came as much as a surprise as for the rest of us. It remains to be seen if it will do them any good in the main campaign and - more crucially - in the election in November.
So far a main argument of the McCain campaign was that their candidate was a vastly experienced and seasoned politician who could be trusted as leader and commander-in-chief. They portrayed Democratic candidate Barack Obama often as "too young and lacking experience", especially when it comes to foreign affairs.

Well, such argument will be a lot more difficult to use, now that McCain chose a "hockey mum" as his deputy and presumptive successor as head of state and commander-in-chief.
Compared with Sarah Palin the experience of Barack Obama is massive and clear for everyone to see. In contrast to her, he is also a highly educated man and has many years of practical work in a large and difficult community under his belt. And by choosing veteran Senator Joe Biden (of Delaware), the most experienced foreign affairs expert in Washington, as his 'running mate', Obama made up far more than necessary for his relative youth and lack of foreign experience.

Adding the fact that John McCain celebrated his 72nd birthday yesterday and would - if elected - be the oldest person ever to become President of the USA, the choice of Vice President is even more crucial than usually. Given that under the US Constitution the Vice President automatically succeeds the President on his death, anyone who would be Vice President to a President McCain would have to be able to step into his shoes at any time, should the situation arise.

John McCain had been looking for a proper second-in-command very carefully and for a long time. Before yesterday's surprise announcement, McCain's own personal preference was a man who is as much a maverick as he is himself. It was widely expected that the 'running mate' position might go to the veteran Senator Joseph Lieberman (right), a former Democrat and now - after being dropped by his own party for his support of the Iraq War - an 'Independent Democrat'. This could well have upset a number of staunch Republicans, many of which see McCain as a 'liberal' (whatever that means in an overall liberal country). But the two men are friends across the political divide for a long time and have in the US Senate worked together at various occasions with great success.

So why then the sudden change of mind and the surprise announcement Senator McCain made yesterday? Well, as mentioned above, nobody knows for sure. But what I hear from my personal contacts in the USA, the main reason is a man whose name you will not have heard before either.

He is Steve Schmidt, who on July 2nd, 2008 took over as the principal manager of the McCain campaign. Unknown to the general public, Schmidt is quite a familiar name in the fraternity of political consultants and analysts. He worked for years very closely with the demonic Republican spin doctor Karl Rove, who secured the White House for George W. Bush twice, the second time actually through a real election, which he won with massive lies and scare-mongering, shocking a large amount of right-wing 'Christian' fundamentalist with the prospect of 'gay marriages' if the Democrats would win the election. That was of course complete rubbish, but it scared enough of the rednecks and hill billies and made them vote for Bush.
Schmidt also worked as Counselor and spokesman for Bush's Vice President 'Dick' Cheney, who was - and still is - the most hard line war monger in the current administration and one of the main architects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (If things had gone Cheney's way, there would by now also be a war in Iran...)

It is pretty obvious that John McCain - back in 2004 - sold his political soul to the Bush camp. In exchange for stopping his maverick attacks against his own party and government, McCain was promised a free run for the presidency in 2008 (when Bush cannot 'run' any more himself). The likes of Cheney and Rove might have hoped that McCain - suffering from skin cancer and getting quite old - would probably never be able to go all the way, but now that he does, they made sure that the former free-thinker and maverick from Arizona, who was more than once on the brink of leaving the Republican Party (the last two times in 2001 and 2004), is surrounded by enough right-wing minders and advisers.

After they failed to push the Democrats to select Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate (which would have been a great bonus for the Republicans) and Barack Obama was wise enough not to choose her as 'running mate', the right-wing strategists panicked and forced John McCain to make a clear gesture towards the fundamentalist 'Christians', rednecks, hill billies and all the other people of little brain and education who secured the election of George W. Bush in 2004.

Instead of his old friend and colleague Joe Lieberman, who is an orthodox Jew from the Eastern seaboard, McCain was cajoled by Schmidt to go for the exact opposite: a redneck woman of little brain and experience, but one who fulfills most of the requirements to appeal to that particular part of the electorate. She has no academic clout, lives 'in the wild', loves shooting, is therefore a member of the ultra-reactionary National Rifle Association, eats 'mooseburgers' (made from the meat of the moose she kills) and has a son in the Army and on the way to serve in Iraq. This is the sort of people America's brain-dead morons just love. But wait, there is more. Sarah Palin "does not believe that global warming is the result of human activity" and has vetoed that the polar bear should be put on the list of endangered (and therefore protected) species. This alone, the unbelievable amount of arrogant ignorance when it comes to the important matters of the environment, makes her a female version of George W. Bush!
Sarah Palin is - of course - also a brainwashed right-wing 'Christian' and supports the teaching of the so-called 'Intelligent Design' theory, which denies the facts of evolution and is based on the literal interpretation of the Bible as the only acceptable source for everything, including science.

Steve Schmidt and his right-wing Republican strategists are pretty certain that a woman like Sarah Palin can gain them the moron votes that John McCain would not mobilise. They also hope that by choosing a woman they might scoop up some of the radical feminist vote that supported Hillary Clinton for the sole reason of being a woman, as well as some of the Democrat blue-collar support that is not quite happy with a non-white candidate. Yes, racism in the USA is alive and kicking, and nowhere more than in the very same party that started the Civil War 147 years ago, apparently to free the negroes...

In 1984, the year young Sarah Heath became 'Miss Wasilla', the first ever woman was nominated as the vice-presidential 'running mate' of any US presidential candidate. She was Geraldine Ferraro (right), a highly intelligent, educated and experienced lawyer and politician from New York.
Walter Mondale, the Democrats' nominee, made this inspired and courageous selection, but in November of that year they lost heavily to the incumbent President Ronald Reagan (and his Vice President, the ex-CIA director George H. W. Bush, father of the current incumbent).

Now Sarah Palin (nee Heath) is heralded by right-wing media as the second woman selected as a 'running mate'. They sing her praise - even though there is little to sing - and build her up to look like a giant, just because she is a woman, unknown and a right-wing trollop. Sarah Palin is no giant. With her ignorance and her aggressive and violent lifestyle she is rather unattractive as a woman, and she is certainly no second Geraldine Ferraro!
Portraying Sarah Palin as a positive role model for women is an insult to everyone's intelligence, and in particular an affront to every feminist who fought and fights for women's rights and true equality.

Well, I am obviously no American, and thus I have no vote in November. But of course one does have opinions and preferences, even from the outside. Eight years ago, in the year 2000, when John McCain 'ran' in the Republican primaries against George W. Bush and the incumbent Vice President Al Gore - long before his rebirth as an environmentalist - tried to succeed Bill Clinton as President, I would have supported John McCain and voted for him. He was then still the clear maverick for whom decency and common sense had priority over party politics and imperialistic attitudes.
In 2004 McCain was close to start a third party, or even defect to the Democrats. There was for a while even a chance he might become John Kerry's 'running mate' on the Democratic ticket. However, something happened around this time, and John McCain was never the same again. It looks to me that he sold his political soul to Bush (as I mentioned above) and ever since he drifts more and more towards the conservative right, even supporting now positions of Bush's policy he openly attacked between 2000 and 2004.

For me the selection of Sarah Palin as his 'running mate' shows that John McCain finally has lost his maverick spirit and his independence. He is now nothing more than a willing puppet, whose strings are pulled by Steve Schmidt, just as the strings of George W. Bush were pulled by Karl Rove. So if I were American, I could no longer support McCain or vote for him. Most certainly not now, after he has hitched his wagon to a woman like Sarah Palin.
I sincerely hope that the American voters will have the right answer to the short-sighted and in many ways idiotic selection of Sarah Palin. If not, then no 'God' or anything else will help America when the inevitable downfall and disintegration comes. Let the silly woman go back to her snow, ice and wilderness, where she can play the gun-totting dominatrix. But let the USA be once again governed by people with dignity, morals, education and common sense!

The Emerald Islander


Adam said...

this post has no content

Captain Boondoggle said...

You're right, he is suprised. That is why he keeps saying "my friends" over and over.


Well, Adam, thanks for your observation. I don't know what happened, nor why.
When I posted the entry, it was all there. A short while ago I looked at the weblog, and there was indeed - as you stated - no text.
I was shocked and surprised, as such has never happened before. I decided to restart the computer (which often helps to solve technical glitches), and when it powered up and I looked again, my entry was there again in full, just as I had posted it.

I hope you will find the time to read it.


Captain Boondoggle, thanks for your comment and for dropping by. I don't know about your own experience, but I am always very suspicious when total strangers - such as politicians - address me and others as "friends".

For me friendship is a very rare and special thing, and few people will ever reach that status with me. Most certainly any patronising politicians - regardless from which country - will not be among them.

Like John McCain, who is 20 years my senior, I used to be a naval officer. As such I have respect for him, and can understand many things he has done. I also respect people who use their own brain, usually in politics called mavericks. For many years John McCain was such a true and rightfully admired maverick.
But as you can see from my analysis and explanation, he has lost that quality.

So, should the US electorate be so foolish and make him the 44th President, it would mean four more years of Bushism, just with another man in the Oval Office.

catalina said...

i am stunned to find someone who so to the point expresses everything i felt but did not have the knowledge and put into words. i have ben living here for 4 years and everyday i worry about my children who are growing up in this country :(a country that is so rich and yet it does not provide its citizen with quality education and health care, a country, in which ppl dont care about what going on across the borders, a country in which you cant drink wine at 21 but the doctor will advise you give your child SPRITE even if he is only 9 months old :(

irish liberal said...

sarah palin is 44 years old, mc cain is older than the statue of liberty. if the mc cain/palin ticket wins, then you can be assured that palin WILL become the first ever woman president of the US because mc cain might not last the 4 year term of president.

if palin does become president someday, i think she would be a female version of george bush,only dumber.


Thank you for your kind comment, Catalina.

I am glad that my analysis is shared by you (and various other people). It is not easy to analyse a person who has not been in the public eye before. But even though I am not an American, I do have plenty of friends in the USA, as well as colleagues and other professional contacts. So when Sarah Palin was pulled out of the Republican hat like a rabbit in a variety show, I did some homework in oder to find out who she is and what she has done so far.
And I am not impressed. Quite the opposite.

Well, I hope you will keep looking in here in the future, and perhaps you will find more pieces that you can agree with.

Thanks also to Irish Liberal for his comment. Yes, it is more than likely that John McCain - should he be elected - might not last a full term of four years. Knowing how the right-wing mafia in the Republican Party works, it would not surprise me if they would "help" McCain out of office (and this world) in one way or another. And then their own choice of redneck idiot would be President.
You are quite right: Sarah Palin is in many ways similar to George W. Bush, except that she is even worse than Bush. (I never expected that they could come up with someone who could beat Bush on the negativity scale...)

The whole thing is a deliberate act to keep the policies of the current administration alive. I only hope that the majority of US voters will think before they vote this time.

If not, there is no more hope left for the USA and they will collapse in a very short time, in ways very few people can imagine. (But if you want to have a blueprint, then read a good book about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, e.g. the excellent work by Michael Grant.)

John Barry said...

Perhaps you should take a look at the left wing mafia in the Democratic Party. Palin is hated by so called liberals because she is pro life. She has been shamefully treated.

Colleen Hannan said...

As you know,Barack Obama was elected our president......Thank God !!! You were very right in your assessment of Sarah Barracuda. She is not intelligent to say the least & thankfully the majority saw that ! Now if we can eliminate the mantra "Greed is Good" we will be able to turn this country around to what it was at one time ! The good ol' USA !!!

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