Global Warnings on Palin


Stepping back from the hoopla, the planet wonders, “Is he out of his mind?”

It doesn’t really matter what the world’s lefty sites say about Sarah Palin, unless any of them have some real meat to put on the table.

It does matter, on the other hand, what the conservative, mainstream outlets say if they’re the news sources for the people with money who control the planet.

Take, among others, the Economist, the U.K.-based sober magazine that influences the financial world’s policy-makers. You’ll see that much of the world is practically sneering at John McCain‘s choice of a Tonya Harding to bust the Democrats’ kneecaps.

For a good round-up, see the Financial Times piece “Palin fascinates European media,” in which the British counterpart of the Wall Street Journal points out the depth of Palin coverage in France:

What intrigues the secular and still left-leaning French is how the choice of Ms Palin, an anti-abortion, creationist Christian, has pushed the candidacy of Mr McCain to the right and transformed the US presidential contest into a battle of values rather than policies. “The choice of Ms Palin turned the centrist John McCain into the “heir to Bush”, Le Monde said in an editorial.

Writing in the conservative Le Figaro, Nicole Bacharan, a French historian, said the arrival of Ms Palin would “trigger the eruption of moral intolerance in the campaign”.

The timid U.S. mainstream press has of course generally downplayed Palin’s religious-right credentials as a key to her being chosen.

The Economist focuses not on Palin but on what McCain’s choice of Palin says about him. Under the headline “The woman from nowhere: John McCain’s choice of running-mate raises serious questions about his judgment,” the mag says:

The most audacious move of the race so far is also, potentially, the most self-destructive. John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running-mate has set the political atmosphere alight with both enthusiasm and dismay.

Mr McCain has based his campaign on the idea that this is a dangerous world — and that Barack Obama is too inexperienced to deal with it. He has also acknowledged that his advanced age — he celebrated his 72nd birthday on August 29th — makes his choice of vice-president unusually important. Now he has chosen as his running mate, on the basis of the most cursory vetting, a first-term governor of Alaska.

The piece is well worth reading in its entirety — even my lengthy excerpts from it shouldn’t stop you — because the Economist‘s writers clearly aren’t brain-dead from having watched hour after hour of the paralyzing spinster vs. spinster drivel emanating from CNN or Fox News. The opinion piece/analysis points out that Palin “was greeted like the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan by the delegates, furious at her mauling at the hands of the ‘liberal media,’ ” but then throws in a heavy dose of reality:

[O]nce the cheering and the chanting had died down, serious questions remained.

The political calculations behind Mr McCain’s choice hardly look robust. Mrs Palin is not quite the pork-busting reformer that her supporters claim. She may have become famous as the governor who finally killed the infamous “bridge to nowhere” — the $220m bridge to the sparsely inhabited island of Gravina, Alaska. But she was in favour of the bridge before she was against it (and told local residents that they weren’t “nowhere to her”). As mayor of Wasilla, a metropolis of 9,000 people, she initiated annual trips to Washington, DC, to ask for more earmarks from the state’s congressional delegation, and employed Washington lobbyists to press for more funds for her town.

OK, you’ll say, but that’s not looking at her from the perspective of the GOP. But the Economist does:

Nor is Mrs Palin well placed to win over the moderate and independent voters who hold the keys to the White House. Mr McCain’s main political problem is not energising his base; he enjoys more support among Republicans than Mr Obama does among Democrats. His problem is reaching out to swing voters at a time when the number of self-identified Republicans is up to ten points lower than the number of self-identified Democrats.

Mr McCain needs to attract roughly 55% of independents and 15% of Democrats to win the election. But it is hard to see how a woman who supports the teaching of creationism rather than contraception, and who is soon to become a 44-year-old grandmother, helps him with soccer moms in the Philadelphia suburbs. A Rasmussen poll found that the Palin pick made 31% of undecided voters less likely to plump for Mr McCain and only 6% more likely.

Can’t resist one more clump from the Economist, because it dares to bring George W. Bush into the conversation:

The moose in the room, of course, is her lack of experience. When Geraldine Ferraro was picked as Walter Mondale‘s running-mate, she had served in the House for three terms. Even the hapless Dan Quayle, George Bush senior’s sidekick, had served in the House and Senate for 12 years. Mrs Palin, who has been the governor of a state with a population of 670,000 for less than two years, is the most inexperienced candidate for a mainstream party in modern history.

Inexperienced and Bush-level incurious. She has no record of interest in foreign policy, let alone expertise. She once told an Alaskan magazine: “I’ve been so focused on state government; I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq.” She obtained an American passport only last summer to visit Alaskan troops in Germany and Kuwait. This not only blunts Mr McCain’s most powerful criticism of Mr Obama. It also raises serious questions about the way he makes decisions.

In fact, McCain is usually much more calculating and politically aware than this — or at least I thought so, based on my having covered him off and on for the past 20 years, since his early days as a new Arizona congressman. Nobody can accuse him of being a dumbass, like Bush.

But this episode is only confirmation that McCain’s choice of a religious-right, inexperienced woman is little more than a race-based act of desperation. The religious right, after all, has long detested McCain. The Palin move may well win over those voters. But relatively few moderate women, either Republicans or Democrats and especially those who are pro-choice, are likely to fall for this.

White men, however, might still feel threatened enough by the specter of a black man as president that they’ll vote for this lightweight hockey mommy.