2008 - %3, August

The Palin Factor

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 3:27 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

Election campaigning is about winning. Winning is about not underestimating your opponent or how their choices might impact voters outside the pundit-belt. So, perhaps Alaska Governor Sarah Palin wouldn't have been McCain's first choice for vice president if there weren't any lingering hard feelings about Hillary's campaign or lack of consideration for the VP slot. Or perhaps Palin would have been selected anyway.

Whatever the case, the Democrats are in a tough position after Obama's electrifying speech. It would be as hypocritical for them to attack Palin's experience level as it is for McCain to have selected her after dissing Obama's lack in that department.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

McCain's Angle

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 3:01 PM EDT

McCAIN'S ANGLE....I should add, in case it wasn't clear from my previous posts, that I certainly understand the political calculation behind John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Their thinking is that she's a hard-right conservative who appeals to the base (David Brody was just on CNN telling us that Christian conservative leaders were high-fiving each other over the Palin pick), but not a famous hard-right conservative who's going to scare off independents. Soccer moms will like her. She's inexperienced, but no one can hold that against her this year — and anyway, her lack of a track record also means she doesn't bring a lot of baggage to the campaign. She's got great anti-corruption cred. She's young and vibrant and has an attractive family. Joe Biden will have a hard time going on the attack against a woman. She's unknown, but frankly, to most low-information voters (i.e., to most voters), all VP picks are unknown.

So sure, I get it. And who knows? Politically speaking, it could turn out to be an inspired choice. Frankly, I doubt it, and I suspect her weaknesses will become clearer as everyone gets over their initial shock and starts thinking this through a little harder. But you never know.

As for mooseburgers, I'll bet I'd like 'em too if I ever got a chance to try one. Anyone know where I can score one in Southern California?

What The Palin Pick Says About John McCain and the GOP

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 1:57 PM EDT

sarah-palin.jpg

John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate this morning was a bit of a shocker. After all, the vast majority of Americans have never heard of her. But that could be an advantage for the Republicans: suddenly, their convention next week isn't about John McCain or George W. Bush. It's about introducing Sarah Palin to America. That could be the best distraction imaginable from issues like Katrina, Iraq, and the economy.

On balance, though, Palin could be bad news for the Republicans. Unconventional running-mate choices (and a first term governor who until recently was the mayor of a town of about 9,000 people is certainly an unconventional pick) signal desperation. Confident candidates make safe picks. Candidates who are trailing and need to make big moves make unconventional ones. McCain is taking a big risk by picking Palin because he has to.

The selection of Palin smacks of tokenism. Every four years, the Republican party trots out its few non-white, non-male leaders for the Republican National Convention. Many get prime speaking spots. Apparently Sarah Palin gets the Vice-Presidential nomination. The pick is clearly partly directed at disaffected Hillary voters with the idea that simply putting a woman on the ticket will win their votes. This is obviously wrong, as Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro will tell you. But the GOP and their mouthpieces don't get it: on Fox this morning, an anchor said: "It looks like the glass ceiling hasn't been broken by Hillary Clinton, but by Senator McCain." There is just so much wrong with that sentence, but for starters: it's obvious that this pick is more about John McCain than Sarah Palin. It's not about women succeeding on their own; it's about them being given something by a man. Frankly, the comparison to Hillary Clinton is just insulting.

Yet More Palin

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 1:41 PM EDT

YET MORE PALIN....Well, Palin just managed to get a crowd of 10,000 Republican die-hards to throw up a huge cheer for Hillary Clinton. That's a first.

This whole thing is crazy. Various conservatives and TV talking heads, now that they've gotten used to Palin, seem to be working hard to dig up reasons why she's the most brilliant choice ever. She's a reformer, her son is headed to Iraq, her husband is a union member, anybody with five kids knows how to handle pressure, she's popular with Alaska voters, women are going to love her, etc. etc.

Look, call me a partisan hack. Whatever. But I'm just stunned by the cynicism of the whole thing. I'm sure Palin is a fine person, loving mother, devoted wife, learning her way as governor, and so forth. But a heartbeat away from the presidency? Someone with virtually no serious political experience, and no serious experience of any other kind to make up for it? She's going to shake up Washington?

I don't know how she'll do on the stump or in the debates. Maybe she'll be great. Who knows? But a potential leader of the free world? You gotta be kidding.

News Flash

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 1:37 PM EDT

NEWS FLASH....MSNBC's crawl at the moment:

Palin: This is a moment when principals matter

Our nation's educators will be glad to hear it.

KBR Sued For Human Trafficking

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 1:32 PM EDT

2167285319_b6ba31dc9f.jpg

In August 2004, as the insurgency in Iraq gathered force and kidnappings and grisly killings became commonplace, a group of 12 Nepalese contractors were captured by Sunni militants on the road to an American base. Days later, insurgent cameras rolled while they were executed. The men had been employees of Daoud & Partners, a Jordanian subcontractor of Kellog Brown & Root, which specialized in funneling cheap Third World labor to Iraq to staff support positions at US bases.

On Wednesday, the contractors' families filed racketeering charges against Daoud and KBR in federal court, alleging that the men were drawn to Jordan under false pretenses, had their passports confiscated, and were then sent to Iraq, where 12 died. A thirteenth, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, survived the attack, as he was riding in a different vehicle at the time.

More on the suit from the Courthouse News Service:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Will Palin Bring A Breast Pump On The Campaign Trail?

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 1:15 PM EDT

John McCain may think that Alaska governor Sarah Palin will help him pick off the Hillary voters, but the fact that she went back to work in April three days after giving birth to a premature baby with Downs' Syndrome has already got women buzzing on the web with questions about her judgment and priorities. Obviously 2008 is a lot different from 1992, when Hillary, who wasn't even running for office, was heavily criticized for her decision to pursue a career after having a child. But even in these more enlightened times, women on both sides of the political spectrum may frown on Palin's decision to hit the national campaign trail at this particular time of her life. (And of course, we'll all be wondering: will she bring her breast pump?)

Besides, Palin certainly won't be much help to those women trying to nudge the country into embracing more family-friendly workplace policies. John McCain doesn't actually have any work-family policies to speak of anyway, but now, when women argue for the need for paid family leave, the Republicans will only have to trot out Palin to illustrate why women don't really need it.

The First Time Hillary Clinton is Mentioned at the Vice Presidential Debate...

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 12:49 PM EDT

...Joe Biden better have this clip memorized.

More analysis of Sarah Palin in a minute. For now, here's her resume:

1992-1996: City Councilwoman from Wasilla, AK (pop. 8,471).
1996-2002: Mayor of Wasilla, AK (pop. 8,471).
2003-2004: Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
2006-current: Governor of Alaska (pop. 683,478).

Population of Charlotte, North Carolina: 671,588. Somebody tell Mayor Pat McCrory he could have been the pick!

More Sarah

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 12:34 PM EDT

MORE SARAH....As I was driving home from Panera (power is back on! yay!), I was thinking about this Sarah Palin thing. And what I was thinking about was what a bizarrely contrived and calculated choice it is. I mean, aside from six years as mayor of Wasilla (pop. 6,715) — about which I'm sure we'll be hearing much, much more — her political experience consists of 21 months as governor of the fourth smallest state in the union. That's it.

But she's a woman! And pro-life! And opposed to corruption! And maybe all those disaffected Hillary supporters will vote for her! And she won't upstage the old man!

It's hard to think of a more intensely cynical, focus-grouped, poll-driven, base-pandering VP choice in recent memory. Even Dan Quayle isn't in the running. This is ridiculous.

Sarah Palin

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 12:02 PM EDT

SARAH PALIN....The New York Times is reporting that John McCain has chosen Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. That's a pretty pathetic attempt to look "bold," isn't it? I wonder how his campaign gurus are going to continue peddling the experience line after making this move?

But hey, she's pro-life and conservative evangelicals like her. And she's not Mitt Romney. I guess that must have been pretty much the entire checklist.

ADDED BONUS: Isn't Alaska a central front in the new Cold War? That's foreign policy experience right there!