Palin a bad fit for GOP

By By James Sewell

By James Sewell

In this historic election year, Republicans have added a dash of spice and surprise to their side of the presidential coin by nominating Alaska governor Sarah Palin as John McCain’s vice president. Last week I wrote about the possibility of Condoleezza Rice, but that must have been a little too far out for most conservatives, and McCain settled on Gov. Palin as a safe(r) choice, after all, she’s white.

Barack Obama’s choice of Joe Biden, the senator from Delaware, seems to have been made on solid reasoning and strategy, but McCain’s pick strikes me as random, or, in a worse case, purely cynical. For starters, the reaction of most casual observers of the election was probably “Who?”

Outside Alaska, the name Sarah Palin carries very little recognition, and Republicans who are already wary of McCain’s less-than-completely-dogmatic conservatism will have to grapple with just who exactly this Alaskan governor is and what she stands for.

The cynical aspect of the nomination is that Sen. McCain’s deeply held desire to pillage the Alaskan wilderness in search of additional fossil fuel might be greatly enhanced if his vice-president has strong connections to the state bureaucracy that will be in control of much of the process. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will no longer be a matter of public debate, but a matter of insider connections, cronyism and greed. Think of the resemblance to Cheney’s Energy Task Force, whose members remain nameless and whose agenda remains obscured, although one can guess that the public’s well-being isn’t exactly item No. 1.

But before we descend deeper into the bog of despair and skepticism, there are a few positives. Nominating a woman for vice-president is a remarkable feat for Republicans, who are not known for being at the cutting edge of women’s issues.

However, Gov. Palin herself is no champion of female rights. According to, she is against abortion even in cases of rape or incest. She might be shattering a glass ceiling, but she’ll work to tear down the rest of the building too.

It also illustrates McCain’s willingness to move beyond the Beltway culture and bring fresh new faces to Washington. This is something both parties have vowed to do, but which has been most conspicuously a part of Obama’s campaign8212;Joe Biden notwithstanding.

And it remains to be seen how Palin will act when it comes to energy exploration in ANWR; maybe there’s still hope.

Yet, the most important thing a presidential candidate can and should consider when choosing a running mate is: Will this person be ready to lead if something happens to me? In this case, I’d have to say I’d much rather have Biden taking over than an unknown, untested governor from an outlying state with fewer than 700,000 people. She was quoted in the New York Times saying she was “just your average hockey mom.” That’s sweet. But that’s not what this country needs.

Perhaps the Founding Fathers were right to be worried about the influence of the common masses on government operations. I don’t expect my politicians to be beacons of morality and immune to the temptations and trappings of humanity, but they should at least consider themselves as qualified candidates for office.

If Hillary Clinton supporters take McCain’s choice as a reason for voting Republican this November, well, that’s their choice. But Hillary Clinton was (and is) a formidable politician and senator8212;Palin is an attractive wife and mother who shuttles her kids to the rink and otherwise has nothing much to offer those Americans who are facing serious challenges every day.

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James Sewell