Read here in Vancouver Sun
Not since George H.W. Bush announced Dan Quayle as his running mate during the 1988 U.S. presidential election has a vice-presidential candidate received such attention.
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has created a flurry of controversy, and it raises a host of important questions.
Within hours of McCain's announcement, Palin's professional and personal background came under intense scrutiny.
Professionally, Palin is being investigated to determine whether she abused her power in firing Alaska public safety commissioner Walter Monegan. While Palin claims Monegan was fired for performance-related issues, he has charged that his dismissal may have been the result of his reluctance to fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law, an Alaska state trooper who is engaged in a custody dispute with Palin's sister.
Palin's apparent lack of knowledge of, or even interest in, foreign policy has also become a matter of controversy.
Asked about the surge in Iraq, for example, Palin said she had heard about it "on the news," a troubling admission for someone who could soon be a hair's breadth away from the presidency.
Things snowballed from there, with many more damaging -- and possibly untrue -- accusations made against her, including her alleged involvement with the secessionist Alaska Independence Party.
But Palin's personal background has, if anything, garnered even more attention than her professional activities.
Shortly after Palin's selection, the pregnancy of her 17-year-old unmarried daughter came to national and international attention, and that has once again raised the thorny question of whether personal and family issues are fair game in an election campaign.
Both the Republicans and the Democrats have stated categorically that a candidate's family members are off limits. This seems a right and proper position, since Palin's young daughter is not seeking political office and doesn't deserve to have her name dragged through the mud.
That said, political campaigns -- and candidates themselves -- have in recent years placed an absurd amount of emphasis on candidates' personal backgrounds.
The McCain campaign is no exception in this regard, as Palin's pro-life record, exemplified by her decision to raise a baby with Down syndrome, was highlighted.
Indeed, McCain likely chose Palin specifically because she is an evangelical Christian with a strong history of support, both professionally and personally, for pro-life and family values measures.
And McCain's decision seems to have accomplished its objective, as the Republican base is reportedly "energized" by the decision, and McCain's campaign has reportedly received $10 million in donations since the Palin announcement.
This means that the McCain campaign has made Palin's personal life, if not her daughter's, fair game during the election.
And this raises more questions about McCain -- specifically, about his judgment -- than it does about Palin's personal or professional life.
Although McCain claims that "the vetting process was completely thorough and I'm grateful for the results," there are serious questions about the DEGREE to which Palin was vetted.
McCain was leaning toward other running mates up to two or three days before he chose Palin, and his vetting team apparently only arrived in Alaska the day before McCain made his choice. In fact, days after the choice was announced, the vetting team is still on the ground in Alaska.
And while the choice may be popular with the evangelical base of the Republican party, it also seems to have benefited Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama -- who has himself been attacked for a lack of foreign policy and executive experience -- as polls suggest he has widened his lead over McCain.
All in all, Palin seems to be a deeply problematic choice for a vice-presidential candidate.
But rather than focus on Palin's daughter, who is an innocent bystander in all of this, pundits and the public should focus on what this choice says about McCain's ability, or lack thereof, to make judgments of national and international importance.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Read here in Vancouver Sun