As the VP debate took place at a very unearthly hour of the morning in the UK, I did not watch it live. I have seen highlights and have scoured the net looking for analysis and comment. What I am about to say are the views of a critical friend.
Although I have been a fan of Sen. McCain for many years and have backed him for the top job for a couple of years, there is no doubt he is not a young man. He has also not been in the best of health in recent years. I have privately thought he will be a one-term president. Not that the voters will vote him out of office, but that he will not seek re-election. Despite thinking this, I always felt he was the best choice for the GOP. He is a man of stature, a man of principle and has a wealth of experience none of his rivals have. I am sure he will make a great President of the United States.
When Sarah Palin was picked as his running mate, I, like many others, had never heard of her. We all had to get up to speed on who she was and I had an immediate warmth to her. She seemed like a breath of fresh air; someone who doesn’t stand any nonsense and someone who will stand up to the self-interest of the political elite in Washington. Her speech at the Republican Convention was brilliant, but that was always going to be so. It’s always easy to wow the party faithful. I have just returned from the Conservative Party Conference in the UK. It’s amazing how you are swept along and applaud speeches, even though whilst applauding you know you do not agree wholeheartedly with what has just been said.
Sarah Palin’s real test was always to come and here she has failed. If you think she has not, I’m afraid you are falling victim to hope over reality. The paradox for me is that the very things that make me warm to her (not coming from the Washington elite, appealing to and empathising with middle America) are the very things that let her down. Observing her ‘folksy’ style only confirms in my mind that she does not have a grasp of how to solve serious issues. In this epoch, someone seeking high office must have a strong grasp of international affairs. Just because your son is off to fight for his country (as admirable as this is), it does not mean you are capable of making the complex decisions that she may have to make if she becomes VP.
Indeed, she seems to return to this ‘folksy’ style on most issues. It is as if this is a defense mechanism inside her. I do not expect her to have a huge grasp on foreign affairs or economics, but the problem for me is that she doesn’t seem to have any grasp. She came out with all the lines she had been briefed on, however if you look into her eyes when quoting her lines, you can see a vacant look. You can see she has a limited grasp and she moves the debate on to subjects where she is more comfortable. All of us in politics do this. All of us are told in media training that you do not have to answer the question posed to you and move it on to comfortable ground, but when you are a heartbeat away from the presidency, this is something you should avoid. Voters see through this and it can easily garner votes for your opposition.
My only hope is that she is a quick learner. If the McCain/Palin ticket wins the election, she will be a liability if she doesn’t learn quickly. Of course, she could also help the ticket lose the election, although at times McCain seems to be contributing in that effort too.
I want to see John McCain as the next President of the United States. I do not want the weak, liberal White House that would exist if Obama wins. I do think though Sarah Palin is not intellectually up to the job of VP. I hope I am wrong, however I fear I am not.
– Andrew Allison