Cindy McCain Repeats Argument That Sarah Palin Has National Security Experience Because Alaska is Close to Russia


Recently I noted how Fox News actually claimed that Sarah Palin has foreign polic experience due to Alaska being near Russia. Other evidence suggests how little thought Palin has given to foreign policy, which might be okay for the governor of a state with as few people as Alaska, but not for a potential vice president. Despite her lack of experience on foreign policy, Repubicans have their talking point thanks to Fox News and they are going to stick with it. Think Progess reports that Cindy McCain repeated the same ridiculous argument on This Week (video above).

John Kerry: Palin Pick Shows McCain is Prisoner of the Right Wing

I’ve always felt that John Kerry would have made a far better president than presidential candidate (not that I agree with all the exaggerated criticism which is inevitable for any losing candidate). Once again John Kerry is showing that he is making a stronger surrogate for Barack Obama than presidential candidate, taking advantage of what he learned in 2004. Via Digby, here check out this interview on This Week:

KERRY: […] And now, now, George, you have a choice, where John McCain has proven that he’s not a maverick, he’s erratic. He’s crossed the line from maverickism to — I mean, it’s unbelievable what’s happened, because he himself said…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me — let me stop you right there. What do you mean — let me stop you right there, Senator Kerry. You said he’s erratic. What are you talking about there? Is that referring to the choice…

KERRY: Well, I’ll tell you exactly…

STEPHANOPOULOS: … of Governor Palin?

KERRY: I will tell you — absolutely, because what has happened is John McCain — you know, we’ve been warning against the third term of George Bush. With the choice of Governor Palin, it’s now the third term of Bush-Cheney, because what he’s done is he’s chosen somebody who actually doesn’t believe that climate change is manmade. He’s chosen somebody who has zero — zero — experience in foreign policy.

The first threshold test of a president of a nominee in choosing a vice president is to prove to the American people that the person that you’ve chosen can fill in tomorrow, that they come with the requisite experience to lead the nation in foreign policy and in national security.

You know, she may be — I mean, I’m sure she’s a terrific person. I’m not attacking her. I think John McCain ‘s judgment is once again put at issue, because he’s chosen somebody who clearly does not meet the national security threshold, who is not ready to be president tomorrow.

And there’s just no way to…


STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Senator Graham, though. He said that she has more experience than Senator Obama.

KERRY: That’s just ridiculous on its face. I mean, John — you know, Barack Obama has been in the United States Senate. He has not been absent more than he’s been there. She’s been a governor for, what, the two years now, Barack Obama and the four years?

But, moreover, Barack Obama has traveled abroad. Look at the trip Barack Obama took. I mean, it is remarkable to me that the Republicans would try to denigrate a trip that a candidate for president takes where he attracts more — more attention, more support, if you will, than a sitting president of the United States of America.

That’s what you need in leadership for a president. You need somebody who can go to Europe and say to them, “We need more help in Afghanistan.” He actually called the Europeans to account on their — on their need to be, frankly, more front-and-center in the effort to deal with Afghanistan than President Bush has.

I think that’s leadership, and I think the United States of America is well-served if we have a president who’s able to do that.

But coming back to this choice for a moment…


KERRY: … let me just say…


STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you another question right now…


STEPHANOPOULOS: … because, Senator, Howard Wolfson — excuse me. Let me just ask you another question. Howard Wolfson, Senator Clinton’s former communications director, said that this pick might just work to draw women to the Republican ticket. Are you worried about that?

KERRY: Well, with all due respect to Howard, you know, I have much more respect for the Clinton supporters than that sort of quick- blush take with — I mean, how stupid do they think the Clinton supporters are, for Heaven sakes?

Do they think Clinton supporters supported Hillary only because she was a woman. For Heaven sakes, they supported Hillary because of all the things she’s fought for, because she fights for health care, which John McCain doesn’t support; she fights for children and children’s health care, which John McCain voted against; she fights for a windfall profits tax on the oil company, which John McCain opposes.

I mean, for Heaven sakes, the people who supported Hillary Clinton are not going to be seduced just because John McCain has picked a woman. They’re going to look at what she supports.

The fact that she doesn’t even support the notion that climate change is manmade — she’s back there with the Flat Earth Caucus. And I don’t see how those women are going to be fooled into believing — I think it’s almost insulting to the Hillary supporters that they believe they would support somebody who is against almost everything that they believe in.


KERRY: What John McCain has proven with this choice — this is very important, George. John McCain wanted to choose Tom Ridge. He wanted to choose Joe Lieberman. He wanted to choose another candidate, but you know what? Rush Limbaugh and the right wing vetoed it.

And John McCain was forced to come back and pick a sort of Cheney-esque social conservative who’s going to satisfy the base.

What John McCain has proven with this choice is that John McCain is the prisoner of the right wing, not a maverick.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, I’m afraid that’s all we have time for today. Thank you very much for your time.

KERRY: Thank you.

Sarah Palin’s Abuse of Power

I’ve noted the irony several times of Sarah Palin’s title of Miss Wasilla 1984. While admittedly her far right views are not as bad as the totalitarianism of 1984, her pick does show how McCain is continuing the trend of moving the Republican Party in an authoritarian direction. Besides Palin’s far right views on social issues there are serious questions about her abuse of power. Being on vacation and in a hurry to get down to a jazz concert and a picnic, I’ll take the easy route and quote from Josh Marshall who summarizes the scandal:

The person in question is state trooper Mike Wooten — Palin’s ex-brother-in-law who’s embroiled in a bitter custody and divorce battle with Palin’s sister. Back in the second week of August, well before Palin became a national political figure, TPMMuckraker was reporting on this story. And as part of the reporting we tried to get a handle on just how bad a guy Wooten was. Most people who are familiar with the ugliness that often spills out of custody and divorce cases know to take accusations arising out of the course of them with a grain of salt unless you know a lot about the people involved. And if you look closely at the case there are numerous reasons to question the picture drawn by the Palin family. Regardless, we proceeded on the assumption that Wooten really was a rotten guy because the truth is that it wasn’t relevant to the investigation of Palin.

Let’s review what happened.

The Palin family had a feud with Wooten prior to her becoming governor. They put together a list of 14 accusations which they took to the state police to investigate — a list that ranged from the quite serious to the truly absurd. The state police did an investigation, decided that 5 of the charges had some merit and suspended Wooten for ten days — a suspension later reduced to five days. The Palin’s weren’t satisfied but there wasn’t much they could do.

When Palin became governor they went for another bite at the apple. Palin, her husband and several members of her staff began pressuring Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan — a respected former Chief of the Anchorage police department — to can Wooten. Monegan resisted, arguing that the official process regarding Wooten was closed. And there was nothing more that could be done. In fact, during one of the conversations in which Palin’s husband Todd was putting on the squeeze, Monegan told Todd Palin, “You can’t head hunt like this. What you need to do is back off, because if the trooper does make a mistake, and it is a terminable offense, it can look like political interference.”

Eventually, Palin got fed up and fired Monegan from his job. This is an important point. Wooten never got fired. To the best of my knowledge, he’s is still on the job. The central bad act was firing the state’s top police official because he refused to bend to political pressure from the governor and her family to fire a public employee against whom the governor was pursuing a vendetta — whether the vendetta was justified or not.

Soon after this, questions were raised in the state about Monegan’s firing and he eventually came forward and said he believed he’d been fired for not giving in to pressure to fire Wooten.

After Monegan made his accusations, Palin insisted there was no truth whatsoever to his claims. Nonetheless, a bipartisan committee of the state legislature approved an investigation. In response, Palin asked the Attorney General to start his own investigation which many in the state interpreted as an effort to either keep tabs on or tamper with the legislature’s investigation. Again, very questionable judgment in someone who aspires to be first in line to the presidency.

The Attorney General’s investigation quickly turned up evidence that Palin’s initial denials were false. Multiple members of her staff had raised Wooten’s employment with Monegan. Indeed, the state police had a recording of one of her deputies pushing Monegan to fire Wooten. That evidence forced Palin to change her story. Palin said that this was the first she’d heard of it and insisted the deputy wasn’t acting at her behest, even though the trascript of the recorded call clearly suggested that he was. (Hear the audio here.)

Just yesterday, Monegan gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he said that not only Palin’s aides, but Palin’s husband and Palin herself had repeatedly raised the Wooten issue with him and pressured him to fire him. And now he says he has emails that Palin sent him about the matter. (In an interesting sidelight, that may end up telling us a lot, Monegan says no one from the McCain campaign ever contacted him in the vetting process.)

The investigator appointed by the state legislature began trying to arrange a time to depose Gov. Palin last week — in other words, in the final days before her selection.

So let’s put this all together.

We rely on elected officials not to use the power of their office to pursue personal agendas or vendettas. It’s called an abuse of power. There is ample evidence that Palin used her power as governor to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. When his boss refused to fire him, she fired him. She first denied Monegan’s claims of pressure to fire Wooten and then had to amend her story when evidence proved otherwise. The available evidence now suggests that she 1) tried to have an ex-relative fired from his job for personal reasons, something that was clearly inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, though possibly understandable in human terms, 2) fired a state official for not himself acting inappropriately by firing the relative, 3) lied to the public about what happened and 4) continues to lie about what happened.

These are, to put it mildly, not the traits or temperament you want in someone who could hold the executive power of the federal government.

Sarah Palin follows in the Republican traditions of Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle in being unqualified for the vice presidency, and follows in the traditions of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney in their abuse of power.

Palin’s Lack of Experience and Lack of Thought on Foreign Policy

The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate was unbelievably bad on so many levels. Besides being the least experienced or qualifed person to be on a major party ticket in modern times, this is also a bad choice politically. John McCain has lost the ability to plausibly question the experience of Barack Obama, which is tremendously greater than that of his running mate. The choice raises serious questions as to McCain’s judgment, as well as his principles as he placed picking someone he believed could help him politically (even if he is probably mistaken) over the needs of the country. The choice also undermines any claims he might make as to the importance of the Iraq war.

A seventy-two year old cancer survivor would be expected to choose a vice president who is capable of carrying out his foreign policy if he really considered the Iraq war to be as important as he often states. Ignoring the argument from Fox News that Palin has foreign policy experience as Alaska is next to Russia, Palin has no experience on foreign policy (along with very little experience on national issues).

Sometimes a lack of experience in certain areas might be overlooked based upon knowledge of an issue. While Obama has extensive experience in domestic policy and questions of Constitutional law (which is especially important after eight years of George Bush and Dick Cheney), he does have limited first hand experience in foreign policy. Despite this, Obama does have a history of not only considering foreign policy issues but of being right on Iraq when John McCain was totally wrong.

Sarah Palin shows no signs of having considered foreign policy issues in the past as Obama has. Mark Benjamin provides some examples which show that she was not thinking of foreign policy:

Well, maybe Sarah Palin thought the surge was great, or maybe she didn’t. It’s hard to tell what, if anything, Palin thinks or thought about the surge of troops in Iraq, or the decision to invade Iraq in the first place, for that matter. A clip search doesn’t show any substantive comments from Palin about Iraq during her short term as governor of Alaska, in 2007 or 2008, or at any point prior to that. That includes instances when she was specifically asked about the war.

In an interview with Alaska Business Monthly shortly after she took office in 2007, Palin was asked about the upcoming surge. She said she hadn’t thought about it. “I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq,” she said. “I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place; I want assurances that we are doing all we can to keep our troops safe.”

Seven months into the surge, she still either had not formed any opinion on the surge or the war or just wasn’t sharing. “I’m not here to judge the idea of withdrawing, or the timeline,” she said in a teleconference interview with reporters during a July 2007 visit with Alaska National Guard troops stationed in Kuwait. “I’m not going to judge even the surge. I’m here to find out what Alaskans need of me as their governor.”

That’s a little weird, since Fort Richardson, near Anchorage, has dispatched countless soldiers to Iraq, including many who did not make it back. And Palin’s own son, Track, is an infantry soldier who could go there any time.

This hardly sounds like someone who is prepared to carry on John McCain’s foreign policy should she have to take on the duties of commander in chief.

Clintonistas and the Far Right Extremism of Sarah Palin

Previously I noted a pro-Clinton forum which has become enthusiastic about supporting the McCain/Palin ticket. This goes along very well with the realignment of the parties which has been going on for the past several years, with the views (and political tactics) of many Clintonistas being far closer to those of George Bush, Karl Rove, and John McCain than to liberals such as Barack Obama.

The trend in recent years has been for the Republicans to increasingly oppose traditional conservatives views such as freedom, a market economy, and a more isolationist foreign policy as they have embraced the authoritarian social policies of the religious right, corporate welfarism, and the neoconservatives’s foreign policy. The combination of the hyper-nationalist John McCain with the reactionary Sarah Palin is the culmination of this trend.

In contrast many Democrats have become increasingly libertarian, more supportive of free market economics, and opposed to the Iraq war. Left-libertarian influences have increased and replaced big government liberalism, contributing to the nomination of Barak Obama and defeat of Hillary Clinton–a supporter of the nanny-state, social conservativism, and frequent defender of the neoconservative line on Iraq. While they might not agree on all issues, Clintonistas are much closer to the Republicans in supporting more government control over people’s lives and a neoconservative foreign policy.

There is a wide variety of people backing Hillary Clinton. Some will listen to her advice to back Barack Obama, for reasons ranging from party unity to an opposition to the return of shirt hanger abortions. Many others are ideologically much closer to the Republicans than to the more libertarian direction the Democratic Party has been moving and very likley will vote for McCain/Palin.

The pro-McCain/Palin forum of Clinton backers is far from the only example available. Yet another example of how the Clintonistas are far closer to McCain/Palin than to Democratic liberalism can be seen in the support given Palin by another outspoken Clinton supporter, Larry Johnson. i bet that many other Clintonistas will demonstrate their fundamental conservativism and  back the Republican ticket.

Many Democrats have assumed that the Clinton supporters will wind up backing Obama. Many actually are closer to the views of George Bush and John McCain than to the views of the Democratic Party and many will vote for McCain/Palin. While from a purely electoral point of view we would hope for every vote possible, this trend is not entirely bad. This could further strengthen pro-freedom liberalism in the Democratic Party as Hillary Clinton’s brand of nanny-state conservatism merges with the GOP. The addition to Palin to the ticket will also further demonstrate that John McCain is a conservative and not a moderate or a maverick as voters get a closer look at McCain and Palin’s views. Obama can potentially pick up far more voters who oppose such views than Clinton voters who vote for McCain/Palin.

Historians Find Palin Least Experienced Person On Major Party Ticket In Modern Era

One of the remarkable things about conservatives is the manner in which they will try to pass off the most absurd statements to defend their politicians. We saw that as they made excuses for Bush, including their claims that there was WMD in Iraq and that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Yet another major absurdity to come from the right for the past day has been the attempts to deny Sarah Palin’s lack of experience, and to even claim that she is at least as experienced as Barack Obama, if not more so.

To put Miss Wasilla 1984’s lack of experience in perspective, The Poltico quotes historians as calling Palin the least experienced politician with the weakest credentials to be on a modern ticket:

Presidential scholars say she appears to be the least experienced, least credentialed person to join a major-party ticket in the modern era.

So unconventional was McCain’s choice that it left students of the presidency literally “stunned,” in the words of Joel Goldstein, a St. Louis University law professor and scholar of the vice presidency. “Being governor of a small state for less than two years is not consistent with the normal criteria for determining who’s of presidential caliber,” said Goldstein.

“I think she is the most inexperienced person on a major-party ticket in modern history,” said presidential historian Matthew Dallek…

“It would be one thing if she had only been governor for a year and a half, but prior to that she had not had major experience in public life,” Dallek said of Palin. “The fact that he would have to go to somebody who is clearly unqualified to be president makes Obama look like an elder statesman.”

And Alaska is a much smaller state than Illinois, the political base of Barack Obama, whom Republicans have repeatedly criticized for being inexperienced, having served nearly four years in the U.S. Senate after eight in the Illinois state Senate.

“Not to belittle Alaska, but it’s different than the basket of issues you deal with in big, dynamic states,” Dallek said.

Palin has no experience in national office. Before becoming governor in December 2006, she served as a council member and mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, which had a population of slightly more than 5,000 during her time in office…

Back in June John McCain tried to make some comparisons between Barack Obama and Williams Jennings Bryan. The attack failed as few people other than John McCain were old enough to understand the attack, but it now turns out that it is John McCain who has one of the deficiencies of the ticket Bryan headed:

If elected vice president, Palin would appear to have the least amount of experience in federal office or as a governor since John W. Kern, Democrat William Jennings Bryan’s 1908 running mate, who had served for four years in the Indiana state Senate and then four more as city solicitor of Indianapolis. The Democratic ticket lost to Republican standard-bearer William Howard Taft and running mate James S. Sherman by an Electoral College spread of 321-162.

The Republican Party, which previously gave us Spiro T. Agnew and Dan Quayle now gives us Sarah Palin. Vice presidential candidates are not likely to make very much difference with regards to the success of a presidential campaign, but it won’t help McCain’s credibility to have to repeatedly defend the choice of Sarah Palin.

The Reactionary Views of Sarah Palin, Miss Wasilla 1984

I’ve been mocking the choice of Sarah Palin by repeating her title of Miss Wasilla 1984 because this points out two problems in her selection. Prior to her one and one-half years as Governor of Alaska, her experience was based upon being Mayor of Wasilla, population 9000 (where she had previously won the local beauty pageant). Her choice kills any hope of McCain raising experience as an issue against Obama, along with creating real concerns about the Republican ticket considering his age. The 1984 part is also signficant. Obviously I would not claim her reactionary views are anywhere as bad as those in Orwell’s 1984, but on a libertarian to authoritarian spectrum she is definitely leaning towards the 1984 end.

The Boston Globe provides some examples of her right wing views:

“A significant part of Palin’s base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them).”

The article also cites another report of Palin supporting the teaching of creationism in a debate. The New Republic provides another example of Palin’s right wing extremism. In 1999 she backed Pat Buchanan for president, quoting this AP report:

“Pat Buchanan brought his conservative message of a smaller government and an America First foreign policy to Fairbanks and Wasilla on Friday as he continued a campaign swing through Alaska. Buchanan’s strong message championing states rights resonated with the roughly 85 people gathered for an Interior Republican luncheon in Fairbanks. … Among those sporting Buchanan buttons were Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin and state Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage.”

Ben Smith notes that between her support for Pat Buchanan and her conservative social views Palin is already receiving criticism from Jewish groups. Smith also reports that Buchanan had referred to Palin as a supporter of his campaign on Hard Ball. It already looked like the Jewish vote would go heavily for Obama, and the choice of Palin will clinch this.

One might think that supporters of Hillary Clinton would also oppose any ticket which Palin Sarah  is on. This would be true of those who followed the advice Clinton gave during her speech at the Democratic convention when she asked, “Were you in this campaign just for me?” However, as I’ve pointed out many times in the past, many Clinton supporters do not support liberal values. They are ignorant of John McCain’s opposition to abortion rights and ideologically are much closer to the views of John McCain and George Bush than to liberal Democrats such as Barack Obama on many other issues.

Taylor Marsh writes that John McCain must think that women are stupid if he thinks they would support a ticket with Palin:

Seriously, all this suffrage rambling is convenient, but considering both McCain and Palin are against women’s civil rights and equal pay, hoisting her into the public spotlight and hearing her talking about Hillary is absolutely insulting.

Does McCain think women are stupid? Evidently, yes. They believe that just because Sarah Palin is a woman, disaffected HRC voters and women are supposed to flock to her. Experience, for Republicans has got nothing to do with it, especially if you’re a chick.

Unfortunately many of the women (and men) who backed Hillary Clinton really are stupid. While some might have found this to be unexpected, I was not at all surprised that The Volokh Conspiracy found a contingent of Hillary Clinton supporter who are thinking of voting Republican now that a woman has been added to the ticket. After all, lacking both understanding of and a commitment to liberal values, they have no reason to look beyond the gender of the candidates.

The Volokh Conspiracy quotes from several comments at this Hillary Clinton Forum such as, “Wow, Thanks so much to this Sarah Palin who never forgot us. She is a fighter. She paid her respects to our Hillary and Geraldine . They now no more think women in this country are 2nd class. You go girl and thank you for a refreshing pick Sen. McCain.” To them a woman who would help John McCain bring back shirt hanger abortions is preferable to a male Democratic candidate with a strong record of supporting abortion rights.

Their ignorance and blind acceptance of disputed right wing smears is seen in comments such as, “Remember just a short while ago Obama would not visit the wounded soldiers in Germany…” The degree to which Clinton supporters and the McCain campaign echo the same Rove-style lies is just amazing.

Some Clinton supporters cite this (along with the sun raising in the east) as proof that Democrats should have nominated Clinton instead of Obama. What they fail to realize is that only a tiny number of vocal nuts on the internet actually think this way. The number of votes that Democrats would have gained by having Hillary Clinton anywhere on their ticket would be greatly outnumbered by the votes she would cost the Democrats with Clinton being an extraordinarily weak candidate in a national election campaign.

Sarah Palin’s Foreign Policy Experience

Earlier I suggested that neither Republican on this year’s ticket has any knowledge of foreign policy. I stand corrected. Via Josh Marshall I have learned that Miss Wasilla 1984 actually does have some foreign policy experience. As reported on Fox News, Miss Wasilla does have foreign policy experience as Alaska is right next to Russia. (They really do make such a claim–see the video below). Her experience defending the shores of Alaska will prove to be a tremendous advantage to a ticket which is otherwise clueless on the foreign policy problems we face.


Women and Electoral Votes

In her speech, Sarah Palin raised both Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro as the McCain/Miss Wasilla 1984 ticket panders to the PUMA vote. Today’s trivia question: who was the first woman to receive an electoral vote? The answer is under the fold.


McCain Picks A Far Right Cover Girl

After attacking Obama as a celebrity, McCain picks a cover girl, Sarah Palin, as his running mate.

It looks like a desperation measure, with McCain thinking that putting a woman on the ticket will be enough to pick up Clinton’s supporters. Once they realize how conservative both parts of this ticket is on abortion rights and other social issues this will hardly help. Prior to being chosen, Palin was planning to give a speech to the Republican convention opposing choice on abortion.

When Obama picked Joe Biden I noted that if McCain went ahead an picked a governor we would have a Republican ticket lacking anyone with knowledge of foreign policy. Marc Ambinder notes Palin’s lack of expertise on foreign policy. (“Not Ready ’08”, eh?)

This picks does show that the McCain campaign must realize that they cannot succeed with their attacks on Barack Obama based upon inexperience as they picked a running mate whose experience is limited to one and one-half years as governor, proceeded by being mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (population 9000) after previously serving as Miss Wasilla 1984.

Barack Obama has successfully demonstrated that he has the intelligence and judgment to be president despite limited experience in Washington–experience which far exceeds that of Sarah Palin. The lack of a running mate who is qualified to be president will also increase concerns about McCain’s age as he celebrates his birthday today.

Voting for John McCain and more of the same Republican policies was already a risky move for American. Such a choice will now look even riskier.