Obama v. Palin (Finally)

After the announcement by John McCain of his choice of Sarah Palin a large percentage of posts here were devoted to investigating her record and criticizing her extremist views. At the time many were saying that we should concentrate on McCain and not Palin as the top of the ticket was what mattered.

Even the Obama campaign seemed to be following this advice at first, but it didn’t bother me. First of all, I am not part of the Obama campaign. As the primary topics of this blog are on social issues and civil liberties, having a major party vice presidential candidate who was on the wrong side of these issues was a topic worthy of discussion regardless of whether this should be the major front in the campaign. Secondly, even if it made sense for the Obama campaign to avoid these issues, it would still be beneficial to have the media and blogosphere dig into Palin’s views and record. Thirdly, my suspicion was that this bit of conventional wisdom would change. The voters have been hearing about McCain and Obama for a year and a half and were eager to hear about someone new. While this certainly might not be the case in November, I suspect that, at least for the short run, the election campaign would revolve around Sarah Palin.

It looks like Obama has caught on to this. Via Marc Ambinder I find that Obama did bring up Palin when campaigning in Flint:

Well, how about Gov. Palin? She’s you know, an up and comer from Alaska. She – they’re starting to run an ad now saying she opposed the bridge to nowhere. Well now, let’s get the facts clear here. When she was mayor, she hired a Washington lobbyist to get earmarks  – pork barrel spending – all the things that John McCain says is bad, she lobbied to get! And got a whole lot of it. When it came to the bridge to nowhere, she was for it until everybody started raising a fuss about it and she started running for governor and then suddenly she was against it!

You remember that? For it before you were against it? I mean you can’t just make stuff up. You can’t just recreate yourself. You can’t just reinvent yourself. The American people aren’t stupid.

Well, maybe they are stupid based upon the recent polls. Besides, they were stupid enough to elect George Bush twice (or at least give him enough votes in 2000 make it close enough so he could get away with having the Supreme Court hand it over to him). Being right on the issues does not mean the American people will vote for you.

Fortunately the polls are just a snap shot of what is happening now and the bounce will only persist until the next major news event. Either candidate can win, but the election won’t come down to the current post-convention bounce.

There are many reasons why Obama needs to campaign against Palin as well as McCain but most come done to the fact that McCain is not who many voters believe he is. McCain claims to know how to fix this and fix that but never gives specifics. The biggest decision he has made so far was to make Sarah Palin his vice presidential candidate. The folly of this decision, and the incompetence shown by the failure to vet Palin, can only be clear when Palin’s lack of qualifications are demonstrated. The experience issue has turned from a disadvantage for Obama to an advantage, but only if he clearly makes the case that his experience is far more significant than Palin’s (and far more than being a community organizer).

McCain claims to be a maverick and fighter against earmarks. Arguments like Obama’s statement above help to debunk that one, but Obama cannot fight them on this issue alone. Obama cannot only show that McCain’s argument is a fraud. He must go on to show why his policies are better.

People think McCain is a moderate. Many voters even think he is still pro-choice, being unaware of how far to the right he has moved on abortion rights and many other issues. No moderate who respects the principles upon which this nation was founded would ever take a chance on an extremist such as Sarah Palin being only a heartbeat away from the presidency. Sarah Palin’s extreme views help give Obama reason to defend liberal values. Rather than running away from the culture wars as Democrats generally do, Obama should face this battle head on in contrasting his views with Palin’s. This was harder against McCain since, while he has made it clear he will give the far right the Supreme Court judges he wants, he is not personally identified with the religious right. While Obama would have difficulties targeting McCain directly on this, having Sarah Palin on the ticket makes it both easy and essential to do so.


  1. 1
    MsJoanne says:

    If we could only get more people to watch this Jon Stewart clip showing McCain as The Reformed Maverick.

    He may have been a maverick at one time, but that time was before 2000.  Since then, he is lockstep with Bush, the GOP and everything that is against US; the American people.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:


    The good news is that the more people see of McCain/Palin, the better our chances are. Plus, the more Obama can get out his message of what he really supports, as opposed to what the McCain campaign claims he supports, the better our chances.

    The Jon Stewart clip might not help much as his audience is already heavily for Obama. We also need ways to break through the smears against Obama from the right and to show people what McCain and Palin really stand for.

  3. 3
    MsJoanne says:

    Agreed, completely!

    I find it shameful that there is nothing but 24/7 Palin talk.  I saw a very short clip of Obama stumping.  Out of hours and hours of coverage.

    I don’t know how to get the word out when the “NEWS” isn’t reporting any friggin’ news!  It’s nothing but horserace over and over ad nauseum.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Yes, but that 24/7 Palin talk was predictable. That is one reason why it was necessary to get the facts out on her positions and record. If we are going to hear nothing but talk of Palin, it should be turned to our advantage.

    It was inevitable the media would concentrate on a story such as Palin’s. McCain was smart politically in the short run to choose her, even if in the long run it is bad for the country and could even backfire against him during the campaign. Obama also benefited from the same phenomenon in receiving increased coverage. Rather than complain about how much coverage Palin gets we need to take advantage of it by using it to get out the drawbacks to voting for McCain and Palin (or is it now Palin and McCain?).

  5. 5
    Jerry says:

    Once she starts answering hard-ball questions, her luster will fall away.  Those questions will either come from an interviewer who decides to take her on, or during the debate.  But the time will come.
    Obama needs to continue getting his credentials out there – show what he’s done as opposed to what Palin and others say he’s done (nothing).  The debates will help, but Obama’s salvation will be his money and advertising clout.
    BTW, anyone else here think that Biden is being overly effusive about John McCain?  He went on and on for 6-7 sentences about what a terrific fella John is… one sentence is enough already!

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Hopefully that will have an effect but we cannot be certain.

    The primary benefit to McCain is getting the support of the religious right, which otherwise might have not turned out in high numbers. They won’t be affected by any difficulty answering questions. Of course they won’t be affected by other criticism.

    The question is whether it becomes clear to the average voter that she lacks sufficient experience–and that she has much less experience than Obama. It is possible she might be able to bluff her way through questions enough to keep the support of the average voter, especially as she is only the VP candidate. While I was never a huge fan of Tim Russert’s gotcha questions, she is one person who deserves such treatment. Her gaffe on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which many blogs are discussing today is not big enough to have any impact.

  7. 7
    Nutritional Facts says:

    Anyone recall a Presidential race where the opposition took out an ad aimed directly and almost solely at the other party’s VP candidate? I imagine it’s happened, it just doesn’t seem like standard practice or even really a good idea.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is unusual but at the moment most of the attention is on Palin.

  9. 9
    Nicholas says:

    Democrats must attack Palin more aggressively. They must re-iterate her extreme social views and lack of experience. Essentially, she is trying to re-establish the society of our grandparents. This is not the time for Obama to be a gentleman. Palin did not have to accept the VP spot, but she did, and now she should be up for hard questions and scrutiny just like everybody else. Is she relying solely on her looks? Does she have any credible experience? She does a couple of cute very American things (a hunter, fisherman, big family, former beauty contest participant, sends her son to Iraq), and this is enough to be a VP? I don’t think so. Many GOP supporters were waving banners saying that “Palin had them at hello”. So, according to GOP, we should like a candidate based on first impressions? Age, looks, gender, what state they are from? How can you know anything about somebody’s policies and plans for the future of this country at hello time? In reality, you cannot. You can only make a quick uneducated decision.

    Let the American people see if Palin can actually answer questions on her own, as opposed to reading statements scripted by others. Don’t let her bluff through this election campaign, press her hard. The danger here is that if she gets elected, she won’t be independent, but rather easily led around by GOP and the Karl Roves of the future, much like Bush was. Which will only reinforce the lobbyists and special groups in Washington, which in turn will seriously hurt this country. And, Palin might just become president – given that McCain is over 70 years old. Hillary should also step up and criticize Palin if she is to truly help Obama get elected. Hillary and Palin are like night and day in terms of policies – and the average voter needs to be told this over and over, loud and clear.

  10. 10
    Diana J says:

    When Palin talks I see Hitler all over again, does no one see the clear rasism in her statements. She is claming to be a christian. We are going into World War III if the Republicans are elected. The land of the free…..We were once apon a time.

    No one sees the truth any more. As clear as day, do you think that the Germans said the same thing before Hitler came into power. That would never happen here!

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:


    Palin’s connections to far right groups are of concern, but there is still a considerable difference between her and Hitler.

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