Thursday, October 16, 2008

Obama and McCain On Palin

I disagree with columnist Kathleen Parker's assertion early today, "The best part -- at least to some of us -- was when moderator Bob Schieffer pressed each candidate to explain why his vice presidential running mate was better qualified than the other’s to fill the presidency should circumstances warrant." But she is absolutely right in concluding:

Obama gets points for recognizing Sarah Palin’s political talent and more or less leaving it at that. McCain did neither Sarah Palin nor his candidacy any good with his response. Palin is qualified to be his running mate because she’s a reformer, a role model for women, a breath of fresh air -- and because she understands special needs children better than anyone? Role modeling and helping children with special needs is surely important -- and fresh air is welcome -- but this is not the sort of resume that inspires confidence in the midst of two wars and a global financial crisis.

Obama stated :

You know, I think it's -- that's going to be up to the American people. I think that, obviously, she's a capable politician who has, I think, excited the -- a base in the Republican Party.
And I think it's very commendable the work she's done on behalf of special needs. I agree with that, John.
I do want to just point out that autism, for example, or other special needs will require some additional funding, if we're going to get serious in terms of research. That is something that every family that advocates on behalf of disabled children talk about.
And if we have an across-the-board spending freeze, we're not going to be able to do it. That's an example of, I think, the kind of use of the scalpel that we want to make sure that we're funding some of those programs.

Three reasons Obama's response to this virtually irrelevant question was exceptional:

1) Obama acknowledged "she's a capable politician... who has excited the- a- base in the Republican Party." The reference to the/a "base" diplomatically implies that she is an extremist who does not appeal to the broad swath of the populace; and calling her "a capable politician" is damnig by faint praise, not unlike McCain's commending Obama by remarking "Well, you know, I admire so much Senator Obama's eloquence."

2) Commending Palin because of her work on special-needs children makes Obama appear generous and genuine- but does not improve her image, given that few people are going to be persuaded that such work qualifies someone as vice-presidential material in a time the country (and world) is enduring an economic meltdown and two wars.

3) Commending Palin because of her attention to autism availed Obama of the opportunity to criticize (justifiably) McCain's "scalpel" approach to federal spending.

And, as Parker, notes "role modeling and helping children.... and 'fresh air'" will not inspire confidence in the Governor's ability to serve the nation. And neither will McCain's assurance "And I can't tell how proud I am of her and her family." Parents are proud of their children, too, when they get on the honor roll, become popular among their peers, get on their school basketball team, or get their first big job. That does not qualify them to serve as Vice-President of the United States, and neither does it Sarah Palin.

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