Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Monday, September 01, 2008
Palin separates the (conservative) men from the boys
One of the benefits of the Sarah Palin ascendancy has been the clear line of distinction it has drawn between conservatives -- meaning those who simply adopt the title, but whose concern really is the election of Republicans, no matter what the consequences; those whose "conservatism" is of the Christian Taliban kind -- aimed at forcing the U.S. into an evangelical theocracy -- and true conservatives who cleave to the principles of limited government, meritocracy, and non-adventurism (the conservatism of Barry Goldwater or Dwight Eisenhower versus the mish-mash conservative stew thrown together by Ronald Reagan.)

On the Palin pick, those in the first category -- who live to see Republicans elected, but care little about governing (call them the Karl Rove wing) are defending the choice of Palin based on her "newness", "freshness" and ability to restart the Republican "brand." These "conservatives' could care less about the implications of Palin being a heartbeat away from the presidency, in the perilous times we live in, with issues like Iraq, Iran, Georgia-Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. on the table.  They just live to win (or they're shilling for drilling,) and are easily written off as hacks (put RedState, Bill Kristol and the talk radio crowd firmly here.)

Group two, the evangelical absolutists, are genuinely thrilled with Sarah, as she fulfills their dreams of The Christian Apprentice one day rising to the scepter, forcing us all to accept God's law on abortion, God's rejection of man-made climate change and sissified "science" as the law of the land.

Group three, which includes both actual conservatives, who at the end of the day, do actually care about the country, and the neocon nut-jobs whose passion is Middle East -- specifically, overthrowing the enemies of Israel. This group is waking up to the Palin nomination and cringing (see Charles Krauthammer's reaction here.)

That includes conservatism's most sincere soul, Andrew Sullivan, who had this to say on Friday:
... Think about the men and women serving this country who have every right to trust that their potential commander-in-chief, whatever their party, would have some record of even interest in foreign policy before assuming office.

Think about how the key factor in this decision was not who could defend this country were something dreadful happen to McCain in office but how to tread as much on Obama's convention bounce and use women's equality as a wedge issue among Democrats because it might secure a few points here or there. Oh, and everyone would be surprised. And even Rove would be annoyed.

This is his sense of honor and judgment. This is his sense of responsibility and service.

Here's the real slogan the McCain campaign should now adopt: Putting. Country. Last.

And for the neocons, there's David Frum:
Sarah Palin may well have concealed inner reservoirs of greatness. I hope so! But I'd guess that John McCain does not have a much better sense of who she is, what she believes, and the extent of her abilities than my enthusiastic friends over at the Corner. It's a wild gamble, undertaken by our oldest ever first-time candidate for president in hopes of changing the board of this election campaign. Maybe it will work. But maybe (and at least as likely) it will reinforce a theme that I'd be pounding home if I were the Obama campaign: that it's John McCain for all his white hair who represents the risky choice, while it is Barack Obama who offers cautious, steady, predictable governance.

Here's I fear the worst harm that may be done by this selection. The McCain campaign's slogan is "country first." It's a good slogan, and it aptly describes John McCain, one of the most self-sacrificing, gallant, and honorable men ever to seek the presidency.

But question: If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor a heartbeat away from the presidency?

And for the in-betweeners, Ramesh Ponnuru lays out:
The cons:

Inexperience. Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain's age raised the stakes on this issue.
As a political matter, it undercuts the case against Obama. Conservatives are pointing out that it is tricky for the Obama campaign to raise the issue of her inexperience given his own, and note that the presidency matters more than the vice-presidency. But that gets things backward. To the extent the experience, qualifications, and national-security arguments are taken off the table, Obama wins.

And it’s not just foreign policy. Palin has no experience dealing with national domestic issues, either. (On the other hand, as Kate O’Beirne just told me, we know that Palin will be ready for that 3 a.m. phone call: She’ll already be up with her baby.)

Tokenism. Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man? ...
It was funny watching poor Fred Barnes hector the members of Frank Luntz's Minneapolis focus group today on CSPAN. Luntz tried his damndest to pull some positive news out of the 25 participants about Palin, but it just didn't work. As Joe Klein, who was there, reports:
Only one person said Palin made him more likely to vote for McCain; about half the 25-member group raised their hands when asked if Palin made them less likely to vote for McCain. They had a negative impression of Palin by a 2-1 margin...a fact that was reinforced when they were given hand-dials and asked to react to Palin's speech at her first appearance with McCain on Friday---the dials remained totally neutral as Palin went through her heart-warming(?) biography, and only blipped upwards when she said she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere--which wasn't quite the truth, as we now know.
Then there was this, from a woman named Teresa, who went to the Democratic Convention as a Hillary delegate and is leaning toward voting for McCain--obviously the target audience for the Palin pick: "His age didn't really bother me until he picked Palin. What if he dies in office and leaves us with her as President? Also she leans toward the rigid right, and I always thought he was a moderate...You know, I change my mind almost every day, but right now I"m wondering where the John McCain I really liked in 2000 went, what happened to the moderate? This John McCain has the look of someone who is being manipulated--probably by Karl Rove."
It really was interesting, if you get a chance, check it out.


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