Friday, August 29, 2008
**Updated with full bio**
Alaska governor Sarah Palin will be John McCain's running mate on the Republican ticket.
Continue for her bio and a quick reaction.
Born in Idaho, Sarah Palin moved to Alaska when she was still an infant. She was the daughter of education folk, a school secretary mom and science teacher/track coach dad, and excelled in athletics, earning the nickname "Barracuda" for her fierce play on the basketball court. She majored in journalism and minored in political science at the University of Idaho. When 20, she won the Miss Wasilla beauty pageant and came in second in the Miss Alaska competition, which (I think) marks the first time a beauty pageant contestant has sought presidential-level office in our fair country.
In 1988, she married (eloped to save money) Todd Palin, and the two just celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have five kids together, two sons and three daughters. Their eldest son ships off to Iraq this Sept. 11, and their youngest son, only four months old, has Downs Syndrome. She did find this out during a prenatal scan, but would not consider an abortion. She calls him "perfect."
Over her life, she has been a sportscaster and a commercial fisherman (her husband's business, when he's not working Alaska's North Slope as a production operator for BP). Her first step towards politics was in 1992 when she was elected to her first term in the Wasilla town council, a post she won again two years later. In 1996, she won the election to be mayor of Wasilla, and was re-elected in 1999. Another feather in her cap, she was also named President of Alaska's Conference of Mayors.
Moving from local to state-wide politics, she was appointed as the ethics commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas commission. She resigned in protest of unethical actions and later filed against fellow Republicans, leading to large fines, other resignations and a growing image as a reformer - even within her own party.
After an unsuccessful 2002 attempt at the post of Lt. Governor, she came back in 2006 and won her gubernatorial campaign by a healthy eight percent. She was the youngest Alaskan governor elected, and the first woman. While in office, she's done her best to reduce frivolous spending and really, done a whole lot more. To list all of her accomplishments and initiatives would take more ink than I spent on Joe Biden, and that wouldn't be fair.
Though not the oldest candidate, and certainly inexperienced on an international scale, she brings with her a keen understanding of our energy concerns and domestic economic issues. Her image is of a reformer, harkening back to the days of progressive Republican Teddy Roosevelt and more recently, McCain himself, comparisons the Republican party certainly wants to play up. She is an aisle-crosser, appointing people of all stripes to high positions and not being afraid to slap down her own party when it gets out of line.
So her major failing is lack of foreign policy experience, a key criteria McCain has stressed. It's easy, however, to answer such criticism, chiefly by pointing out the Democratic presidential nominee's lack of foreign policy experience. But we don't have to match a negative with a negative. Her lack in one area is matched by executive experience, a quick mind and strong economic and energy experience. McCain's more learned foreign policy experts are no doubt going over every international issue country by country at this stage.
But Biden still has the edge come the debate, a big experience gap that he'll play (rightly) to the hilt.
For more reading, check out her acceptance speech, her Wikipedia page and her Alaska gubernatorial homepage.
I'll be brief. Her nomination places an enormous burden on the Democratic party. She's a hard nut to crack, and as we'll see, her bio makes her almost unassailable in the traditional manner. Her age and governmental experience aren't really an issue, because if you start poking there, highlight Obama. Just because he assumed a national pulpit earlier than she, it doesn't mean he's more experienced and the Dems would watch their criticism.
For example: a trusted voting Democrat told me that McCain is 72 now (Happy Birthday!) and could keel over while in office, leaving this first-term Alaskan governor mother of five to assume the presidency. That's a serious consideration.
Consider the rebuttal: Obama is a first term US Senator with no executive experience. He has not been a chairman at a major corporation or a president, not a governor, mayor, or ranking military officer. And he isn't first in line should the President keel over - he's the domino that would start the collapse. The onus is on him to explain why his lack of experience is really better than hers.
The tickets are crossed: McCain's experience matches Biden's and Obama's lack thereof matches Palin's. McCain simply has to stress that while the Untested is one step from the Oval Office on his ticket, it's right there on the Dems' side.
Palin will lock in conservatives looking for a pro-lifer without question, an NRA activist, a "frontier" American who makes opportunity instead of waits for it to be doled out. She's risky come debate time, but a smart choice that zaps life into the McCain campaign. Oh, she also delivers a pretty good speech.
I expect a slight bounce in the polls.