I haven’t seen a night like that since July 14 when the Texas Ranger’s Josh Hamilton hit 28 dingers in the home run derby at the All-Star game in Yankee Stadium. I mean, wow! I could spend several pages enumerating the high points of that speech, but I want to focus on the issue of experience.
Some might say the line of the night was when Governor Palin said; “I guess being the mayor of a small town is like being a community organizer; except you have actual responsibilities.” Great line and the first part of it is true. The second half, though, is not true and leaves her open to attacks (like the one David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager, has already sent out this morning-after). The comment denigrates community organizers and volunteerism by association. What she should have said is, “….except you’re actually ACCOUNTABLE.” Now that statement IS true. Many community organizers have a laundry list of responsibilities. But the organizers are seldom the people ACCOUNTABLE, and accountability is the difference in the QUALITY of the experience that we should be talking about.
Many pundits, talking heads, commentators, citizens and village idiots are comparing the experience of Palin and Obama. We can admit that Obama has marginally more quantitative experience. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996, the same year Sarah Palin became Mayor of Wasilla. She left office in 2002 while Obama continued in the State Senate until he started work in the US Senate in January of 2005. He then spent roughly two years engaged in active legislation before deciding to run for president. Sarah Palin became governor of Alaska in 2006 and has governed for roughly two years before being selected as McCain’s VP.
The case the McCain campaign started to make last night and which it needs to make more often on behalf of Sarah Palin is that she has EXECUTIVE experience. She has been responsible AND accountable. The political offices she has held have made her the final arbiter in decisions on how to govern. She has had to choose. It’s been her name on the line. If government didn’t perform, the citizens were going to blame her; and that’s fair. She’s been IN CHARGE. Barack Obama has never had that type of experience. He’s been a “suggester,” (and not a prolific one, at that). This is also true of John McCain, in fact, and is why our nation hasn’t elected a Senator to the White House since 1960. When it comes to ACCOUNTABILITY, there is NO comparison. Sarah Palin has the better qualitative experience.
I thought Rudy Giuliani’s speech was an excellent prelude to Governor Palin’s. He spent several minutes regaling the experience of Senator Obama and how it is devoid of decisiveness. He pointed out that as a state senator, 130 times Obama voted “present.” He wouldn’t even decide “yes” or “no.” “It’s not good enough to be present, you have to make a decision,” Giuliani said. These are points the GOP needs to hammer home for the next 61 days. Giuliani recounted Obama’s ever-shifting thought process on the skirmish between Georgia and Russia—once again illuminating the Senator’s inability to formulate a position on his own and have it be worthy enough to stick with. (Give him credit, he knows when he’s talking trash and he’s willing to change his position, but that’s not really awe inspiring, is it?)
Instead, the most telling line of the night from Governor Palin was, “The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of self discovery, ” and this is what Barack Obama has made it. He is just now learning to make decisions. He has said as much in the last few days when he has talked about how running this campaign (isn’t that done by his campaign manager?), with it’s large staff and huge budget, is his executive experience. This is all he has. Meanwhile, Governor Palin has overseen a $12 billion budget and 29,000 state employees in the largest state in the country, which also happens to be the only state that borders one of our country’s greatest adversaries—Russia.
But let’s now get to brass tacks: Obama has limited experience and NO executive experience, but Palin doesn’t have a lot of experience, either. Senator McCain, you picked her. Now live with it. The McCain campaign needs to turn this negative into a positive. America keeps saying it wants “change” and new blood in Washington DC. Well here it is. She’s an outsider. She’s not jaded by years of experience operating within the system. She has fresh ideas and is uncorrupted. She doesn’t have the putrid stench of Washington’s insider politics on her; she wears the fragrance of Alaska’s wide-open spaces. She is a breath of fresh air.
Let the democrats make your point for you, Senator McCain: every time they say “inexperienced” you translate that for America as “outsider.” Sarah Palin is a great choice for the McCain campaign precisely because of her experience….and lack of it.