Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama's Speech and Sarah Palin

Did you watch Obama’s acceptance speech before 75,000 in Denver last night? 38 million Americans watched. The suggestion that John McCain’s surprise announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate was timed to distract the public from the impact of Obama’s speech is doubtless true. I’ll get to his choice below. But first Obama’s speech: there was much in it that McCain wanted people to forget before they had a chance to absorb. What did you think about it?

I was deeply moved and encouraged about Obama’s prospects in November. He did the
two things he had to do in this speech: he laid out his vision for the country in the specific measures he would set himself to accomplish as president, and he demonstrated that he can put John McCain on the defensive.

The criticism that Obama talks about “change” without saying what he means was never true, but it will be a charge even more difficult to level after last night’s speech in which he spoke about it in as direct and simple a manner as I have heard from him. From the economy to the wars with education, health care, and the environment in between, the specifics of his agenda were there, all set the context of what those issues mean for the non-wealthy.

He took the fight to McCain. On McCain’s record he
John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.
On the economy, he said
Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans; I just think he doesn't know.

For over two decades -- for over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.
His critique of McCain’s judgment was sharpest on what McCain claims is his greatest strength—
national security.
If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have...

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don’t protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can’t truly stand up for Georgia when you’ve strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but that is not the change that America needs.
In one of the most compelling elements of the speech, Obama pledged not to say that McCain takes his positions for political purposes—a frequently used tactic of McCain against Obama.
But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes, because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and each other's patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together, and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America; they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain: We all put our country first.

What of Sarah Palin’s selection as McCain’s running mate? She’s popular as governor in Alaska and, at least until a month ago, has enjoyed an unblemished reputation as a reformer. That’s no mean achievement in a state now known more for the corruption of its officials than its spectacular scenery. A month ago, however, Palin was accused of abusing her authority in firing the state’s public safety commissioner over his reluctance to fire a state trooper who was involved in a messy divorce and child-custody battle with Palin’s sister. In July, the state Legislative Council, a bi-partisan group that tends to legislative matters between sessions, voted to spend $100,000 on an outside investigation of the case. Palin has said she would cooperate. When this came to light at the end of July, the speculation about Palin’s long-shot chances to be picked as McCain’s running mate died. That “death,” it turns out, was premature.

Palin’s presence on the Republican ticket is widely assumed to be to attract unhappy supporters of Hillary Clinton and other women. She will probably gain some supporters because of being a woman, although the first woman I spoke to about it today said it was a cynical ploy to get women voters and that most women would see how Palin is being used.

The Alaska governor also has liabilities. Until 20 months ago she was mayor of a town of 6,500 people forty miles north of Anchorage. She had little statewide experience and has no national experience. In 2007 she was interviewed by the Alaska Business Monthly and asked about the
war in Iraq

Alaska Business Monthly: We've lost a lot of Alaska's military members to the war in Iraq. How do you feel about sending more troops into battle, as President Bush is suggesting?

Palin: I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq. I heard on the news about the new deployments, and while I support our president, Condoleezza Rice and the administration, I want to know that we have an exit plan in place; I want assurances that we are doing all we can to keep our troops safe. Every life lost is such a tragedy.

Palin is strongly opposed to pro-choice and an advocate of teaching “Creationism” in schools, both positions that bring cheer to the hearts of many right wing Republicans. The reaction to her selection by her Republican colleagues in Alaska was mixed.

One of the key consequences of her selection is that it removes the teeth from McCain’s main attack theme against Obama: his lack of experience.

What did you think of Obama’s speech last night? And what do you think about Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate?


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