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Sarah Palin and the Dysfunctional Political Class

She may have been one of the most qualified members of a presidential ticket in a decade.

by
James V. DeLong

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November 8, 2009 - 12:10 am
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The frenetic hostility to Sarah Palin, even by many on the Republican side, is unnerving, because her qualifications to be president are objectively better than those of almost anyone who has been on the national ticket over the past decade.

A reasonable conclusion is that these qualifications are precisely the cause of the hostility. To admit to the reality that the dominant political class, including the MSM and the punditocracy of both parties, has been giving us abysmal presidential candidates, to accept that a hockey mom plucked from small-town Alaska is better than the best that the political class can come up with, would require recognition of the terrible truth that the system has become deeply dysfunctional. Doing this would force our political elites to look into an abyss of serious questions about the functioning of our democracy. Palin creates a cognitive dissonance so intense that it simply cannot be accepted.

To start, compare her experience as a person, mayor, and state leader with George W. Bush’s pre-presidential career as an alcoholic, baseball executive, and ornamental governor. Whatever one thinks of his performance as president — and like most conservatives my views are complex — he was not promising material as of 2000.

Al Gore would be disqualified by knowledge of his academic career and by a reading of Earth in the Balance, an exercise in messianic ignorance. His subsequent career getting rich from climate change subsidies would reinforce this opinion. John Kerry had a Senate career of unbroken mediocrity, compounded by his unapologized-for Winter Soldier exercise and the still-unanswered Swift Boat questions.

John Edwards had no shadow of a qualification, and again the judgment is confirmed by subsequent events.

Obama’s qualifications were will-o-the-wisp. His supporters cited his “potential,” as they had to, because his only actual feat was his first book — and the claims that this was ghosted have been met by non-denial. The Asia Times characterizes these rumors as “well-established,” which tells one something about current foreign assessments of Obama. The president’s long-standing ties to the radical left should have tipped the balance to the negative.

Vice President Joe Biden has a long history of blurring the line between fantasy and reality to a degree that one wonders if he sees any distinction, but 36 years of this is enough to make him “qualified.” This, too, tells a lot about the mental processes of the dominant political class.

One can deeply respect John McCain’s courage and service. But he is an erratic senator, with a tendency to reach decisions on a whim and then excoriate anyone who disagrees. As demonstrated by McCain-Feingold — which hamstrings the middle-class base of the Republicans while leaving intact the power of unions and public employees, the media, the rich, and Native American tribes — McCain does not, or cannot, think even two moves ahead.

This leaves Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney as the only candidates with any weight, and Palin’s executive experience gives her an edge over Lieberman.

The list may not be impressive, but being number two is not bad.

The biases of the political class also explain why Palin got sandbagged at the outset. Anyone familiar with the world of Washington private schools knows that they are experts at resume building — creating scads of extracurricular activities and awards so that every student can shine for the college of his or her choice. Well, the kids learned it from their parents, who are also experts at blowing air into the CV.

Palin was called inexperienced because she had never gone on a five-photo-ops-with-foreign-leaders-in-four-days tour, held show hearings on the topic du jour, introduced meaningless legislation, or had her staff give her a list of the publications she should say she was currently reading.

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