Saturday, August 30, 2008

Decision Making

I've got a few blog entries in the wings, one that looks at Obama's DNCC speech (as an example of oration and not politically) and another that is about the changing-and-yet-unchanging nature of combat. But they are going to have to wait for just a day or so over this weekend while I take a quick look at John McCain's veep-choice.

vp-maccain-cp-5416664.jpgI'm going to assume that you know he's selected Alaska's governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Now much of what follows depends on a single piece of analysis and its resulting conclusion -- namely that she was selected primarily in a "attract dissatisfied Hilary Clinton voters" move. I'm pretty comfortable with this conclusion:

(1) She's a little thin on general qualifications, particularly as the choice of a guy who has stressed the need for experience. One term as governor leading a geographically large but populationally small state does not seem up to what I was expecting. I can see an effort to play to younger voters, much as Obama's veepchoice was clearly intended to bring some experience to the ticket. I'd be fine with this, but she doesn't seem to be much of a hipster.

(2) The timing was...uh...obvious. I'm fine with trying to grab some thunder, but this announcement, coupled with the "McCain has selected running mate" news stories running the day after Hillary handed the nomination over to Barack seems suspicious. I picture a scene like this:

"Senator, it's obvious he's not picking Clinton for the veep."

"Good, let's see if we can get some dame for our veep. Bring those Clinton fanatics over."

"Sure, but Senator, you can't call them dames anymore."

"What? Ok, then, find me some broad. One with great gams..."

Any way I try to look at it, I find the overriding logic of this selection must be driven by a "get the Hilary voters" logic. And I find that profoundly disappointing on the part of John McCain who, despite occasionally lapsing into the geopolitics of another era, remains a man I have considerable respect for. Here's why:

(1) It is, arguably, offensive to the decision making priorities of women to think that just because you've got a woman on your ticket they will, without presumably regarding other issues, vote for you. This is not my point -- I am not a women and therefore do not feel it is fully within my regard to make claims about how something may or may not have the potential to offend a group. But the point was made in conversations with our (also Obama supporting) guests last night, it was made by a women, and so I repeat it.

(2) It is a choice not for the future and the strength of the potential McCain White House (and let's face it, based on age alone, McCain's veepchoice is a lot more likely to end up in a position of power than is Biden!) but rather for the short-term goal of getting elected. I want a leader who thinks for the long term and takes actions in line with the ultimate goals which he espouses.

(3) It is a profoundly reactionary decision -- Barack Obama called the shots on this one and McCain responded. Coming from a guy who loves to play his bulldog, rebel image, and to portray himself as the guy who can make the tough calls in a crisis, this really let me down. I want to see my nation as a leader in the world, taking the lead on issues and events proactively and not just responding to events or the actions and statements of others.

(4) It feels like a "desperate times" decision -- a friend of ours described it as "McCain's hail Mary" to use the over-used football analogy yet again. But the thing is, there is no need for a desperate, tactically given choice. The race is yet young and there are tons of opportunities to get a qualified, complimentary vice presidential candidate who could contribute not just to a strong ticket but to a strong White House. So just as this choice made McCain look reactionary, it makes him look prematurely and unnecessarily desperate. I want a confident, cool leader.

images-1.jpegAll in all, I am left feeling kind of shocked (as was apparently everyone) and kind of disappointed by this decision. If you've read any of my other political posts, you know that I put a lot of election cred on how I perceive the candidates as decision makers. The unknown will come up during a four or eight year term, and so I put a lot of value on how I believe candidates reached their decisions, often more than on the actual results of those decisions. Based on the pathway I see Senator McCain having gone down for this one, I am left very unsatisfied -- all the more so because of his rhetoric about experience and image as a tough-guy.

I've been backing Obama this whole race for his vision and enthusiasm and glorious oratory. But I've seen the first actual overt "bad move" by the opposing candidate. Other than getting country names wrong, that is.

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