Must-reads: Dan Gardner and John Ibbitson on Sarah Palin; Don Martin on the election trail.
When’s the next bus back to Juneau?
The pundits continue to make moosemeat… sorry, mincemeat, of the would-be vice-president.
“Presidents who can find places on maps are a mixed blessing,” George Jonas writes in the National Post, and presumably vice-presidents too—i.e., because they might accidentally invade the place in question. And all this talk of lack of inexperience on Barack Obama’s and Sarah Palin’s part betrays a woefully naïve understanding of how politics works, Jonas argues. “Dental hygienists need experience. Presidents and tycoons learn on the job. … What you want to be is a quick study.”
Palin “wasn’t picked for her foreign-policy resumé, she was chosen for her narrative, for her story,” L. Ian MacDonald writes in the Montreal Gazette: beauty queen “marries high-school sweetheart, has five kids,” the last with Down’s syndrome, thus buttressing her pro-life credentials; becomes mayor of small town, then “takes down the sitting governor from her own party in a primary, and sweeps the state in a general election,” shortly thereafter cancelling “bridge to nowhere” that John McCain “often cites as the worst example of political pork in Washington” (an oversimplified chapter but a compelling one, MacDonald says). We’re pretty sure everybody already knew this.
Also from the Department of the Painfully Obvious, The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson explains that McCain chose Palin to bulwark support among leery social conservatives and women, and that so far it’s been a more successful gambit among the former than the latter.
The Gazette‘s Janet Bagnall dismisses McCain’s choice of Palin as rank tokenism, especially considering the other Republican women he could have chosen—Senators Olympia Snowe and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, for example. (Both are pro-choice, unfortunately, and thus not the sort of tokens—male or female—McCain was after.) And she’s not even a good token, Bagnall complains, since “most American women, with their two children, big mortgage, bigger health-care insurance payments and 40-hour work week” wouldn’t identify with her. This is where we lose the plot, frankly: Palin has five kids and, we assume, works rather more than 40 hours a week. Snowe or Bailey Hutchinson are much more accomplished, certainly, but would more Republican women identify with them… or more women whose politics align more closely with Bagnall’s?
Ultimately, John Ibbitson argues in the Globe, “this is not about Ms. Palin at all.” This is about the man who would be president rolling the dice on an unknown quantity when many safer, more prudent choices were available. “If Mr. McCain is so impulsive as to pick a vice-presidential candidate with so much baggage, … what would he do if Russian troops entered Ukraine?” Ibbiston asks. “This question didn’t exist last weekend.”
“I have yet to find a single instance, in Ms. Palin’s frontier background and extraordinary career—rising in politics as an enemy of posturing and corruption—of where she fails to be a symbol of America’s better angel,” David Warren writes in the Ottawa Citizen. Assuming Palin’s reported fondness for banning books in libraries escaped his notice before deadline, we don’t necessarily disagree. There’s nothing especially wrong with her, from an American standpoint at least. But what about that niggling question of experience? Nonsense, says Warren. She’s got more managerial experience than Obama, Joe Biden or even John McCain, and enough pluck, what’s more, to suggest she might be “another Margaret Thatcher.”
The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner marvels at the ability of the True Believers—Republicans, Democrats, religious nuts, etc.—to keep the faith even in the face of massive cognitive dissonance. Obama’s lack of experience was an “article of faith” among hardcore Republicans, he argues, “and then came Sarah Palin,” whose “résumé makes Barack Obama look like Nelson Mandela.” Crisis? What crisis? The debate simply inverted upon itself. “The Obama campaign and Mr. Obama’s True Believers used the very arguments that had been used against Mr. Obama, while the McCain campaign and conservatives did precisely what Mr. Obama and his True Believers had done to defend against those arguments—puffing up the nominee’s accomplishments and insisting that what really matters anyway is character and judgment,” while accusing the other side of hypocrisy.
Bored with all this base politicking, the Toronto Star‘s Rosie DiManno checks out the Open Forum Stage in St. Paul, outside the convention perimeter, where all manner of cranks and crackpots are scheduled for an hour of ranting, raving, hooting and hollering before a crowd that grew from one (DiManno) to three. “The vast expanse of empty space did not remotely bother gubernatorial wannabe [Leslie] Davis,” she reports, a self-styled “New Age Republican” who “blasted everyone from Bill Clinton (‘low life philanderer’) to John McCain (‘crashing your plane does not make you a war hero’), working himself up into a lather and often gesticulating at his imaginary audience.”
Let her speak! She’s got Blair Wilson!
Stéphane Dion continues to champion Elizabeth May’s inclusion in the televised debates. The question remains: why?
The Star‘s Chantal Hébert argues that by bringing Blair Wilson into the Green fold, however briefly, as the party’s first MP, May made it easier for the networks to include her in the election debates “without ostentatiously lowering the bar of admission.” The odd thing, however, is that Dion continues to advocate her inclusion while the Tories remain steadfastly against it, even though the former has vastly more votes to lose to the Greens than the latter. “Could it be,” Hébert asks, “that Stephen Harper’s brain trust worries that May—with greater command of the issue and the English language—will do more to put the Prime Minister on the spot on the environment than the Liberal leader?” (Perhaps. We think it could also just be stubbornness.)
Steady NDP support and growing Green support can only mean one thing, argues the Globe‘s Lawrence Martin: with all due respect to May’s claims to appeal on the starboard side of the political spectrum, “the chances of the Liberals unseating the Tories would be better if her Green Party didn’t exist.” Especially considering Dion is taking the Liberals ever further to port, where two other parties (three in Quebec) are in a pitch battle for votes, Martin agrees that Dion’s support for May’s inclusion in the debates is highly risky.
Why would Harper violate his own fixed election dates legislation? In the Toronto Sun, Gerry Nicholls suggests he belatedly realized an October 2009 election would never work because voters “would use that year wisely and surround their home with an ‘anti-politician perimeter’ consisting of a moat, barbed wire and high voltage electric fences.” As it stands, however, “it’s too late to even find a decent attack dog.”
Thomas Walkom‘s piece in the Star begins very, very oddly: “The stars are lining up for Stephen Harper to win a majority government. … Polls show that Conservative efforts to paint Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion as weak are working. The Prime Minister has been careful to muzzle the extremists in his party and present his government to voters as a moderate right-of-centre regime.” We assumed he was establishing some sort of semi-counterfactual scenario inside the Prime Minister’s brain, but no, he seems to actually believe the basically neck-and-neck polls conceal an impending Tory majority. This makes the rest of his fairly straightforward examination of Harper’s legendary bastardliness somewhat hard to read.
The Financial Post‘s Terence Corcoran gleefully takes note of an Ipsos poll, released yesterday, that shows opposition for Dion’s Green Shift growing significantly. Voters, Corcoran suggests, are finally noticing the things he’s been telling them for ages: that “carbon emissions are not ‘pollution,’ except in the sales material put out by the climate change industry”; that carbon taxation is “based on little more than superficial economic theory and bastardized ideas about markets and prices”; and that where carbon taxes have been implemented, citizens have revolted.
The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin can reveal portions of the Liberals’ election plan, which involves “a lightning coast-to-coast blitz with pit stops in cities where Conservatives skeletons are ripe for the rattling”—in Walkerton, Ont., to link the listeriosis outbreak to the Tories; at an “artist-filled event” somewhere in Quebec to highlight the Tories’ cuts to arts funding; in Calgary, to pick at the income trusts scab; and in Vancouver, to “pose for the cameras inside the Vancouver safe injection site that Health Minister Tony Clement wants to mothball.” That’s all well and good, says Martin, but if Dion can’t bring his caucus onside at this week’s retreat, all the hackneyed photo-ops and tortured election logic will be for naught.