Monday, September 1, 2008

A question of judgment

Again and again and again: The issue is not Sarah Palin. (Well, not entirely; there's evidence leaking out to be concerned about, more signs that she wasn't properly vetted.)

The issue is what this selection says about McCain's decision-making. In picking a relative unknown, we have 70 days to get familiar with her and learn if she's any more than someone convenient who passes all the right-wing ideology criteria. In selecting her, McCain invites the (false) conclusion that there are no Republican women better qualified. (Kay Bailey Hutchinson has more experience in national and international affairs. Carly Fiorina has more executive experience. Elizabeth Dole has more of both, having served in the Executive Branch as well as the Senate. I'd disagree with all of them and wouldn't want to see any of them in office--but that's because of policy questions, not concerns about basic experience and temperament.)

E. J. Dionne has a good column up today over at WaPo about how this may play out in Convention Week and beyond, and how his own decision complicates McCain's job badly. He also calls out movement conservatives who were horribly concerned about Harriet Meier's lack of experience, but have no problem with Sarah Palin's lack of experience. (Hint: It's not nearly as much about experience as it is about maintaining power and making sure someone is really one of them.) Money quote:

In picking Biden as his running mate, Obama made a prudent choice. It is McCain who is asking us to roll the dice. You'd think that people who call themselves conservative would have a problem with that.
Ordinarily I'm wary of reading too much into the small human-interest details that get tossed into bio puff pieces. But: Obama plays low-stakes poker, a game about deducing how things look from the other person's perspective, making the most of limited information, and adjusting your strategy to the nuances at the table. He plays conservatively, and rarely bluffs. McCain plays higher-stakes (what would be very high stakes for me, but for a man of his wealth not excessive) craps, a game in which the odds are fixed, nuances are few, and letting winnings ride so everything is determined by the next throw of the dice is encouraged.

In this case, gaming preferences may be diagnostic.

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