Saturday, October 4, 2008

Palin, McCain and the Weeks Ahead

By Karl Rove NEWSWEEKPublished Oct 4, 2008 From the magazine issue dated Oct 13, 2008

Palin's ties to 'everyday Americans' aren't an argument for her candidacy. But let's treat her ability to inspire the public for what it is: an asset, not a liability.

With respect, Jon misses the principal arguments for Sarah Palin. She is the governor of a state with an $11 billion operating budget, a $1.7 billion capital budget and nearly 29,000 employees; she's got more executive experience than any candidate for president or vice president this year. In Alaska she took on the state political establishment, the incumbent Republican governor and the oil companies. She's a rising star who accentuates John McCain's maverick strengths and a "hockey mom" who has developed a powerful tie to ordinary voters.

That link isn't itself an argument for Palin. But being able to connect with, and inspire, the public is an asset —not a liability. As for Jon's argument against "everyday Americans" as political leaders, many great presidents have been more average than elitist. Ronald Reagan, from Eureka College, was a far better leader than Woodrow Wilson, a former president of Princeton. Wilson would have given you 100 Supreme Court opinions he disagreed with, whether you wanted to listen or not.

Barack Obama has also introduced Joe Biden as a Joe Six-Pack, saying, "His family didn't have much money … sometimes moving in with the in-laws or working weekends to make ends meet." Biden himself rarely misses a chance to say, "I was an Irish Catholic kid from Scranton with a father who, like many of yours in tough economic times, fell on hard times." Both veep candidates are trying to portray themselves as ordinary folks.

On experience, I'm all for it. But judgment is at least as important. Biden has 35 years in the Senate, yet his record on national-security issues during that span has been atrocious. He might be able to name Germany's chancellor, but he was wrong in his fierce opposition to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and to the surge in 2007. Even Democrats don't see Biden as president. He got 0.9 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses. Forced out of the 1988 White House race for plagiarizing, he is that blend of longevity and long-windedness that Washington accepts as statesmanship.

McCain and Palin face an uphill struggle. Economic woes, war and the natural desire of Americans to give the other side a chance (after eight years with one party in the White House) should mean a big edge for Obama and Biden. But the race is tight, no candidate can get above 50 percent for more than a day or two, and it is likely to stay close right to the end.

The reason is, people have persistent doubts about whether Obama is qualified. NEWSWEEK's poll last month found that 47 percent felt Obama "has enough experience in politics and government to be a good president" but 46 percent said he didn't. In the recent ABC/Washington Post poll, 45 percent said Obama doesn't have "the needed experience," the same as last March. Even the late-September CBS News/New York Times poll found that while 46 percent feel "Obama has prepared himself well enough for the job of president," 45 percent do not. For good reason: Barack Obama has less than half a term in the Senate, where he's proposed little, accomplished less and spent virtually every day campaigning—as if being on the trail is a principal qualification for president.

No comments: