McCain believes we are stupid. Is he correct?

Given McCain’s age and health history, the choice of Vice President has unusually great significance.  He chose someone who looks good, sounds good, and fits his marketing needs.  She is, however, grossly unqualified to be President of the United States.  Perhaps her primary qualification is to make Obama look over-qualified.   

McCain treats the election as if it were a reality TV show, to be won by tricks.  It mocks the McCain campaign’s slogan of “Country First.”   This choice not only demonstrates his well-known erraticness plus, in my opinion, displays contempt for the American people.  Are we as stupid as he believes us to be?

America will survive whoever wins.  Electing unqualified people with good marketing worked for us in the 19th century, it might prove disastrous in the 21st.   (Although the song “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” may have won the Presidency for Harrison in the 1840, he had prior service as Governor, Representative, and Senator). 


  1. Compare and Contrast Palin and Obama
  2. Is executive experience like homeopathic medicine?
  3. Interviews, the “troopergate” scandal, and other data about Palin
  4. Update: Palin giggles as radio hosts mock a cancer-surviving legislator as a ‘bitch’ and ‘cancer’.”
  5. Where to go for more analysis of McCain’s choice of VP
  6. My posts about the candidates

1.  Compare and Contrast Palin and Obama

Obama might become President.  So might Palin.  Note that several of the details in the mainstream stories are either mis-leading or incorrect about her background.

Sarah Palin


  • University of Idaho, major in communications

Political Offices

  • Part-time Wasilla City Council:  1992 – 1996
  • Full-time Wasilla Mayor:  1996 – 2002   (2000 population 5,470)
  • Member (Part-time?), Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission:  19 February 2003 to 23 January 2004
  • Alaska Governor:  4 December 2006 to present  (21 months).

About the O&G Conservation Commission:  She is listed in their 2004 report as the “public member”, the other members being the geologist and the engineer.  Some news reports describer her as the “chairwoman”, but this appears inaccurate.  In 1969 the commission was reduced in size; after then it no longer had a Chairman or Executive Secretary.  Sources:  history, 2004 annual report.

Saying that she has good executive experience because of her time as part-time mayor of a tiny village seems a stretch.  How many employees does it have?  In 2002 it had an operating budget of $5.8 million (source).

Professional Career (dates and details differ about this info)

  • Part-time sports reporter for 2 TV stations: 1987 – 1989
  • Co-owner, commercial fishing operation, 1988 – 2007  (role uncertain)
  • Owner or co-owner of a snow machine, watercraft, and all-terrain vehicle business: 1994 – 1997  (role uncertain)

I have found nothing describing her role in what appear to be these two family businesses.  Was she, as many reports say, really a fisherman?

Barack Obama


  • Columbia University
  • Harvard Law school

Political Office (aprox 1/2 of this time spent campaigning)

  • IL Senate:   1 January 1997 – 4 November 2004
  • US Senate:  4 January 2005 – present  (44 months)

Professional Career

  • Director of Illinois Project Vote!:  April – October 1992
  • Practicing attorney:  Associate in his firm 1993 – 1996, Counsel 1996 – 2004
  • part-time Lecturer at U of Chicago: 1992-1996, Senior Lecturer 1996-2004


There are many rumors about Obama’s relationship with Rezko, which are too complex to review here.  See Wikipedia for a brief and more links.

2.  Does executive experience work like homeopathic medicine?

The belief that Palin has substantial “executive experience” is odd, IMO.  As if scale has no meaning, both in the time spent governing and the size of the organization she ran. Is this like Homeopathic medicine: executive experience has an effect irrelevant to its concentration? One drop, one molecule, is all it takes?

Or is executive experience like most things in life, where the scale matters?  A village of 5 thousand people has a part-time mayor, but that is not comperable to being Governor.  Being a senior executive legislature of a state or nation for 20 months gains less experience than doing so for 5 years.

Legislative experience is slightly different.  For example, a US Senator’s experience has nothing to do with the size of the State he or she represents. They all cast one equal vote; they all do similar things in the Senate.

3.  Interviews, the “troopergate” scandal, and other data

The “troopergate” scandal sounds ugly.  Very ugly.

  1. Palin staff pushed to have trooper fired“, Daily Anchorage News, 14 August 2008 — “Governor says she’s learned calls were made about Wooten’s ouster”
  2. Interview with Sarah Palin“, Time, 14 August 2008 — Slow pitches to Palin.
  3. Why Walt Monegan got fired: Palin’s abuse of power“, Andrew Halcro, posted at his blog, undated — A brief description of the troopergate story, accuracy unknown.

4.  Update: Palin giggles as radio hosts mock a cancer-surviving legislator as a ‘bitch’ and ‘cancer’.” Summary: “Hear Sarah Palin giggle as radio hosts mock a cancer-surviving legislator as a ‘bitch’ and ‘cancer’.” 

Youtube recording of an interview with Sarah Palin, “Bob and Mark” show, Bob Lester and Mark Colavecchio, broadcast on radio station KWHL, 15 January 2008.  The shock jocks crudely mock Lyda Green, President of Alaska’s State Senate.   Governor Palin giggles in response.  {Update:  that youtube link no longer works; use Google to find others, as the Palin staff will seek to keep this hidden.  See comments for other links).

This must be heard to be believed, as interviews with Governors go. Esp bizarre are her giggles. If McCain-Palin win, we will have an interesting time ahead. If McCain dies or become incapacitated, we’ll have quite a ride ahead of us.  We will have no excuse, no basis to complain.

The only report I can find from the time of the incident:  “Palin’s responses on radio talk show very unbecoming“, Anchorage Daily News, 27 January 2008.

5.  For more analysis of McCain’s choice of VP

  1. Zenpundit — who has collected many links on the topic! 
  2. Also drop by Sic Semper Tyrannis, the blog of Patrick Lang (Colonel, US Army, retired) — esp note the comments, which typically run from good to excellent.
  3. What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective.“, by AKMuckraker, posted at Mudflats, 29 August 2008 — A seemingly fair look at Palin.
  4. Most esp, see National Review Online’s The Corner — a stream of wildly enthusiastic posts.
  5. Palin the irresponsible choice?” David Frum, National Post, 29 August 2008 — A conservative dissents from the enthusiasm about Palin.
  6. Palin touts stance on ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ doesn’t note flip-flop, Anchorage Daily News, 31 August 2008 — IMO a fair review of her record as Gov.

Skimming #4, the NRO site, is fascinating.  Pure identity politics:  she’s one of us, we love her.  They like her for who she is, not what she can do.  Almost zero discussion of her training, experience, or ability to function as President.  Strange, very strange for conservatives.  And it show the moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party.

Not about Palin, but useful analysis:   “Foreign Policy and the President’s Irrelevance” by George Friedman on Stratfor, 5 Feb 2008 

Update:  Update: an interesting perspective on the experience debate

No Experience Necessary“, Michael Kinsley, Slate, 31 August 2008 — “How Sarah Palin made the GOP change its mind about presidential qualifications.” Excerpt:

The whole ‘experience’ debate is silly. Under our system of government, there is only one job that gives you both executive and foreign policy experience, and that’s the one McCain and Obama are running for.

Nevertheless, it’s a hardy perennial:

  • If your opponent is a governor, you accuse him of lacking foreign policy experience.
  • If he or she is a member of Congress, you say this person has never run anything.
  • And if, by any chance, your opponent has done both, you say that he or she is a ‘professional politician.’

When Republicans aren’t complaining about someone’s lack of experience, they are calling for term limits

… In fact, it’s not about experience at all. It’s about honesty. The question should be whether McCain—and all the other Republicans who have been going on for months about Obama’s dangerous lack of foreign policy experience—ever meant a word of it.

And the answer is apparently not. Many conservative pundits woke up this very morning fully prepared to harp on Obama’s alleged lack of experience for months more. Now they face the choice of either executing a Communist-style U-turn (“Experience? Feh! Who needs it?”) or trying to keep a straight face while touting the importance of having been mayor of a town of 9,000 if you later find yourself president of a nation of 300 million.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

6.  My Posts about the Candidates

1.  How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other  (7 February 2008) — Now we have McCain, the leading Republican Presidential candidate, talking of an open-ended commitment to victory in Iraq.

2.  What do blogs do for America?  (26 February 2008) — As our problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern. 

3.  A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012  (1 March 2008) — What is next in Iraq?  None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future.  McCain intends to fight so long as (or until) we suffer few casualties, then stay for a long time (perhaps a hundred years, as McCain said here and here) ).  On the other hand, Obama has been quite explicit…

4.  Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay (3 March 2008) — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them. 

5.  How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents? (21 March 2008) — The Presidential campaign rolls on in the seventh year since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being in which nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Barack Obama.

6.  American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties  (18 May 2008) – Importance of the November 2008 political landslide.

7.  President Obama, an Muslim apostate?  (2 June 2008) — Nope.

8.  Is Obama running for the office of Chief Shaman?   (6 June 2008) — Weirdness from our next President.

9.  Does America need a charismatic President?   (15 july 2008)

10.  More about charisma, by Don Vandergriff…(#2 in the “getting ready for Obama” series)  (16 July 2008) — About charisma:  know it before you buy it!

11.  Obama might be the shaman that America needs  (17 July 2008) — At what point does criticism of Obama’s charisma and rhetoric become criticism of leadership itself — and blind faith in technocratic solutions so loved by policy nerds?  Michael Knox Beran crosses that line in “Obama, Shaman“, City Journal, Summer 2008.

12.  Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008 — Obama’s statement about America may be the simple truth; this may be why so many find it disturbing.

13.  A powerful perspective on the candidates for President of the US, 28 August 2008 — John Derbyshire expresses what I have said about the candidates dreams of saving the world.

For interesting articles about the candidates from other sources, see About the candidates for President of the United States.

112 thoughts on “McCain believes we are stupid. Is he correct?”

  1. Agreed. . . the deeper we get into economic problems, the more likely we will be governed by someone who isn’t qualified to lead, but highly qualified to exploit our anger and fears.

    In general, all signs point toward increasing authoritarianism and increasing militarism. . The most discouraging revelation of the past seven years has been the Congressional opposition’s unwillingness to oppose any of the executive assaults on its power, or any of its clear violations of the Constitution. We’ve already reached the condition of a single party, single branch government.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I strongly disagree with your last sentance.

    “We’ve already reached the condition of a single party, single branch government.”

    Will you still believe this if the Democratic Party gains large majorities in both houses of Congress and Obama wins? The first is likely (per the polls), the second is a 50-50 chance.

  2. Because of the dumbing down of American politics, where all campaigns are basically run on slogans, I think Obama will find it difficult to attack her inexperience directly. Looking at their records it easy to see Obama is better qualified for just about any job. Particularly telling are the education backgrounds. Degrees from Columbia and Harvard versus a degree in communications (!?) from the University of Idaho. But for many Americans Obama has been attacked for being inexperienced so him responding with the same attacks on Palin would look hypocritical.

  3. Ah, old Tippecanoe. Here’s another 19th C. presidential jingle:

    Republicans: ” Ma…Ma…Where’s my pa ?!?”
    Democrats: ” Gone to the White House…Ha..Ha..Ha!!”

    Grover Cleveland was (incorrectly) alledged to have fathered a child out of wedlock. He won anyway. Twice. Non-consecutively.
    Fabuis Maximus replies: Note that the first was a campaign song, the second a “hit ad.”

  4. Neither Palan or Obama are qualified. McCain and Biden maybe but they support bad policies. Palan has some experience running a state unlike Obama but other than that zip. I really don’t like the choices in this election because it points to the moral bankruptcy of both parties and maybe the nation. The American voter appears not ready for change. They are so afraid of losing what they have that they keep voting for the same people over and over again not understanding they are still losing what they value. When the voters are ready for change then with luck they will have someone worth voting for.

    “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.”
    Otto von Bismarck

    I hope that continues to be so.

  5. How come Tim Kaine was a viable pick for most of the leftwing pundits and yet Palin is not?

    It is also important to distinguish between Executive and Legislative experience. Republicans have traditionally viewed the former as more important if you look at past nominees. That is why many conservatives are uncomfortable with McCain. Ont he converse the Democrats have always put up Senators except for Clinton and Carter (who both won). Palin actually has experience running government versus just representing for a short period of time like Obama has.

    From a qualification standpoint Mitt Romney is the man. He would be a flawless candidate if not for the contrast of being a rich white man and Mormon. One could argue that Palin was not picked because she was a woman but rather because she is not Mormon.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Tim Kaine’s overall experience is far more than Palin’s (and more than Obama’s).

    * University of Missouri (economics)
    * Harvard Law
    * 17 years as an attorney
    * taught legal ethics for 6 years at the University of Richmond Law School
    * 7 years in the Richmond VA city council
    * For 3 of those years was Mayor of Richmond (elected from the city council)
    * 4 years as Lt Gov of VA
    * 32 months as Gov of VA

    “Palin actually has experience running government versus just representing for a short period of time like Obama has.”

    I guess that’s true, if you consider “governments” as all alike, that size does not matter. Which is absurd, IMO. For 6 years Palin was a part-time mayor of a tiny tiny village, and Gov of AK for 21 months. And now ready to be President?

  6. Palin raised taxes on oil companies, the idea that Big Oil was pulling Bush’s strings is very prevalent so this puts distance between them. Obama has recently talked about aditional taxes for Big Oil they are the whipping boy despite a lack of evidence.

  7. The NRO responses show what this pick was about… raw meat for the neocons, shoring up the base in the red states. Any Democrats or independents formerly for Hillary Clinton, who presumably would vote for Palin on the pure basis of physical plumbing, would be gravy but are likely to be few.

    It shows that McCain, like Bush et al before him, is not serious at all about governing. It is also clear by contrast that, whatever his limitations, Obama is serious about governing. It is also probative if not dispositive that Obama has consistently argued in favor of, indeed demanded, increased citizen involvement in the government and has manifest that in his campaign.

    Perhaps worse is the false presumption that McCain’s POW experience and years in the Senate qualify him on foreign policy to any meaningful extent. His opinions and depth of knowledge on matters such as Russia/Georgia, Iraq, Iran etc. are kneejerk and laugable. Following up the wonderful surge with a 100-year occupation is not going to happen… instead we see no agreement, and the Shiite, Iran-aligned government more and more ready to throw us out, cut oil deals with the Chinese (!), and settle their scores with the Sunnis under Iranian advice starting in 2010 at the latest, perhaps as soon as next year.

    Fabius Maximus replies: I am astonished at the enthusuasm for the marketing aspects of McCain’s VP pick. Apparently it is not just the media that consider the campaign as merely a “horse race” — and who wins the only important thing. So far as I can see, the majority of the blog, news media, and pundit discussion is about “who she is” and not “what can she do for us.”

    This is like some mad version of the sophmore philosophy class discussion about the relative importance of being and doing.

  8. FM, your comment reminds me of words of wisdom from the men’s room of the music building at Douglass College, 1972… I have lived by them since:

    To do is to be – Descartes
    To be is to do – Sartre
    Do be do be do – Sinatra
    Fabius Maximus replies: I was thinking of this doggerel when I wrote that!

  9. Unqualified? Let’s see now, who was qualified to be president in the last fifty years or so:

    *Truman — low popularity, whumped for re-election.
    *Eisenhower– mostly played golf
    *Kennedy –Bay of Pigs, Vietnam
    *Johnson –more Vietnam, disgraced
    *Nixon –still more Vietnam, resigned in scandal
    *Ford — unpopular
    *Carter — ineffective
    *Reagan –an actor
    *Bush I — unpopular
    *Clinton — impeached
    *Bush II –a disaster

    I don’t think that the bar is that high, do you? Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think that he/she could do a better job than any of these clowns? Not having been subverted by years as a politician is an advantage and Palin will make the most of it. Watch her.

    Eighty percent of the American people think that the US is going in the wrong direction. Who can dispute that. And who took us in the wrong direction — the experienced politicians. Obama/Biden/McCain are going (and will go) in that same wrong direction. Why? They’ve been bought and paid for. Who do you think paid for that recent DLC extravaganza, the tooth fairy?
    Fabius Maximus replies: This seems to reflect a several misconceptions.

    (1) You are conflating results — performance at one of the world’s most difficult jobs — with preparation/qualifications. Consider an analogy with the Olympics. Look at the lowest-scoring contestants, those in the lowest 2%. Are they unqualified? Would their teams have been better off picking people from local sports clubs?

    (2) “Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think that he/she could do a better job than any of these clowns?”

    This is a common fallacy. Like fans watching errors made by pro players and saying “I could do better.” Probably not.

    (3) You consider popularity during the time in office as a measure of success. That seems a poor metric in my opinion, and I believe most historians agree. Popularity is highly correlated with the short-term performance of the economy during the Presidents’ time in office, something over which they have little control (this is also by far the largest factor in most re-election campaigns). For example, I believe Truman did a fine job as President, despite not being re-elected.

    (4) Misrepresentations

    “Eisenhower– mostly played golf” — Not true, even absurd. I believe he will be considered a fine or even great President. Look at his handling of the Vietnam Crisis following the fall of Dien Bien Phu”, how skillfully he kept us out while avoiding political blame for the “loss” of Vietnam.

    “Reagan –an actor” — That’s like saying Washington was a “real estate speculator.” True, but hardly a comprehensive description. Two terms as governor of California (larger than most nations), plus extensive union, business, and political experience prior to election as President.

    “Clinton — impeached” — True, but that was hardly the only event during his term. IMO it is too soon to evaluate his performance.

  10. Oh please. We could have endless academic discussions about the relative experience of Obama or Palin and how either might match up with those Lincoln brought to the White House. All those would prove is how you have made up your mind for other, unstated reasons anyway.

    What is more to the point is that McCain has made an important decision about someone who he personally barely knows. And this action strongly suggests that McCain himself is unqualified – regardless of his resume or lack thereof.
    Fabius Maximus replies: It is a long-standing oddity, going back to the mid-1800’s or more, that Presidents often do not personally know their choices for VP. Consider it like a CEO highing a VP. Do they need to “personally know” this person? Does that even help (many studies show that short-term personal impressions are not reliable guides, despite people often having great confidence in them).

    The VP is seldom a member of the President’s team (Cheney is an exception). The VP’s primary role is to take over if McCain dies, so their personal chemistry is almost irrelevant.

    “All those would prove is how you have made up your mind for other, unstated reasons anyway.”

    You know this how? Perhaps telepathy. Such a broad statement seems to imply that any rational discussion of the candidates is only a pretense, because we actually decide on the basis of hidden, deeper factors. Perhaps true (who can say?), but I doubt it. Please excuse us if we continue with the conversation, pretending to be somewhat rational beings.

  11. Pro-life was a requirement; Romney was actually a bit weak on the Christian culture-war issue. Huckabee was the best (IMO), but yeah, I quite like Gov. Palin. Who has decided on many budgets.

    She is, however, grossly unqualified to be President of the United States.

    Getting elected mayor — and being successful, vs. Obama’s “community organizing”, whatever that was. Fighting against her own Republican Party incumbents for Gov, without using technical rules to get them ballot disqualified — she won. Obama won but with the same policies as the prior Dems. When has he ever changed politics?

    She already has, in Alaska, as a new Rep. against incumbent Reps.

    Almost nobody else of either party is more qualified, based on successful prior experience, at fighting incumbents and making real change in a real gov’t. I don’t think Mark Warner (my guess as the best Dem) really challenged and beat the incumbent powers-that-be inside his own party as much as Gov. Palin.

    When has Obama successfully run anything? Harvard Law Review — first black editor. First year where there were no articles by the the editor. One of the least cited Review years. State Senator–perhaps a record of “present” votes, to avoid holding any principled positions. The decision not to decide.

    When has he ever fought against Dem power brokers? A tiny, but public, bit against the Iraq war in 2002. Anything domestic or economic?

    Palin is certainly MORE qualified for any executive position, on experience, than Obama. I’d say claiming she’s unqualified but he’s not can only be elitism — his colleges are better than her college.

    And getting elected now will give her 4 years to get WH experience before she runs for President. (Is that something you’re really afraid of?)
    Fabius Maximus replies: I find it astonishing how often discussions ignore scale. As in this case.

    Time in office seems irrelevant. Size of the organization seems irrelevant. Deciding many budgets is the important thing — as if $5 million is the same as tens of billions. This is like putting someone who builds cabin cruisers in charge of building our next super-carrier.

    She was a part-time mayor, and has been Gov for only 21 months. Most of those accomplishments — which I consider grossly exaggerated — represent a very small period of time. Why is it not equally significant that she during her brief time as Gov she has sparked a very nasty scandal about abuse of power?

    It’s not that her record proves that she would be a bad President. Rather, the record is too brief to prove her ability to be a good President.

    I do not understand your comparison with Obama. What does this decision tell us about McCain’s judgement. Do Obama’s lack of qualifications and experience justify McCain’s actions? As if he said “Democratic primary voters are irresponsible, so I too will be irresponsible.”

  12. Long-time experience can be a disadvantage at times. To join a rotten club as vice chairman might be a very good jump start to fix problems. Conservatives aren’t well-known for a drive to reform, but this still needs to be considered.

    A CV also only points at the inputs (experience), not really at the result. A Vice position is not an entirely isolated position – still lots of checks and advisers there.

    A small “experience” does not equal being unqualified. Being unable to prove that someone will be a good president doesn’t equal being unqualified either.

    It’s generally very hard to tell whether someone is able enough or not if (s)he didn’t fail badly in the past. That’s why I would ask questions about policy promises, not much about CV.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I know of no field other than politics about which people say such things. Would you choose a docter on the basis of “promises”, with little regard for training, experience, and past performance? How do businesses select CEO’s? Football teams their coaches and quarterbacks? Selecting members of Olympic teams?

    “Long-time experience can be a disadvantage at times.”

    Agreed that after some minimal point, additional experience might be of diminishing utility. I think we this means years, not months.

    “A CV also only points at the inputs (experience), not really at the result.”

    True, but not relevant here. Palin’s results are a matter of public record. But she has held office so briefly that she has generated few results.

  13. (1) 70 y.o. doctors are often much worse than 30 y.o. doctors BECAUSE OF their long experience. Their university education is 45 y.o. and mostly outdated.
    (2) Lots of family-owned multinational corporations in Europe are being led by younger people than Palin.
    (3) Many of the best soccer teams in Europe have players who are in the 17-21 years range. Very unexperienced, but good – and they trust them. Germany went to the last world championship with a national trainer who hadn’t trained a single team before and did well. China’s gymnasts of the Olympics weren’t known for their long experience, and the same applies to thousands of other athletes.

    FM, you are making some mistakes here:

    (a) you wrote an article about Palin mostly, but your opinion was pre-defined by your opinion about McCain.
    (b) you write about a person whom you don’t really know, but assume to be able to judge her
    (c) you dare to call her unqualified although you can only show that her qualification is not visible (not the same)
    (d) you don’t look 360°. Politics isn’t the only field with inexperienced people getting a chance; it’s rather comparably uncommon to happen in politics because success in a political career depends much more on time-consuming networking and power games than in many other areas.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Great specificity here! Let’s take them sequentially.

    (1) Agreed, but not relevant to Palin. As I said in a previous comment, above some minimal level (years, not months), additional experience often has incremental value.

    (2) Yes, but seldom do they hop to the top job after 21 months experience. They usually have more time working in the business. Also, choosing leaders by blood probably accounts for the small and decreasing number of family-led businesses. As a rule they seem to have a competitive disadvantage to more meritocratic organizations (much the same to some extent accounts for the disappearance of monarchs who actually rule).

    (3) Is this relevant? Many great gymnists are 14-year old girls. Would you want a 14 year old President? Sports requires physical skills, which puts it at the opposite end of the spectrum to statesmanship.

    (a) And you know this how? Telepathy?

    (b) Agreed. We call a system of electing people we do not “really know” a representative democracy. In an oligarchy small groups choose leaders from among the people they know.

    (c) I do not understand your point. All judgements are made on the basis of the visible data. What else can we use?

    (d) Examples, please, of other important “fields with inexperienced people getting a chance” at the top job with little prior training or experience. We’re talking about leadership of the world’s major nation, with nukes and the world’s largest military machine. Not the foreman for a crew of field hands.

  14. Such a broad statement seems to imply that any rational discussion of the candidates is only a pretense,

    No, it is a narrow statement that this “discussion” of how Palin’s “credentials” assertedly offset Obama’s is disingenuous. This is true – based not only upon the inherently vacuous nature of the subject matter – but more particularly because Obama has been in the public limelight for well over a year while Palin lept into the limelight yesterday.

    As for McCain’s vetting process. Anyone who seriously thinks that that was adequate is too far away from me for us to talk. And if their real reason for continuing to support McCain is – say – his tax policy, then they should say so – so we can proceed to the real issue at hand.
    Fabius Maximus replies:

    “this ‘discussion’ of how Palin’s ‘credentials’ assertedly offset Obama’s is disingenuous.”

    I am not sure what this means. I do not believe that her lack of qualification justifies Obama’s similar lack. Or vice versa.

    “Anyone who seriously thinks that that was adequate is too far away from me for us to talk.”

    I disagreed at the start of these comments, believing that this c/b talked though. But experience so far suggests that you are correct.

  15. The main job of the President is to reassure or inspire the American people (be a good salesman), reassure or cajole our allies, and make enemies think twice before acting against us. On these counts, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton were successful, and “qualified”. The real work of the chief executive — shaping and executing economic and trade policy, and foreign relations — is done by others.

    Generally, cabinet secretaries and their deputies execute policies devised by persons and institutions outside of the government. The Iraq occupation is a good example of the process: The Project for a New American Century, a collaborative attempt to shape a national geo-political strategy, evolved over many years, and involved people inside and outside government — even foreign nationals. The plan was imported under Bush II by persons at several levels and several departments of government, including Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Wurmser, Feith, Libby, etc. The president’s role in all this was that of spokesman or puppet.

    It’s often suggested that had Gore been elected, we wouldnt have launched this war. The premiss is that Gore’s greater experience with foreign affairs, greater ability to understand complex processes, possibly sounder moral sense, would have stopped him from such a foolish action. I’m not sure about that. Although the neocons took the lead in bringing the PNAC into official policy, their positions are not that different from the main lines of America’s long-standing bi-partisan imperal agenda.

    My observation above that America is now a one-party government, with which FM strongly disagrees, was meant to apply to foreign policy, more than domestic, although in some areas (like welfare reform and the domestic side of trade policy) it’s true there as well.

  16. 2) Family-owned corporations are the most successful breed of German corporations, and their quantity might decline, but probably only because it’s not yet clear how many corporations with one dominant owner will switch to such family-controlled model.

    3) You need to answer the question about relevance yourself. You brought that sports thing up.

    a) It’s very obvious. Let’s call it “text interpretation”.

    c) You can very well call her “unproved to be qualified”, but you cannot prove your “unqualified”.

    d) Your “of other important” is a bit unfair here because I miss the “important” in “I know of no field other than politics about which people say such things.”.

    It’s much easier to make a career if that does not include to advance through an establishment (most of whom want to climb up the ladder as well). A career in a fast-growing company is easier than a career in a large and stable company.

    Arts, science and sports (less hierarchy) offer great opportunities for quick careers. A mobilized wartime military offers great opportunities to have very large responsibilities with little experience.
    Fabius Maximus replies:

    (2) Interesting point about family businesses in Germany, about which I know zip. How much experience do family CEO’s usually have before taking over large companies?

    (3) I was talking about how they select candidates in sports. Your comment was about age, a factor I had did not mention. My response to that was an error; I should have said that youth does not seem to be a concern about Obama or Palin (but is about McCain).

    (a) OK!

    (c) Agreed. These things are subjective. I suspect most of the folks reading this understand that.

    (d) OK. I was just re-iterating that we are not talking about qualifications as an abstract question, but in regards to someone who might become President of the United States.

    Your last point is IMO the most important observation in my post or on this thread, going to the heart of this discussion. Art, sports, war, science — people can advance in these fields based on objective accomplishments. In politics this also can be true. The DA who breaks a crime syndicate. The Mayor who revitalizes a major city. The legislator who brokers a major compromise or advances important but controversial legislation.

    Do either Obama or Palin have such accomplishments? IMO, no. Since they have become major candidates (for reasons somewhat mysterious to me), we must decide on the basis of what we do know. Which is their record of training and experience. Other than that, we might use a ouija board or Magic 8 Ball.

  17. One is loath to disagree with anyone even self-named Plato but it is ludicrous to think the neocons and PNAC, without occupying major offices in the federal government, would have drawn Gore into the Mesopotamian swamp. Far more likely Gore would have gone after bin Laden harder and dealt more brusquely with Musharraf and Pakistani issues.

    What I hope gets more attention in the next two months is the idiocy of McCain when it comes to foreign policy. It is unpresidential and bordering on inhuman to sing about bombing Iran or anywhere. It is ludicrous to think that a nuclear Iran will be any more irrational than our current nuclear mates Russia, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan. Iran has no history of aggression. The ayatollahs, not the loudmouthed president, have control over the armed forces. They know that Allah is not going to intervene in their favor, having experienced a long war and many casualties without divine intervention. They no more will allow Qom and Tehran to become wastelands of nuclear slag than we or the Soviets would our respective cities and monuments, which is the primary reason the Cold War never got really hot. Listening to the paranoid whispers of the craven Lieberman and attempting to otherize the Iranians into somehow being inhuman is not only crass, it has no basis at all in fact, and acting upon it would be an unmitigated worldwide disaster.

    In that context, the choice of that woman as VP is consistent and ridiculous, and disqualifies him from being President, period. That is worse than Obama, who may or may not be unqualified; but even if he is, there is a chance he might do well. With McCain, if you add his lack of anything at all happening domestically and economically, there is no such chance.

  18. Greg: “Far more likely Gore would have gone after bin Laden harder and dealt more brusquely with Musharraf and Pakistani issues.”

    Agreed! But would he have succeeded? It was Clinton who declared regime change in Iraq as official US policy. And not a single Democrat in Congress dissented from recent bellicose resolutions against Iran. The whole crescent from Afghanistan to Iran seems to be a tar-baby we can’t let go of.

  19. Well, perhaps McCain’s object was to get everyone to join him in enless arguing about “experience” qualifications to be President (as if any other job is even remotely comparable and could serve as “qualifying experience).” If so, he has succeeded. As far as I could tell, his own “qualifying experience” (other than being just another Senator) was that he managed to get his plane shot down 30 years ago. Now my big problem with McCain (other than that he seems to be way too desperate to be a “War President” and the usual dishonest politician stuff) is that his VP pick is the ONLY “presidential” decision he has made, and with so many well-known competent and interesting male and female Republicans (both conservative and moderate) to choose from, he decides on a nobody from nowhere at the last minute. I’m going to be very scared if he is elected (and even more scared if he dies in office).

  20. Update: Palin giggles as radio hosts mock a cancer-surviving legislator as a ‘bitch’ and ‘cancer’.”

    Here is a Youtube recording of an interview with Sarah Palin, “Bob and Mark” show, Bob Lester and Mark Colavecchio, broadcast on radio station KWHL, 15 January 2008. The shock jocks crudely mock Lyda Green, President of the Alaska, State Senate. Governor Palin giggles in response.

    This must be heard to be believed, as interviews with Governors go. Esp bizarre are her giggles. If McCain-Palin wins, we will have an interesting time ahead. If McCain dies or become incapacitated, we’ll have quite a ride ahead of us. We will have no excuses, no basis to complain.

    The only report I can find from the time of the incident: “Palin’s responses on radio talk show very unbecoming“, Anchorage Daily News, 27 January 2008.

  21. FM, regarding your prior arguments:
    (1) First you claim there is no connection between qualifications and results, and then you claim there is, using sports as an example. There is a huge difference between using one’s mind to make sensible decisions and using one’s legs and lungs to win a race. Regarding qualifications (and not physical skills) Obama, and Clinton before him, made the point that judgment trumps experience, which is true.
    (2) Could any of us do a better job then, say, Bush? You say probably not, because sports fans can’t play pro sports. Again, apples and oranges. I claim that any of us could do a better job than Bush.
    (3) You say that a politician’s popularity has nothing to do with his success. IOW what the people think doesn’t matter, which is undemocratic.
    (4) You say Eisenhower “skillfully” kept us out of Vietnam. What skills does it require to not do something? You praise Reagan’s experience but make no claims on how this experience translated into performance. Can you defend Reagan’s presidency?

  22. Greg: it is ludicrous to think the neocons and PNAC, without occupying major offices in the federal government, would have drawn Gore into the Mesopotamian swamp.

    Gore speech at CFR Feb 12, 2002
    In the immediate aftermath [of 9/11], I expressed full support for our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. . . . As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government [Iraq] should be on the table. To my way of thinking, the real question is not the principle of the thing, but of making sure that this time we will finish the matter on our terms. . . In 1991, I crossed party lines and supported the use of force against Saddam Hussein, but he was allowed to survive his defeat as the result of a calculation we all had reason to deeply regret for the ensuing decade. And we still do. So this time, if we resort to force, we must absolutely get it right. It must be an action set up carefully and on the basis of the most realistic concepts.

  23. Thanks for the quote, Don. Readers should note that what you rendered as “…” was actually this:

    “But finishing it on our terms means more than a change of regime in Iraq. It means thinking through the consequences of action there on our other vital interests, including the survival in office of Pakistan’s leader; avoiding a huge escalation of violence in the Middle East; provision for the security and interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf States; having a workable plan for preventing the disintegration of Iraq into chaos; and sustaining critically important support within the present coalition.”

    The material quoted is also followed by this:

    “And wishful thinking based on best-case scenarios or excessively literal transfers of recent experience to different conditions would be a recipe for disaster.”

    Now let’s recall the Wolfowitz Plan as stated to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
    1. We’ll be out in six months
    2. We’ll install Chalabi instantly.
    3. It’ll pay for itself.
    4. Oil prices will go down.
    5. Everyone gets a pony.

    I don’t think Gore would have done it. YMMV.
    Fabius Maximus replies: In #5 Greg refers (very aptly!) to the following:

    If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride — A Pony!“, John & Belle Have a Blog (6 March 2004) — Excerpt:

    You see, wishes are totally free. It’s like when you can’t decide whether to daydream about being a famous Hollywood star or having amazing magical powers. Why not — be a famous Hollywood star with amazing magical powers! Along these lines, John has developed an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony! So, in Chafetz’ case, he should not only wish that Bush would say a lot of good things about democracy-building and fighting terrorism in a speech written for him by a smart person, he should also wish that Bush should actually mean the things he says and enact policies which reflect this, and he should wish that everyone gets a pony. See?

    … John got the idea from a Calvin and Hobbes strip in which little Susie first wishes that Calvin was nicer, then realizes she might just as well wish for a pony while she’s at it. So, thank that Calvin and Hobbes guy, or something. Here is the original ‘might as well wish for a pony‘ strip.

  24. Greg,

    What you “think” is divorced from the fact that Al Gore told us in Feb 2002 that he would invade Iraq, as long as there was a “thinking through the consequences.” Here’s some more, from later in 2002 when the big decisions were being made — “we should organize an international coalition . . .should we decide to proceed, that action can be justified.”

    Iraq and the War on Terrorism“, Former Vice President Al Gore, Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco, California, 23 September 2002 — Excerpt:

    “Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction … should we decide to proceed, that action can be justified within the framework of international law rather than outside it. In fact, though a new UN resolution may be helpful in building international consensus, the existing resolutions from 1991 are sufficient from a legal standpoint. “

  25. Perhaps it is just me, but the whole experience argument is a distraction. I see all four having the right experience, because it is the experience of life, not career in politics or otherwise, that prepares one for President.

    Presidents do not make budgets or even fine grain policy, they make yes and no decisions weighing all the factors built into presentations of very smart people on staffs. I don’t know who is pushing the theory of executive or elected experience is a major criteria, but its long been proven a fallacy. By that theory Bush/Chaney should have been the best ticket ever.

    The career experience argument is a distraction, because for example, I don’t think Obama’s experience as a US Senator significantly contributes towards his ability as President when compared to Obama’s experience as a father, which does significantly contribute.

    The only place experience in politics matters is in a campaign, the least relevant aspect from the citizens perspective. In every other aspect of the Presidents and Vice Presidents job, it is about judgment and leadership, not experience. I don’t know about you guys, but the last place I go looking for judgment or leadership is among the elected politicians.

  26. Oh and for the record, that is why General Clark had it dead wrong about McCain. POW as a life experience does matter for being President. Biden is very similar, anyone who suggests that his wife dieing isn’t a major experience that significantly enhances his resume towards being President is missing the point, because those life experiences matter towards the ends of judgment than any daily duty as a Senator either man has ever experienced.

  27. Gilrahn,

    From the standpoint of getting their policies carried out — employing the machinery of government — the Bush / Cheney team has been extraordinarily successful. To a large extent, they have even succeeded in reengineering the machinery of government itself away from a triad of roughly co-equal centers of power to a system dominated by a strong executive.

    They were able to do this because they knew what they were doing. Bush was governor of one of the largest states in the union for 6 years and Cheney had run a large multinational corporation for about the same period, in addition to his extensive government service in both legislative and executive branches.

    Everybody alive has “life experience.”

  28. Jonah Goldberg made the best point: having McCain as POTUS with a questionable VP might not be ideal, but if McCain doesn’t get elected than his pick for VP doesn’t matter in the slightest.

    FM sees this as lacking principle. But FM hasn’t suggested a better pick that would also boost the chances of the McCain ticket. Clearly the public is seeking youth and outsider-ness this time around. Youth and outsiderness are usually coupled with inexperience.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I did not question the marketing aspects of his choice. That might be brilliant. But hardly in accord with his campaign slogan of “Country First.”

  29. First of all, your dates are off on Obama. He started serving in January ’05 in the US Senate, not ’04. What other facts did you get wrong?

    Palin is more qualified than Obama. And she is the number two, not the number one.

    The Presidency is an executive office. Palin has executive experience, being a two term mayor and a Governor running a state for 21 months. Obama has never run anything. Surely 21 months as Governor running a state trumps the 143 days Obama spent in session in the US Senate before he started running for President. As Bill Clinton said, once you start running for President that’s all you basically do, so the time he’s spent not doing his job while he’s been out campaigning for two years should hardly count as his experience. How many days has Obama been in the Senate since he started campaigning?

    Likewise, I’d take two terms running a mayor over 8 years in the State Legislature of Illinois any day, especially since Obama spent that time often voting “present” and outright switching his vote once it had been cast OVER 100 TIMES.

    Palin also has shown a real ability to take on her own party and reform corruption, whereas Obama spent his time in Chicago politics doing absolutely nothing about the legendary corruption in that city other than going along to get along. Unlike Palin, Obama was firmly entrenched in the corrupt machine politics of his own party, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Tony Rezko and Bill Ayers.

    Yes, I’d much rather have a true reforming Governor with executive experience over a “present”-voting go along get along type who has never run anything in his life.

    And again, Obama would CERTAINLY have to assume the office from day one were he elected. It is extremely unlikely that Palin would have to do so, and she’s still more qualified.
    Fabius Maxim replies: Thanks for catching the typo! Nobody but readers to catch these things in blogs.

    I agree that Obama’s experience is low, perhaps less than Palin’s (as discussed in the previous comments, that is subjective). But how does our irresponsibility in choosing Obama justify McCain’s in choosing Palin?

  30. What Galrahn said: it is about judgment and leadership, not experience. And character — “the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person.” We’ve all met people, of all (mature) ages, of all walks of life, high and low, who were able to cut through the chaff and do the right thing while others were content to do what they thought other people might want, or what would make them look good.

  31. Lauderdale Conservative

    I am attracted to her for her reform creds. I like the fact that she was a Republican who rooted out other Republicans. I like the fact that her husband and son are registered Independents. I like her track record of reaching across party lines. I’m delighted that she sold the governor’s jet on e-bay. I want more people like her in my party, and I’d love to see her in Washington without a leash.

  32. Here are some of my talking points –

    (1) Someone who manages a small state, with a small budget is not qualified to be the President. We are talking about Joe Biden from Delaware right? Alaska pop: ~700,000, Delaware pop: ~900,000

    (2) One can argue Biden was chosen because he was a older wiser white man who can handle foreign policy and grab some blue collar workers.

    (3) what does that say about Obama? That he needs the steady hand of a white man to hold his hand to reasure people? Will Biden be the one really calling the shots then? Will he be the Democrat Dick Cheney to the Black George Bush? That shows a lack of confidence to me.

    (4) And getting someone to attract “blue collar voters from Pennsylvania, because Biden was born working class in Scranton – is that not desperate identity politics as well? geting a white male to get white male votes is different how….?
    Fabius Maximus replies: By the numbers…

    (1) I agree that her 20+ months as Gov of California is legitimate and relevant experience. Being Mayor of a tiny village, less so. But a US Senator’s experience has nothing to do with the size of the State he or she represents. They all cast one equal vote; they all do similar things in the Senate.

    (2) One can argue anything, esp about marketing aspects. This thread is about the qualifications of the candidates.

    (3) I do not understand what you are saying here.

    (4) Why is this desperate? Biden is a qualified guy, as American traditions go.

  33. I am disturbed that her detractors are listing her non-ivy-league education as one of the points that disqualify her. That is an Ad Hominem argument.

    The truth is, she does have executive experience. And she has experience in bucking the system and fighting her own party. She isn’t afraid to make a stand.

    Obama is! In the Illinois legislature his most frequent vote was “present”.
    Fabius Maximus replies: As for the relevance of the schools, I agree with you that this should have little weight. As we all know however, in real life the college on your bio has a large effect on your career. Which is why folks work so hard for entrance into “elite” schools.

    This whole “executive experience” thing is odd, IMO. As if scale has no meaning, both in the time spent governing and the size of the organization she ran. Is this like Homeopathic medicine: Executive experience has an effect irrelevant to its concentration? One drop, one molecule, is all it takes?

  34. I was dissapointed to see that you failed to provide enough content in your comparison and contrast…permit me…

    Obama has been in the senate for 56 months? that’s four years and 8 months (I guess simple math is not a strong suit here) for you. Obama began his term in January 2005, and announced his candidacy for president in January 2007. He did essentially NOTHING while in the US Senate. While in the Illinois senate, he managed to vote “present” 140 times. How about some legislative accomplishments squared off versus what palin did as Mayor and governor…

    and scandals, what about Obama getting money for low income housing for Rezko in exchange for the land deal on his house? (I guess you can include this in legislative accomplishments…how does this square with abusing power to get a guy who beat your little sister and tasered your 11 year old nephew fired?
    Fabius Maximus replies: All excellent points! Thank for mentioning them.

    * I have corrected the total of months (and enrolled in a basic arithmetic course).
    * The post did mention that Obama has spent aprox half his career campaigning, but will add a link to more about this.
    * Not mentioning the rumored Obama scandals was a material omission; now fixed.

  35. “Electing unqualified people with good marketing worked for us in the 19th century, it might prove disastrous in the 21st”

    Dude, if you believe this you should so all over Obama it would be no comparison to your great efforts to honk on about Palin. Are you? Were you? Show me the money.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not understand what you are saying. This is not an advocacy site. The subject is geopolitics, and we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates from this narrow perspective. Many important aspects of the race, such as domestic policy, are outside this site’s scope.

  36. Five points:

    1) If you’re not careful here, the conclusion is going to be that the only persom qualified to be president or vice president is either a past president or vice president or at minimum a three term senator.

    2)History as I know it would seem to indicate that selection of running mates has everything to do with “getting elected” and little to do with what happens afterward. How involved have VPs been? Correct me if I’m wrong but President Truman had little or no knowledge of the Manhatten Project; why did JFK pick LBJ? He certainly didn’t like him or involve him that much. Dan Quayle? Obama picked Biden to deal with the experience issue – his weakness, no? McCain picks a real conservative and an outsider “read not caught up in DC baggage/change issue” to broaden his appeal. Both seem very appropriate decisions. You don’t get “to be” unless “you do” at the voting booths.

    3)On the job training for the heart-beat-away issue – not really part of the agenda now is it? The only noted exception is our current situation. Like it or not, the VP has been involved, had no intension for running himself and therefore “worked” issues for his boss, free of personal motive. Again, no matter your view of the administaration, there has probably never been a more in sync VP if situation called. The heart-beat-away issue, while obviously very important has two very time dependent aspects. To consider it one issue misses history.

    4) If one must ask if McCain considers us stupid, then in due regard, the question must be asked, if Obama considers us so stupid as to believe that a Thursday night Hollywoodish pep rally / half time speach dusting off every Democratic pet rock with declaration to change it/fix it all answers all our prayers and therefore mandates our vote.

    5) John McCain just went through the OODA loop and created a different context, different narrative, different imagination – a Snowmobile – like it/him/her or not. Nothing is written.
    Fabius Maximus replies: By the numbers…

    (1) Or governor. Or executive experience in the private sector (union or business). Or non-profit sector. Also, because two years seems insufficient, that does not mean 18 years is required. Four years would be nice (a “full-term”). Eight would be better.

    (2) McCain’s age and health make the VP selection unsually important. Our past foolishness in choosing VP’s does not require us to continue this tradition. Imagine if FDR had died in January 1945 and Henry Wallace become President?

    I do not understand your other comparisons. Truman, LBJ, and Quayle all had extensive experience in Congress (IMO Quayle’s bad rep is largely a media creation). The extent to which Truman had been briefed on war secrets seems irrelevant here.

    (3) I do not understand what you are saying here.

    (4) Obama is running, as is every citizen’s right. It’s is our job to decide his fitness to serve, not his. Few of us can judge our own qualifications, so it is just as well we are seldom required to do so.

    (5) I agree that McCain did so. But that does not make it a good thing. He made what might be a brilliant marketing move, but IMO trashed his campaign slogan of “Country First.” Putting the needs of his campaign first is natural, but not commendable.

  37. There are three Americas. Two of them are not listening to each other. The third America does not vote. I hate cynicism, but one must wonder if any of this matters.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I am confident that this matters. This process, taking place here and throughout America, is how we process information and make decisions. As an analogy, it is like how your neurons discuss important matters inside your brain.

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