Saturday, 30 August 2008

Reviving the experience argument

John McCain’s choice of little-known Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate at first blush does somewhat undercut the McCain’s campaign’s effort to go after Barack Obama on his lack of experience. Nevertheless I think there is a way to keep attacking Obama on inexperience without it rebounding against Palin.

I think McCain’s best argument with moderate voters—who, since Palin has now shored up the GOP social conservative base, are the only voters he needs to worry about—is that he’s the best positioned candidate to deal with a Congress that is, and will be after this election, well to the left of the average American voter. Even assuming Obama is willing to govern from the middle and represents something other than “politics as usual,” his inexperience—surrounded by a vice president even more liberal than he is and Democratic congressional leaders with more experience and savvy—will lead to an orgy of congressional spending and incompetent lawmaking not seen since the first two years of the Clinton presidency, when a similarly naïve Clinton who promised to govern from the center was steamrolled by a corrupt Congress, his wife, and every liberal interest group in Washington. Without any GOP resistance in the White House, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton—not Barack Obama—will be setting the domestic and foreign policy agenda. And can we really afford another four—or eight—years of an inexperienced presidency hijacked by an ideologically-committed, far-more-experienced vice president primarily concerned with foreign affairs, a vice president who took—some might say plagiarized—political inspiration from one of the weakest left-wing political party leaders in modern memory?

All that said, I basically agree that the Palin pick is born from the same desperation that led Walter “49–2” Mondale to the door of Geraldine Ferraro; it didn’t work for Mondale and it probably won’t work for McCain either, but then again nothing is working for McCain now, so why not take a shot?


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.
[Permalink] 1. Steven Taylor wrote @ Sat, 30 Aug 2008, 11:20 pm CDT:

I agree that a pro-divided government argument is probably one of McCain’s best possible attacks.

While I understand that you are framing the attack in that way, I am not sure it has to be done in a way that highlight experience, but rather could be directly taken on in an ideological/policy fashion (i.e., unified government under the Pelosi-Reid-Obama will equal crazy spending). One needn’t frame it as an experience issue (although I suppose saying the inexperience=Pelosi in charge might not be a bad tact).

Still, I have my doubts as to how well this would work (especially given the fact that spending under Bush has hardly been under control).


Well, you have to sort of repudiate Bush for the campaign tack to work, but then again I don’t see a winning scenario for McCain that doesn’t repudiate Bush on some dimensions.

I agree you don’t necessarily need to make it about experience; on the other hand, you can attack the experience “argument” against Palin by pointing out that it’s one thing for the VP to be inexperienced, it’s quite another for the P to be inexperienced. Arguably even the best DC outsiders (Reagan, Clinton) get rolled their first year or two in the White House; Obama doesn’t have their executive experience or the savvy working with Congress to resist Pelosi and Biden, even if he does disagree with them on substance. Plus ideology per se probably doesn’t appeal to your average, uninformed voter (McCain can’t very well draw veto point diagrams for Obama and himself in campaign ads); experience might be the hook that makes it work, particularly if you bring up (in Palin’s defense) her record of challenging entrenched GOP interests in Alaska against Obama-Biden’s unrequited mainstream liberalism.

All this is more-or-less a thought exercise, since (a) I’ve never been a huge McCain fan and Palin just drags him further away from me ideologically and (b) I think he’s going down to a Dole-esque defeat anyway.

Comments are now closed on this post.