Sunday, September 28, 2008

In Defense of Sarah Palin: A Concordia Bulldog in Lipstick

This column was published in The Sower, September 8, 2008.

This election year will be a historic one for both major parties.

When Sen. Barack Obama was declared the Democratic nominee for president, many of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s supporters felt discouraged, and a significant percentage may now support Sen. John McCain. At the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton urged her supporters to rally behind Obama. “Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines.” On Thursday, August 28, Barack Obama gave his speech before the DNC, repeating many of the promises he had made on the campaign trail, and accusing John McCain of running for Bush’s third term. “This moment, this election, is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise of life,” Obama said. He also officially accepted his party’s nomination, making him the first African-American Presidential nominee in history.

The very next day, John McCain made his own historic announcement. On Friday, McCain introduced his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, the first woman ever on a Republican ticket. This surprise choice dominated the news channels that night, and few pundits were talking about Obama’s speech from the previous day. The New York Times selected part of Sarah Palin’s speech as the Quote of the Day: “It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America but it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”

A reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer called McCain’s choice “a bold gamble.” On the upside, Palin’s strong conservative credentials have also helped energize McCain’s Republican base. “It’s exciting!” exclaimed Matthew Kuske, who supports McCain.  Sophomore Sara Holle, who as yet is undecided, predicted that Palin “will attract a lot of the Hillary Clinton supporters.” Her introduction has energized the race, and many Democrats and Republicans are impressed by her strength and intelligence. 

However, some observers believe McCain’s decision to run with Palin is a risk because they question Palin’s ability to be President should John McCain pass away while in office. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter believes that Palin “knows little or nothing about the major issues of the day beyond energy.” Concordia freshman Tony Fugett bluntly stated that McCain’s decision “will come back to bite him."

Or will questioning Palin’s experience come back to bite the Obama campaign? While discussing Palin’s readiness to step into the Presidency, Sara Holle pointed out that Obama himself lacks experience. As a first-term Senator, Obama has had just four years of Washington experience himself, a full year of which has been spent campaigning for the Presidency.

Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency,” said Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama. This response glosses over Palin’s many accomplishments. Sarah Palin was elected mayor of her hometown, and later was appointed to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, where she served as ethics commissioner and chairman. In 2006, she was elected the Governor of Alaska, the largest state in the United States of America. As a former mayor and a Governor, Sarah Palin has more executive experience than any man on any ticket. More than Biden and Obama, and maybe even more than John McCain, who worked in an executive position in the military. Sarah Palin does lack experience in foreign policy, but she would learn a lot from John McCain.

One way to judge if Palin is ready for the Presidency is to look at her accomplishments. Though it’s true that her time in the political sphere has been short, Palin’s success during that time has made her the most popular Governor in the United States.  When interviewed by Ron Allen of MSNBC about Palin’s qualifications, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich starkly contrasted Palin’s record with Obama’s:  “She’s been a real mayor, he hasn’t. She’s been a real Governor, he hasn’t. She’s been in charge of the Alaskan National Guard, he hasn’t. She was a whistle-blower who defeated an incumbent mayor. He has never once shown that kind of courage. She’s a whistle-blower who turned in the chairman of her own party and got him fined $12,000. I’ve never seen Obama do one thing like that. She took on the incumbent Governor of her own party and beat him, and then she beat a former Democratic Governor in the election. I don’t know of a single thing Obama’s done except talk and write.”

The pressure of addressing a national audience did not phase Palin. According to reporter David Bauder of the Associated Press, over 40,000,000 viewers tuned in to watch her speech at the Republican National Convention, nearly the same number who watched Obama’s speech at the DNC. If Palin continues to display the same level of confidence and poise during the election and the Vice Presidential debate, it will be impossible to make the case that McCain’s choice was not justified. That is one reason why I plan to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket in my first Presidential election.

(You can find transcripts of the speeches from the DNC at, and a transcript of Sarah Palin’s speech at David Bauder’s article can be found at

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