Sarah Palin has proved such a polarizing figure that it’s hard for people on either side to take a step back and offer an honest assessment of her candidacy. Yes, it’s true that she was smeared — accused of banning library books and lying about the birth of her child, among other things — but it’s also true that she proved herself woefully unprepared for the office she was seeking. Yes, it’s true that she added a boost of energy to the ticket, and brought a lot of conservatives on board who were previously skittish about John McCain, but it’s also true that she turned off a lot of independents, who thought that she was unprepared, got nervous about electing her as VP for a 72 year-old McCain, and thought the Palin pick said something about how McCain makes decisions. As it turns out, 60 percent of voters believed that Palin was not qualified enough.
Watching the video about the McCain campaign’s frustration with Palin, a few things struck me. I have no way of knowing whether it’s true that Palin didn’t know what countries were in NAFTA or whether she didn’t realize Africa was a continent, but I’m sad to say that based on her public appearances and especially interviews, it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case. She was completely out of her depth when talking about foreign policy and many national domestic issues. I do think that it’s rather lame of the McCain people to try and point fingers at her, though. If Palin was that awful, it means that there was a severe breakdown in the vetting process, and that is the responsibility of the campaign.
As far as whether she should be a future conservative leader for the Republican Party, consider me a skeptic. She’s clearly culturally conservative, but beyond that it gets a bit blurry. Upon further scrutiny, she didn’t turn out to be as much of a reformer and fiscal conservative as it seemed at first blush. She was a blank slate on national security before she ran for VP, and gave me little confidence that she had an in-depth understanding of the world during the campaign. I have no idea what she would be like if she were running her own campaign without having to square her views with the quirky stances of John McCain, but I found her economic populism grating at times.
In a sense, I think we may have come full circle. Back in June, when the idea of Palin being VP was largely a debate among conservative bloggers, I argued that from a purely political perspective, Palin may be McCain’s best bet for VP, but I also noted that I had reservations about her lack of experience. Quin soon responded, “Phil, I’m sorry, but I have to part ways with you on this one. In fact, I would propose a rule that NOBODY could be proposed as Veep who cannot immediately, on Day One, be seen as legitimately ready to be president.” In hindsight, I think Quin was right, but then again, I don’t think McCain could have won, no matter who he picked as VP.