John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as running mate is intended to promote a blend of ‘experience and youth’. But looking at Palin’s brief career (18 months as Governor of a state with a quarter the population of Chicago) and then pictures of the two of them together, there’s a danger that it will come across as ‘decrepitude and inexperience’.
Barack Obama chose veteran Senator Joe Biden as his running mate – the adjective commonly used about him is ‘scrappy’. The man relishes a good poltical fight in a way that Obama appears not to.
I’ve heard it said that Biden simply won’t be able to use his standard knockabout approach against a much younger woman in the VP debates. Setting aside that this is pretty patronising to Palin, who presumably is no innocent, in perception terms there’s some truth in this. But it doesn’t matter: Biden’s feistiness is on the ticket for the purpose of taking McCain down, while Obama gets on with looking presidential and unifying.
However, Biden has far more knowledge of foreign affairs than Palin – as long as he can wield it against her without sneering, he should do pretty well in debate.
On the other hand, Biden has a long record of Senate votes and speeches that the Republicans will certainly trawl for ammo. And Palin could play very well as an outsider who wants to clean up politics. Although there is the small matter of the investigation into her. By contrast, the biggest scandal of Biden’s 35-year career appears to be that he plagiarised Neil Kinnock in a 1987 speech.
Then there’s the fact that Palin is a woman, and a lot of Democrat-leaing women were dismayed that Hillary Clinton didn’t get the nomination. Their votes could well be up for grabs.
Clinton should, very quickly, say something like:
I congratulate Sarah Palin on getting John McCain’s vote. We need more women in politics, and I’m glad that she feels a woman can make it all the way to the vice-presidency. But I don’t believe in democracy by quota – I earned my votes in the primaries on my own merits. People who voted for me believed in my values, my vision for America.
And now I stand fully with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, because I support their values and their vision. As a woman, I wouldn’t want there to be – just a heartbeat away from the presidency – someone who was so ideologically anti-choice, even in cases of rape and incest. I’d rather have as vice-president the author of the Violence Against Women Act –and if that happens to be a man, I won’t hold it against him.
It also occurs to me that if Palin does mention how she’s carrying the torch for women in Clinton’s absence, Biden could shoot back: “Governor, you’re no Hillary Clinton.” (Although, at time of posting, 680 other people on Google have already thought of this…)