Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Tale of Two Women

As I'm sure you're readily aware, Republican presidential candidate John McCain has picked Arkansas Governor Sarah Palin. Indeed, this is only the second time a woman has been picked for the VP slot on a major party ticket. The first time was when Geraldine Ferraro was picked to run with Walter Mondale in 1984 to run against Ronald Reagan. While there are many issues and questions that surround Ms. Palin that will eventually be vetted out by the press corps., one issue that strikes me as odd is her comparison to Senator Hillary Clinton and the suggestion that Ms. Palin will be able to draw Clinton supporters who have not yet found a fondness for Democratic candidate, Barack Obama.

Yes, I'm not a woman. So, no, I'm not the target audience the McCain campaign might not be targeting with Ms. Palin. But I simply cannot see any comparison between Ms. Palin and Mrs. Clinton that might attract women voters over to the McCain camp. Unless of course, the McCain camp believes women's voting decisions are not complex and that women were supporting Mrs. Clinton for the sheer fact that she was a woman.

I might be wrong, but I believe many women supported Mrs. Clinton because of her experience in and around public office, commitment to key issues they identified with, toughness in dealing with opposition and challenges, intellect, poise under pressure and spotlight, and of course, yes, her being a woman, I'm sure, did play a balancing factor. But for the most part, Mrs. Clinton, by many measures, was qualified to be President and many women saw this, and thus, supported her.

In stark contrast, stands Ms. Palin, whereby most measures, is not qualified to be President. Sure, she has leadership experience. She's been the mayor of a town with a population of 5,469, and has spent two years as the governor of Alaska, who has a population roughly 80,000 people smaller than San Francisco. Does this mean she's able to navigate the complex issues and many moving parts that comes with being vice-president, or (well, given McCain's age) president? I'm simply not convinced.

Many of her supporters suggest that her accomplishments while governor, though only serving two years, match the accomplishments of a person in office for 8 years. This is supposed to represent her ability to "get things done." Still, however, I'm unconvinced. Again, getting things" done" in Alaska is not like getting things "done" in Washington. There are so many parties and considerations to contend with, both domestically and internationally, that any comparison to achieving anything in relatively isolated Alaska cannot be seriously considered.

What got me the most, however, was listening to Ms. Palin's speech and, comparing it to Mrs. Clinton's speech at the DNC. While both women are very good speakers, Ms. Palin's speech simply lacked the clarity of ideas, details, and passion that Mrs. Clinton invoked in her address to the DNC. It is readily clear, that Mrs. Clinton had spent a considerable amount of time thinking about issues that face America and solutions to these problems. This, of course, did not come about solely because of the last few years of her unsuccessful run for president. This thought process has evolved over the course of the last 35 years of her life. 35 years directed toward public service including time as First Lady of the state of Arkansas, on the campaign trail for her husband in 1992 and 1996, as First Lady of the United States, and her time as Senator of New York state. This includes time when she must surely have questioned her role in the public eye as the spotlight of the national press core shines more brightly and more intensely than even the longest Alaskan day.

In sum, Mrs. Clinton has had a lot of time to contemplate what it means to be President. She's seen the peaks and the valleys of Office. She's been all over over America and has engaged this country in conversation. Mrs. Clinton has a vision for this country. Ms. Palin, fresh-faced from Alaska, has not given us a similar vision. And because of this, I cannot see Ms. Palin seriously attracting female voters to McCain. Echoing the clich├ęd words of Vice-Presidential candidate, Llyod Bentsen, Governor Palin, you're no Hillary Clinton.

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