Friday, October 31, 2008

Random Thoughts on Candidates McCain and Palin

It was obvious on SNL that Tina Fey does Sarah Palin better than Sarah Palin. When Palin does Palin, it comes across as an imperfect imitation of Tina Fey imitating Sarah Palin; Tina Fey owns Sarah Palin.

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At this point I’m thinking that it’s probably no mere coincidence that the only difference between “Palin” and “Pain” is the presence or absence of the letter “l.” Nor is there a high probability of coincidence that “McCain” becomes “McPain” simply by swapping out the “C” for a “P.” You can see where I’m going with this. (Because I’m writing this on a PC, I’ll offer it up as further proof that all things are in some way connected.)

So, what does all this pain have to do with a McCain/Palin Presidency/Vice Presidency? Oh, my brothers and sisters, have you not been paying attention these past eight years? McCain and Palin are a toxic combination representing the status quo; this duhnamic duo would compound the problems engineered by Bush and Company and bring unimaginable, unendurable and unprecedented pain upon America and a large majority of her citizens for many years into the future—if we’re fortunate enough to even have a future.

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Is Sarah Palin Greg Stillson in drag? I can’t say for sure, but whenever I see her give a speech as a Vice-Presidential candidate, I’m reminded of the character (a Congressional candidate with aspirations of one day running for President) from Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, and of the same dark vision of the country as seen by Johnny Smith.

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Neither of these disingenuous tools of the NeoCon spin machine are what they claim to be. John consistently and persistently misrepresents himself as a war hero (he was not) and Sarah consistently and persistently overstates her qualifications to hold a high-level position in public office. And both of these unscrupulous candidates shamelessly smear Barack Obama with a barrage of half-truths and lies, diminishing themselves in the process.

Remember the Savings & Loan scandal that left taxpayers on the hook for $billions? Remember Charles Keating and the Keating Five? Without John McCain, it would have been the Keating Four.

McCain berates Obama for lacking judgment, but how much judgment did McCain show by selecting Palin as his running mate? No, I don’t mean as helping or hurting his chances for election, I mean as how it might affect the country if he’s elected, dies while in office (considering his age and his health history—not to mention his undisclosed health records—there’s a good chance of that happening), and Sarah ascends to the Presidency. Is Sarah ready to lead? Not even close.

She lacks experience and/or expertise in all the critical areas that define a world-class leader. She has no military experience, lacks significant foreign policy experience, and her diplomatic skills leave much to be desired. Despite being a self-proclaimed energy expert, she has no energy policy other than “Drill, baby, drill.” Her answer to global warming and its environmental consequences is to ignore them or, worse, deny them. And where are her plans for addressing the other problems—all tough challenges, to be sure—facing Americans in the immediate future; crumbling infrastructure, universal healthcare, economic instability, the national debt, the failures of public education, looming food and water crises, national security, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and numerous others? Sending Ms. Palin in to do a competent persons job would be like sending in a person to oversee U.S. Military operations in the Middle East based on prior experience as a Boy Scout troop leader. To put it succinctly, it mustn’t happen.

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No doubt Sarah set the bar to qualify for public office too low. By her standards, even I am qualified to hold the office of President or Vice-President of the U.S.

Just for the hell of it, and to prove to you how empty and meaningless all these claims made in the name of political self-aggrandizement really are, let’s compare my qualifications to hold the office of Vice President (or President) with Sarah Palin’s.

Military Experience

An ability to make sound military decisions is essential to the person who, as President, is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. Lacking actual military experience or a War College education, a minimum requirement would be to have read Sun Tsu’s The Art of War.

Whereas Sarah visited a military base in Kuwait, I’ve resided on several military bases in the U.S., MCRD San Diego, Camp Pendleton, and Twenty-nine Palms among them, and served TD at several others. As a civilian truck driver I delivered loads of strategic materials to other military bases, including McCord AFB, Fort Lewis, El Toro MAS, and Nellis AFB. Although I missed pulling duty in Viet Nam by luck-of-the-draw, any way you want to slice and dice it, my military experience trumps Palin’s. Oh, yeah, and I’ve read Sun Tsu’s The Art of War.

Foreign Policy Experience

Sarah “High-heel Hitler” Palin cites Alaska’s proximity to Russia—and her ability to see Russia from Alaska if she stands at exactly the right spot at the right time of day and the right time of year—as a substantial part of her foreign policy experience. She also thinks that a brief refueling stop in Ireland counts as foreign policy experience, as well. Real stretches of the imagination, any way you want to pull them. And I’m not absolutely sure if meeting with U.S. troops in Kuwait counts as foreign policy experience, either; I’ll guess that it doesn’t.

Sarah might be able to see Russia under ideal conditions, but I can find Russia on a world map. Sarah had a brief refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland, on her way to visiting a U.S. Military base in Kuwait; I’ve refueled at truck stops, most of which sell fuel refined from foreign-supplied oil sold on the international market, all across the country.

According to Sarah’s twisted logic, any connection at all to the term international is enough to qualify someone for the office of Vice President. But if that’s the case, then I must be overqualified by virtue of my résumé of connections to the term. In various past lives I hauled container-loads of hay cubes bound for Japan (an international market) for Viking International driving an International truck; while in the military I performed preventive maintenance on International Harvester heavy equipment (TD-18s, TD-24s); I’ve flown out of and into Portland International Airport, raced at Portland International Raceway, and eaten at International House of Pancakes. I’ve even been known to use IBM (International Business Machines) office equipment.

Despite all of this International experience, I’m still hard-pressed to make a rational argument, on that basis alone, that I’m qualified to hold high public office. And (on that basis alone) Sarah’s no better positioned to make a rational argument for qualification than I am.

Foreign Trade

Governor Palin boasts about a $40 billion pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope to Alberta, Canada, and points beyond as if it were a done deal. It’s not. On the downside, an AP investigation uncovered a rigged bidding process that threw the construction contract to TransCanada Corp., a company with close ties to Palin’s pipeline team. Before construction can begin, TransCanada must skirt some major financial barriers and regulatory impediments; the project’s completion is years away. Still, I guess you can chalk this up as foreign trade experience for Palin.

My own foreign trade experience is far less grandiose than Sarah’s, but the sheer amount of it dwarf’s hers in comparison. For seven-and-a-half years during the mid-eighties and early nineties, I conducted international trade missions to Canada (Vancouver, B.C. and neighboring towns and cities), making twice-weekly deliveries of critical commodities (snack pies and other bakery products) to pre-established distribution centers. As a result of this experience I mastered one of two Canadian languages, which I now speak and write fluently. Put another checkmark in the plus column for me.

Prior to that I participated in two covert missions into Mexico (Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez) to randomly sample various ethanol-containing products commonly sold on the open market, and to stimulate the local economy. The aforementioned incursions into the territories of a sovereign foreign nation qualified as hazardous duty; indeed, I came away from each suffering severe short-term brain trauma, from which I recovered in less than 24 hours (yet another testament to my endurance, resiliency and tenacity—all desired characteristics of a leader).

Once again, my experience (depending on how you spin it) eclipses Sarah Palin’s.

Leadership Experience

For leadership experience, Sarah cites (in part) her two terms as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and the role she played in directing the daily machinations of that town of fewer than 10,000 people. By the end of her terms, conservative Mayor Palin increased the tax burden on each of Wasilla’s taxpaying citizens by more than 30% and left the town more than $20 million in debt.

Although I’ve never been mayor, as a construction flagger I directed traffic on a street improvement project in a city with three times the population, which I would argue is the more challenging job because survival is not about getting reelected at the end of your term but about staying alive ’til the end of the day.

Although I’ve never lead anything larger than a grade school assembly, I live in a city whose metropolitan area has a population roughly twice as large as Alaska’s. Whether you lead or are led, the larger the population the greater your responsibility.

Sarah also trumpets her two-year experience as Governor of Alaska, the nation’s largest state, as proof that she’s Presidential material. But what does this claim really mean? Not much, really. Really! Alaska, at more than twice the size of Texas, has the fourth smallest population of all the states, and it accounts for less than ¼ of 1% of the nation’s total population. Someone should tell Sarah that governing is not about the number of square miles that lie within the borders of one’s realm, but the number of people. (It’s people that need governing; the land, in the absence of people, takes care of itself.)

If you can believe the information posted on her official Web site, some of Sarah’s most recent important accomplishments as governor of Alaska include appointing or reappointing people to various positions within her administration, the ceremonial lowering of the flag in honor of a deceased retired judge, and bitching about the protections afforded endangered Beluga whales in Cook Inlet—not exactly the kinds of stuff that make great Presidents or VPs.

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As you can see, my experience in every category equals or exceeds that of Governor Palin. Am I qualified? Is Sarah Palin? So go ahead, vote for me as a write-in candidate for Vice President. True, there’s not much chance of me winning, but I have my resignation letter already prepared just in case.

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Vote on or before November 4th. If you wait until November 5th (as Rethugs suggested certain Democrats do) it's too late.