Sarah Palin is not qualified for high office, and she has
proved it in two interviews, if you were listening, but it was equally clear
eight years ago that George Bush was not qualified for high office, and many
Americans were not listening.
The excitement generated around Palin is just as though
America were again embracing George Bush -- a younger, prettier version of the
most incompetent person ever to hold the office of president, a judgment based
on his actual achievement and not just my exceedingly low opinion of him.
She is articulate, unlike Bush, but then so are
vacuum-cleaner salesman and televangelists. Being articulate is a tool of
leadership, but it is not the same thing as leadership. The substance of what
you say matters immensely more than how smoothly you say it, especially when
you might lead a powerful nation which just happens to be the center of a vast
It seemed painfully clear during the 2000 election debates
that Al Gore avoided attacking Bush. I don�t mean attacking him personally, I
mean attacking lame statements and explanations which sounded as though they were
coming from a not especially bright eighth-grader repeating lines from an
article in Senior Scholastic.
I just could not believe Gore never pounced, and I think he
lost the election then (of course, Bush was not honestly elected, but it is
only in close votes that fraud works, and the vote did not have to be close). I
thought at the time Gore feared looking aggressive, perhaps owing to his
assessment of public opinion following the ghastly circus of the Clinton
impeachment. Clinton did not deserve to be impeached, but he proved to us all
that he was both sleazy and a practiced liar, and there could have been no
circus without his behavior first.
I don�t know, but we have something of a repeat performance
coming up. Joe Biden is an aggressive (if insincere and inconsistent) arguer,
and he is going to be put up against this physically-attractive super-mom who
drags along her entire extended family to political events, lined up like the
world�s largest set of Russian matryoshka dolls. Does anyone believe he
will dare be aggressive? He will be in an untenable position: damned if does
and damned if he doesn�t.
In one of her recent interviews, Palin bragged of being the
governor of a state that produces 20 percent of America�s energy. Well, the
fact is that Alaska is responsible for less than 4 percent of America�s energy.
That is quite a considerable difference, and it is in a
subject one might think she had at least a basic grasp of facts.
Palin, like George Bush, strongly advocates offshore
drilling in the sensitive environment of the North and seems to hold her belief
for no other reason than that Americans use lots of energy. It is the
economic/environmental perspective of a good deal of suburban America where
middle-class couples both work, have two- and three-car garages, and commute
considerable distances to jobs that often involve more than eight hours a day,
but is it a view that is sustainable in a world of steeply-rising oil prices, a
rapidly changing climate, and the explosive growth of competitors like China
and India? The simple answer is no.
On the world controversy of Iran�s nuclear program, after
some furry-mouthed generalities, Palin said that we should not be
second-guessing what Israel has to do for its defense, which is nothing more
than a self-serving avoidance of the crucial, central issue involved here.
The fact is that if Israel attacks Iran -- something which
earlier had seemed settled by an American veto but which now is less clear,
especially with the just announced sale of a thousand new �bunker-busting�
bombs to Israel -- Iran will respond, and it has a legitimate right to do so in
its own defense, almost certainly with missiles. Iran�s missiles are not
Saddam�s pathetic old SCUDS but pretty accurate medium-range ballistic
Would the U.S. be instantly sucked into a war with Iran,
something which is entirely against the interests of the United States, and
indeed against the interests of the entire world with Iran�s ability to choke
off the Straits of Hormuz?
And is there no issue here over Israel�s self-declared
right, by invoking some vaguely-defined need to protect its existence, to do
whatever it wants concerning the internal affairs of other countries, even
places a thousand miles away?
Acceptance of that as a working principle in international
affairs truly means an endlessly chaotic world with no accepted rules. After
all, every aggressor in history believed that he was protecting his country�s
existence or some other vital interest. Hitler was very good at making such
points, twisting the truth, and even using eloquent words about peace.
We have the strongest possible evidence that Iran gave up
its weapons program several years ago. Is Israel to be permitted to use
American-supplied weapons to attack Iran (remembering these weapons come with
supposedly iron-clad agreements that they are not to be used for aggression), a
nation which has not engaged in any hostilities against Israel, just because
Israel claims it does not believe that intelligence while not offering the
world one scrap of proof for its doubt?
As to the business of Palin�s casually discussing the
possible need for war with Russia, it is the stuff of nightmares. The woman has
no idea what she is talking about. It very much reminded me of Dan Quayle
blubbering about ICBM throw-weights, a term he memorized to toss around for
impressing the weak-minded, but her talk, while equally stupid, was infinitely
It is not possible for anyone to take on Russia with
conventional forces. Despite its relative decline, Russia still has awesome
conventional armed forces, as it so clearly showed in Georgia after Georgia�s
foolish attack on its former province. Russia mopped them up in a few days and
could easily have rolled over the entire country despite Georgia�s
American-supplied new armaments.
Even Russia�s navy, weak by American standards, nevertheless
is equipped with weapons over which American admirals have nightmares: for
example, the Sunfire sea-to-sea missiles against which there is no effective
defense. These missiles spiral onto targets in an unpredictable fashion at
speeds around Mach 3 to deliver a devastating punch. America�s entire fleet of
aircraft carriers could be sunk in hours.
The Russians have also demonstrated new technologies for
submarine warfare. A Chinese submarine, equipped with some of this, stunned the
Pentagon not long ago, when it silently surfaced in the middle of a task force
conducting exercises related to Taiwan. This was unprecedented because carrier
task forces maintain electromagnetic �bubbles� around themselves with a battery
of detection devices, extending far into the air and under the sea.
So what is the alternative to conventional war? It is the
war in which the United States and Russia cease to exist. Russia has some of
the most accurate and defense-evading capable missiles in the world. America�s
primitive efforts at missile defense -- not one successful test in which the
incoming warhead was not marked by a strong radio homing beacon plus a number
of unsuccessful tests -- do not stand a chance under conditions of a full
Russian attack. The sheer number and size of warheads, the many decoys, new
stealth technology, plus other technologies of avoidance mean the certain
destruction of the United States.
Does any clear-thinking and sane person want someone who
casually talks of war with Russia anywhere near the White House?
And what of Palin�s references, more than once, to the fact
that Russia is within view of some Alaskans? Is that supposed to mean she is
familiar with Russian affairs? All 11 time zones of them? The observation
literally is meaningless, a Dan Quayle-like observation, a complete non
sequitur to any meaningful question about Russia and relations with that
Here�s a colossally ignorant view of Palin�s: she believes
in a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Even Bush knows that is nonsense because
he put forward the lies that made the war he wanted for other reasons possible.
Saddam, like all absolute rulers, had no use for terrorists
or underground movements of any kind. The safest place to be with regard to
terror or guerilla movements is in an absolute state, something George Bush
even understands since he has greatly shifted the United States in that
direction. The old Soviet Union had no problems with terrorists or guerillas,
and neither did Saddam.
Saddam also was a secularist and had no use for extreme
Muslims. He was known to intensely dislike Osama bin Laden. Incidentally, women
were better off, freer of ancient restrictions, in Saddam�s Iraq than they were
in any other part of the Arab world.
If there were even one shred of evidence of a connection
between Iraq and 9/11 -- not the stupidly forged documents we saw before the
invasion -- it would have been printed and broadcast in every corner of the
earth by the Bush/Cheney government, which has spent immense amounts trying to
convince people of many instances of nonsense.
After all, that�s how they were caught red-handed exposing
the CIA wife of a distinguished former ambassador who refused to give
credibility to what he knew was forgery, Theirs was an utterly wrong act which
only showed how far these ugly men would go to have their way.
Sarah Palin seems made of just such stuff. She is uninformed
combined with being a control-freak, something she has demonstrated many times
already in a brief career, from trying to dismiss her brother-in-law from his
state police job -- the e-mails released show that much even if they prove
nothing further -- to dragging her daughter�s poor (self-described) redneck
boyfriend to the convention, a boy who (again according to his own words)
wanted nothing to do with babies but was scrubbed up, dumped into a new suit,
and introduced to everyone as her daughter�s �fianc�.� Imagine the pressure
placed on this young man by the governor of his state?
I think one of the most revealing aspects of Palin�s
experience is her education. Here again there is a strong parallel with Bush,
who only managed to be accepted and graduate because of his �legacy� status
from a wealthy and influential family. No thinking person believes Bush could
have been accepted by Ivy League institutions on his own merit, much less graduate
Palin�s experience was different as to details but leads to
similar reflections on her abilities. Palin took six years in five different
universities in several states to earn a bachelor�s in communications, a
considerably less than intellectually-taxing subject. Her records are
confidential, and the various institutions will not even discuss the reasons
for her many transfers.
Palin�s comparison of herself, during her convention speech,
to Harry Truman was inaccurate and deceptive. Yes, they both came from small
places, but Truman, before being called as FDR�s candidate for vice president,
had spent 10 years in the U.S. Senate, was associated with a powerful political
machine in Missouri, and had taken a very prominent role in war-related Senate committee
work. Palin was briefly mayor of a town the size of Andy Griffith�s Mayberry
and has fewer than two years as governor of a remote state whose entire
population is almost identical to that of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Bush, Palin is a dangerous person -- uninformed, poorly educated, aggressive,
deeply ideological, and with extreme religious beliefs. She was placed where
she is by a tired-looking man, one treated for cancer four times, who just
desperately wants to cap his career with the title president, a man who
has no ethical qualms about how he achieves what he wants.