Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Experience is just the start

This first published September 4, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

Many of us are still trying to figure out who Sarah Palin is and what experience she brings to Number One Observatory Circle. In case you’re wondering, Number One Observatory Circle is the official residence of the vice president authorized by Congress in 1974 and is on the campus of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C.

In 16 years of public service, she has ascended to vice presidential running mate to Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

She is the first woman Republican vice presidential running-mate and only the second woman in history.

The first question people have asked me is whether she is qualified to be vice president. The simple answer is yes. According to the Constitution, a person must be a native-born citizen, at least 35 years of age and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. Therefore, she qualifies.

Probably because it’s a simple question with a simple answer, folks then ask the follow-up question: Does she have enough experience to be vice president? That is a bit trickier to answer, because it’s all very subjective. Every American may have a different opinion on what experience is necessary to be president. Notice, I say president, because the vice president could become president at a moment’s notice.

But is it really experience we are looking for? Take our own Gov. Jim Gibbons, for instance. He looks great on paper when it comes to experience. He is a geologist, a lawyer, a hydrologist, a pilot with a distinguished record and former congressman with 10 years in office. Yet he is the worst governor imaginable with no sense of good judgment.

The state could elect anyone as governor and, if he surrounded himself with good people, the right people, he could be the best governor ever.

Judgment is the key qualification that should be ferreted out of every candidate. There lies the challenge: for voters to determine judgment and character of those running.

Apparently, Palin has done a respectable job as governor of Alaska and mayor of a community half the size of Boulder City. A colleague pointed out that Oscar Goodman would have more experience if you compared populations. Alaska has a population of 675,000, which is half the population of Southern Nevada — if, indeed, Oscar were the mayor of all Southern Nevada, as he claims.

So what was Senator McCain thinking when he selected Governor Palin as his running mate? Talk radio black sheep and eccentric Michael Savage said McCain was trying to lose the election. Interesting, but not likely.
Is Palin the sacrificial lamb for the Republican National Committee? Couldn’t McCain convince Mitt Romney to run?

Perhaps the real strategy is to pull the Hillary Clinton feminists away from Obama — or at least give them a choice. Probably not, because Palin’s pro-life stance would be way too much, for even the most centrist feminist to embrace.

McCain’s choice of Palin did accomplish a couple things. One, it neutralized the experience debate and kept the prospect of a woman veep alive. However, who ever expected the first woman veep to be a Republican?

What do I think about Governor Palin’s children and their issues? Nothing. They mirror what’s happening in America. Although I find it disappointing that she knew about her daughter’s situation, and the governor still accepted the opportunity, thrusting her 17-year-old into the world media and into the jaws of savage beasts.

I find this disturbing, because of my own experience growing up in the governor’s mansion. It’s painful when your parents are criticized and even more painful when the media point out your own or even siblings’ shortcomings. Especially painful is the feeling of failing your parents’ expectations. It is one thing to experience it in the privacy of the family, and completely another to read it in the paper or see it on TV.

Unfortunately, we know more about the Palin children right now than we know about their mother. I’m sure in the coming days and weeks, we will all ferret out what’s important and what’s not.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com. He writes a regular column at tocomv.blogspot.com.