Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin & troopergate opera: this-is-why-there-is-a-vetting-process

Hello?! The Sarah Palin developing story of troopergate is why you have a vetting process. Just what is a vetting process? This is a euphemism for snooping into your potential running mate or appointee's history, to see if there is any dirt that will deep-six your appointee's political viability or integrity.
Look at how the Obama campaign managed the selection process. They assigned Caroline Kennedy the mission of weighing and vetting various nominee possibilities.
Here's are the main characters in the political soap opera:
*Palin's sister, Molly, who had a contentious custody dispute with her ex-husband,
*Michael Wooten, an Alaska State Trooper
*Walter Monegan, Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety

Walter Monegan claims that --while Palin never explicitly asked him to fire Michael Wooten-- Governor Palin's office raised the topic of Wooten's performance several times after December, 2006. "The Washington Post" found that Palin at first denied that she or anyone in her staff put pressure on Monegan to fire Wooten. However, by the summer of 2008, Palin admitted that her office made more than half a dozen calls to Monegan over the issue of Wooten. (See "Washington Post Investigations," "Exclusive: Chief Fired by Palin Speaks Out.") Simply put, Monegan has said that he felt implicit pressure from Gov. Palin, to fire her sister's trooper ex-husband, Wooten.
For a fuller exploration of Gov. Palin's troopergate, see this August 30 post at fellow blog, "The Political Carnival."

Just how was the Palin selection decision made? The controversy had been growing over the summer. It is incongruous that McCain did not allow adequate vetting of her selection.

* * *
A note on why this smear stuff matters

The Democrats and the Republicans live in two parallel universes:

Look at our nominees: our nominees are concerned with improving the lot of the majority of the American people; they are concerned with improving the diplomatic integrity of the American government, particularly, how we are seen internationally.

Just look at who the Republicans present as standard-bearers: for the second nominee in a row, in John McCain we have another bad-boy frat-boy type, this time, someone that makes coarse jokes at his wife's expense. (Put this in contrast to Obama or Kerry, speaking in measured, at times stentorian tones . . . )

The Democrats worry about getting the votes of people reading the New York Times or middle of the road or moderate-conservative publications such as The Atlantic or the National Journal.
Republicans are concerned about getting someone you'd want to have a beer with (Bush II or McCain, "McSame"). It is in this context that the Palin selection begins to make more sense: she's someone you'd want to have head your PTA or that you'd want to be your children's godmother.

So, for some voters, the ticket to Democratic success is to appeal on policy grounds. For other Republicans the main appeal is instead on the emotive level. The Republican talk radio cabal (Monica Crowley, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, etc.), a de facto arm of the Republican Party, have shunted aside the foreign policy expertise criterion that they applied to assessing Obama and have concocted non-policy, non-resume oriented mantras to justify her nomination.
Echoing the pitch about how Bush II and McCain are "regular guys," the Republican narrative machine and the voices echoing their talking points in the mainstream media, package Palin as the "hockey mom" trademark. Monica Crowley gets even bolder, labeling her today, "so cool" and "the It Girl."

The Democratic nominees campaign as gentlemen; the Republican nominees (or their operatives) operative through dirty smear and innuendo. Witness, for the latter, the Bush I smear campaign against Michael Dukakis; witness Swift Boat's smears against John Kerry. Let's hope that Barack Obama continues to break the Dukakis/Kerry mold of "remaining gentlemen, beyond the fray."

So, as to why this kind of personal issue matters. Focusing only on substantive issues, such as Palin's total opposition to abortion, her support for teaching creationism in public schools, is not sufficient. Again, Republicans operate in a parallel universe of using a different logic from Republicans. They work on a field of rhetoric, not substance, emotion, not substance, personal issues, not substance. We should defeat Republicans by targeting them at their points of vulnerability in areas of emotion and personal character. Democrats should put Palin's strong-arming and exploitation of her political and supervisory power front and center at discussions of her character.

* * * The quality of VP choices:
the Democratic nominees conscientiously try to get high quality runner-ups: witness Lyndon Johnson, Walter Mondale, Lloyd Bentsen, Al Gore, Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, the Republicans have many VP choices that scream: "don't impeach me, look-who-will-follow-me-should-I-step-down:" Spiro Agnew, Dan Quayle, and now Sarah Palin.

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