The Experience Question

Obviously, it's a potentially potent problem for Palin, especially where foreign policy is concerned. But I'm not sure Andrew wants to be skating out onto this ice:

The first criterion for a veep - and I'm simply repeating a truism here - is that they are ready to take over at a moment's notice. That's especially true when you have a candidate as old as McCain. That's more than especially true when we are at war, in an era of astonishingly difficult challenges, when the next president could be grappling with war in the Middle East or a catastrophic terror attack at home. Under those circumstances, we could have a former Miss Alaska with two terms under her belt as governor. Now compare McCain's pick with Obama's: a man with solid foreign policy experience, six terms in Washington and real relationships with leaders across the globe.

One pick is by a man of judgment; the other is by a man of vanity.

She may be a fine person, but she's my age, she has zero Washington experience, and no foreign policy expertise whatsoever.

McCain has just told us how seriously he takes the war we are in. Not seriously at all.

Read this once, and it sounds persuasive. Read it twice, though, and it starts to boomerang. Yes, Joe Biden has more experience than Sarah Palin. But there's a not-implausible case to be made that Sarah Palin has more experience than ... Barack Obama! (As Jeff Goldberg notes, she has more executive experience than Obama, McCain and Biden combined.) It's possible that adding Palin to the ticket will take away McCain's ability to attack Obama's inexperience. But it's also quite possible that any conversation that ends up happening about whether Sarah Palin is ready to be Vice President after ten years in local government and two years in statewide office can only end up hurting the Obama campaign - by raising, indirectly, the Democratic ticket's biggest liability.

Update: Clearly, the Obama camp disagrees, because they're going there right out of the box.


Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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