Palin On The Issues

Richard Starr writes:

I've heard a fair amount of morning-after caviling from conservatives that Sarah Palin didn't spend more of her speech talking about public policy and issues. David Frum, for one, asks: "Where does she stand on immigration - an issue to which a President McCain will surely return? How reliable is she on free trade?"

Okay, let's grant there is natural curiosity about her political philosophy, particularly among people who care about political philosophy. But, as Gov. Palin might phrase it: Here's a little newsflash for all those reporters and commentators: She's not going to Washington to implement her political philosophy and her agenda. She's going to Washington to serve as John McCain's vice president. And the position of any good vice president is that he (or she) supports the president.

George H. W. Bush didn't give a convention speech in 1980 on how Reaganomics was Voodoo economics, even though that was where he stood on that issue, as everyone had learned earlier that year.

My prediction: Sarah Palin will stand on immigration and free trade where John McCain stands on those issues, and if she disagrees with him, I can imagine a spirited, private discussion between the two of them in the Oval Office. But it would be highly unusual, not to say inappropriate, for her to be announcing any positions on issues except the positions of the McCain-Palin campaign.

This is all very true. But Palin didn't have to make the case for her own positions last night in order to talk about policy; she could have made the case for her running mate's positions, especially in those areas where voters want to hear something from the candidates, and where McCain seems uncomfortable talking about his actual stances on the issues. As I said, I can see why the speech needed to tack in a different, more combative directions. But as much as this suddenly feels like a culture-war election, all of those kitchen-table concerns are still out there, and so are the Obama campaign's issue-by-issue advantages on domestic policy. The nomination of Palin, who's a potential kitchen-table candidate in a way McCain can never be, ought to be a clarifying moment for the McCain campaign - a chance to hit reboot on their domestic agenda, and find a way to at least poach some of the domestic-policy terrain the Democrats currently own. The McCain health care plan and tax plans, in particular, should be either defended or rewritten - and either way, the subjects should find their way into Palin's speeches going forward, if not into McCain's. (Though no, I'm not holding my breath ...)