Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain's V-P choice isn't presidential material

Business Times - 05 Sep 2008

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

A FEW years ago, I was hired as a part-time 'contract worker' by an agency of the US federal government. No, it wasn't the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or, for that matter, any other national security government agency. Although I am an American citizen and have no criminal record, my boss insisted that since my parents were not born in the US, I had to go through a security examination. What followed were several months of rigorous investigation by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, who among other things interviewed my family members and friends, former employers, university professors, etc, and studied a very long questionnaire I had to fill and on which I had to list all my places of residences going back to high school.

I mention one of the least important chapters in my life in order to contrast this experience with that of the person who could in a few months not only have access to the US federal government's most highly classified national security information, but could also be in command of a powerful military force, including a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Indeed, according to news reports that haven't been denied by the election campaign of the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain had chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate before the FBI had conducted the most basic security examination of the young woman who until a few days ago would only have been recognised by her family and friends as well as the 650,000 residents of Alaska.

In fact, according to the same reports, the 72-year-old McCain, the oldest man to ever run for presidency and who is also a three-time cancer survivor, had only met Mrs Palin in person a few hours before making the decision to select the woman who would have to replace him in the White House if he doesn't complete his term in office. That explains why the information that Mrs Palin's teenage daughter was pregnant or that her husband was once arrested for drunk driving was revealed only in a last-minute interview conducted by Mr McCain's aides, and that these and other surprising disclosures about her have been coming to light since Mr McCain announced his selection of Mrs Palin.

Forget the security clearance. In a way, the process of vetting Mrs Palin as Mr McCain's running mate was less extensive than the kind of job interview that a candidate for some entry positions in government has to go through.

You would probably describe your friend as the 'romantic type', if he decided to propose marriage to a woman after a single (and brief) date. But being romantic is not the kind of personal attribute you look for in a man who is running for the most powerful job in the world. No one denies that Mrs Palin is an attractive woman with an interesting and colourful resume. A 'hockey mum' and mother of five (including a baby with Downs Syndrome), she hunts, goes ice fishing, rides snowmobiles, and has run a marathon. And she eloped with her high-school sweetheart who is of part Innuit ancestry. All of this creates a 'buzz' and provides some colour to Mr McCain's lacklustre campaign.

But in addition to being a governor for less than two years, Mrs Palin's only political experience has been serving for several years as a mayor of a small city in Alaska, Wasilla (6,715 residents). She has never said or written anything about the Iraq War, Iran or any other foreign policy issue. She is known mainly for her very strict views on social and cultural issues, including strong opposition to abortion and stem-cell research and support for teaching 'creationism', which challenges the theory of evolution.

From that perspective, her candidacy should appeal to the political base of the Republican Party, including the Religious Right, which might be one of the reasons that Mr McCain has selected her as his running-mate.

Mrs Palin's gender was another factor, with Mr McCain hoping that a woman vice-presidential candidate would persuade some Democrats and independent women who backed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential nomination (most of whom support a woman's right to abortion), to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket (that opposes a woman's right to abortion) in November.

But wasn't it Mr McCain who has been stressing that the global struggle against 'Islamo-Fascism' and terrorism was the main challenge that would be facing America in the coming years? He also views both Russia and China as global threats. He asked voters to make sure that they elect someone with national security experience as America's next president.

Hence, he shouldn't be surprised if many American voters take his advice into consideration as they mull over the possibility that Sarah Palin could one day become the nation's Commander-in-Chief.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

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