By John Chuckman
Sarah Palin is not qualified for high office, and she has proved it in two interviews, if you were listening, but it was equally clear eight years ago that George Bush was not qualified for high office, and many Americans were not listening.
The excitement generated around Palin is just as though America were again embracing George Bush – a younger, prettier version of the most incompetent person ever to hold the office of president, a judgment based on his actual achievement and not just my exceedingly low opinion of him.
She is articulate, unlike Bush, but then so are vacuum-cleaner salesman and televangelists. Being articulate is tool of leadership, but it is not the same thing as leadership. The substance of what you say matters immensely more than how smoothly you say it, especially when you might lead a powerful nation which just happens to be the center of a vast international empire.
It seemed painfully clear during the 2000 election debates that Al Gore avoided attacking Bush. I don’t mean attacking him personally, I mean attacking lame statements and explanations which sounded as though they were coming from a not especially-bright eighth-grader repeating lines from an article in Senior Scholastic.
I just could not believe Gore never pounced, and I think he lost the election then (of course, Bush was not honestly elected, but it is only in close votes that fraud works, and the vote did not have to be close). I thought at the time Gore feared looking aggressive, perhaps owing to his assessment of public opinion following the ghastly circus of the Clinton impeachment. Clinton did not deserve to be impeached, but he proved to us all that he was both sleazy and a practiced liar, and there could have been no circus without his behavior first.
I don’t know, but we have something of a repeat performance coming up. Joe Biden is an aggressive (if insincere and inconsistent) arguer, and he is going to be put up against this physically-attractive super-mom who drags along her entire extended family to political events, lined up like the world’s largest set of Russian matryoshka dolls. Does anyone believe he will dare be aggressive? He will be in an untenable position: damned if does and damned if he doesn’t.
In one of her recent interviews, Palin bragged of being the Governor of a state that produces 20% of America’s energy. Well, the fact is that Alaska is responsible for less than 4% of America’s energy.
That is quite a considerable difference, and it is in a subject one might think she had at least a basic grasp of facts.
Palin, like George Bush, strongly advocates offshore drilling in the sensitive environment of the North and seems to hold her belief for no other reason than that Americans use lots of energy. It is the economic/environmental perspective of a good deal suburban America where middle-class couples both work, have two- and three-car garages, and commute considerable distances to jobs that often involve more than eight hours a day, but is it a view that is sustainable in a world steeply-rising oil prices, a rapidly changing climate, and the explosive growth of competitors like China and India? The simple answer is no.
On the world controversy of Iran’s nuclear program, after some furry-mouthed generalities, Palin said that we should not be second-guessing what Israel has to do for its defense, which is nothing more than a self-serving avoidance of the crucial, central issue involved here.
The fact is that if Israel attacks Iran – something which earlier had seemed settled by an American veto but which now is less clear, especially with the just announced sale of a thousand new “bunker-busting” bombs to Israel – Iran will respond, and it has a legitimate right to do so in its own defense, almost certainly with missiles. Iran’s missiles are not Saddam’s pathetic old SCUDS but pretty accurate medium-range ballistic missiles.
Would the U.S. be instantly sucked into a war with Iran, something which is entirely against the interests of the United States, and indeed against the interests of the entire world with Iran’s ability easily to choke off the Straits of Hormuz?
And is there no issue here over Israel’s self-declared right, by invoking some vaguely-defined need to protect its existence, to do whatever it wants concerning the internal affairs of other countries, even places a thousand miles away?
Acceptance of that as a working principle in international affairs truly means an endlessly chaotic world with no accepted rules. After all, every aggressor in history believed that he was protecting his country’s existence or some other vital interest. Hitler was very good at making such points, twisting the truth, and even using eloquent words about peace.
We have the strongest possible evidence that Iran gave up its weapons program several years ago. Is Israel to be permitted to use American-supplied weapons to attack Iran (remembering these weapons come with supposedly iron-clad agreements that they are not to be used for aggression), a nation which has not engaged in any hostilities against Israel, just because Israel claims it does not believe that intelligence while not offering the world one scrap of proof for its doubt?
As to the business of Palin’s casually discussing the possible need for war with Russia, it is the stuff of nightmares. The woman has no idea what she is talking about. It very much reminded me of Dan Quayle blubbering about ICBM throw-weights, a term he memorized to toss around for impressing the weak-minded, but her talk, while equally stupid, was infinitely more dangerous.
It is not possible for anyone to take on Russia with conventional forces. Despite its relative decline, Russia still has awesome conventional armed forces, as it so clearly showed in Georgia after Georgia’s foolish attack on its former province (which was conducted against confidential American advice). Russia mopped them up in a few days and could easily have rolled over the entire country despite Georgia’s American-supplied new armaments.
Even Russia’s navy, weak by American standards, nevertheless is equipped with weapons over which American admirals have nightmares: for example, the Sunfire sea-to-sea missiles against which there is no effective defense. These missiles spiral onto targets in an unpredictable fashion at speeds around Mach 3 to deliver a devastating punch. America’s entire fleet of aircraft carriers could be sunk in hours.
The Russians have also demonstrated new technologies for submarine warfare. A Chinese submarine, equipped with some of this, stunned the Pentagon not long ago, when it silently surfaced in the middle of a task force conducting exercises related to Taiwan. This was unprecedented because carrier task forces maintain electromagnetic “bubbles” around themselves with a battery of detection devices, extending far into the air and under the sea.
So what is the alternative to conventional war? It is the war in which the United States and Russia cease to exist. Russia has some of the most accurate and defense-evading capable missiles in the world. America’s primitive efforts at missile defense – not one successful test in which the incoming warhead was not marked by a strong radio homing beacon plus a number of unsuccessful tests – do not stand a chance under conditions of a full Russian attack. The sheer number and size of warheads, the many decoys, new stealth technology, plus other technologies of avoidance mean the certain destruction of the United States.
Does any clear-thinking and sane person want someone who casually talks of war with Russia anywhere near the White House?
And what of Palin’s references, more than once, to the fact that Russia is within view of some Alaskans? Is that supposed to mean she is familiar with Russian affairs? All eleven time zones of them? The observation literally is meaningless, a Dan Quayle-like observation, a complete non sequitur to any meaningful question about Russia and relations with that country.
Here’s a colossally ignorant view of Palin’s: she believes in a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Even Bush knows that is nonsense because he put forward the lies that made the war he wanted for other reasons possible.
Saddam, like all absolute rulers, had no use for terrorists or underground movements of any kind. The safest place to be with regard to terror or guerilla movements is in an absolute state, something George Bush even understands since he has greatly shifted the United States in that direction. The old Soviet Union had no problems with terrorists or guerillas, and neither did Saddam.
Saddam also was a secularist and had no use for extreme Muslims. He was known to intensely dislike Osama bin Laden. Incidentally, women were better off, freer of ancient restrictions, in Saddam’s Iraq than they were in any other part of the Arab world.
If there were even one shed of evidence of a connection between Iraq and 9/11 – not the stupidly forged documents we saw before the invasion – it would have been printed and broadcast in every corner of the earth by the Bush/Cheney government, which has spent immense amounts trying to convince people of many instances of nonsense.
After all, that’s how they were caught red-handed exposing the CIA wife of a distinguished Republican former ambassador who refused to give credibility to what he knew was forgery, Theirs was an utterly wrong act which only showed how far these ugly men would go to have their way.
Sarah Palin seems made of just such stuff. She is uninformed combined with being a control-freak, something she has demonstrated many times already in a brief career, from trying to dismiss her brother-in-law from his state police job – the e-mails released show that much even if they prove nothing further – to dragging her daughter’s poor (self-described) redneck boyfriend to the convention, a boy who (again according to his own words) wanted nothing to do with babies but was scrubbed up, dumped into a new suit, and introduced to everyone as her daughter’s “fiancé.” Imagine the pressure placed on this young man by the governor of his state?
I think one of the most revealing aspects of Palin’s experience is her education. Here again there is a strong parallel with Bush, who only managed to be accepted and graduate because of his “legacy” status from a wealthy and influential family. No thinking person believes Bush could have been accepted by Ivy League institutions on his own merit, much less graduate from them.
Palin’s experience was different as to details but leads to similar reflections on her abilities. Palin took six years in five different universities in several states to earn a bachelor’s in communications, a considerably less than intellectually-taxing subject. Her records are confidential, and the various institutions will not even discuss the reasons for her many transfers.
Palin’s comparison of herself, during her convention speech, to Harry Truman was inaccurate and deceptive. Yes, they both came from small places, but Truman, before being called as FDR’s candidate for vice president, had spent ten years in the U.S. Senate, was associated with a powerful political machine in Missouri, and had taken a very prominent role in war-related Senate Committee work. Palin was briefly mayor of a town the size of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and has two years as Governor of a remote state whose entire population is almost identical to that of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Like Bush, Palin is a dangerous person – uninformed, poorly educated, aggressive, deeply ideological, and with extreme religious beliefs. She was placed where she is by a tired-looking man, one treated for cancer four times, who just desperately wants to cap his career with the title president, a man who has no ethical qualms about how he achieves what he wants.
-John Chuckman lives in Canada and is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.