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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Maine's Governor John Baldacci Has More Experience than Governor Palin - So Does Senator Susan Collins - Comments from Colby College in Maine

Palin has less experience than Maine's Governor John Baldacci or our Maine city mayors - An Opinion Editorial from Maine's Kennebec Journal

By L. Sandy Maisel Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 09/12/2008

Mr. Maisel is a professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine

Didn't Sarah Palin give a great speech at the Republican convention? Aren't those stories about her daughter's pregnancy unfair? Hasn't she energized the Republicans? Isn't she charismatic, articulate, fearless? Won't she be a great running mate for John McCain? Won't she be a great vice president?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And absolutely not.

There's the problem.

The press has done an appalling job in covering Palin's nomination. McCain's choice -- far from being the act of a political maverick -- reveals crass political calculation and a frightening lack of judgment.

McCain's pick may be brilliant politically. But if it is, his success will come at the nation's peril.

Palin's nomination highlights the difficulty that politicians and journalists have in covering the campaigns of candidates who are personally attractive but whose performance does not match their appeal.

In an age of negative campaigning, but one in which candidate after candidate cries "Foul" in response to any criticism, how can a candidate expose legitimate flaws in an opponent without being charged with waging a personal, negative campaign?

Tom Allen faces that problem in running against Senator Susan Collins.

Collins is well liked, for good reasons. Her office has done terrific service for many citizens, as her ads point out.

But her record is not without flaws. Allen seems hesitant to take those on directly -- and he has asked independent groups campaigning against her, on her record, to cease their criticisms, because he does not believe such groups should be the ones to frame the campaign in Maine.

But Congressman Allen faces a dilemma. Since the Portland Press Herald, irresponsibly in my view, closed its Washington bureau, no one is left to give an objective assessment of the work in Washington done by our representatives and senators. Our electoral choice is thus compromised.

The case of Palin is parallel, only worse. Asked whether Palin was qualified to be president, McCain responded that the nation seems to love her, and they relate to her.

Is that a qualification to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?

McCain and the Republicans tout Governor Palin's experience. It is as if we were living the Hans Christian Andersen folk tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes."

She has no experiences that qualify her for this job. But it appears no one will say that directly to McCain. The media have allowed Republican spin on woefully inadequate experience to go unchallenged.

She was mayor of Wasilla, a town smaller than Waterville or Augusta, Maine. Does that qualify her to be president?

Think Paul LePage (owner of a Maine bread company) or Roger Katz -- with charisma.

Wait, at least LePage really runs a business and meets a payroll, far more experience than Palin has.

She is governor -- as McCain asserts daily -- of the nation's largest state. By size, not population. Alaska's population is about half of Maine's.

Think of Maine's Governor John Baldacci -- with charisma.

Only our governor has confronted much more difficult problems than has Palin. While other governors have had to pare programs and worry about the state of the economy, as the prices of gas and oil have risen, Alaska has benefited -- and Palin has been able to appear the hero.

She returned money to her citizens, because she has not had to worry about the Alaska state's budget. She knows one side of the energy problem. But there is no Palin program on conservation. She talks about alternative fuels, but her energy program in Alaska did not mention them.

In two years, there has not been a Palin education program, and Alaska's schools are among the worst in the nation. More than 100,000 Alaskans are without health insurance. She has not addressed the problem. The rate of teen pregnancy in Alaska is among the highest in the nation. She has opposed programs to deal with that.

When questioned about her national security credentials, McCain mentions that Alaska is next to Russia and that she has commanded the Alaska National Guard. McCain must know that when the National Guard is pressed into federal service, she cedes command-and-control authority. She has never made one decision with national security implications. Some interviewer should look McCain in the eye and say, "That doesn't pass the smell test!"

Palin got her first passport last year. She has not led overseas trade missions, as Governor Baldacci has. She is unprepared in every way for the international aspects of the job she seeks.

McCain should be faulted lack of judgment. It was not the inspired choice of a maverick, but a dangerous, politically calculated decision.

We deserve a better choice. Not a nicer person; a better choice.

L. Sandy Maisel is director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College.


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