These are further thoughts I've had on the day McCain announced his running mate and the following morning. For my initial reaction, see "What if McCain picks Romney?" below.
As I've pondered through the day McCain's choice of Palin, it's occurred to me--at least this is how it looks to me--that this was a political decision rather than a practical one. Here's what I mean. It seems to me Palin is clearly not the most qualified person McCain could have chosen. But she has three things going for her: she's a woman, she appeals to the Republican base, and she's a governor. But he could have found a more qualified and experienced woman. He could have found someone more qualified and experienced who appeals to the base. And he could have found several more qualified and experienced governors. She is all three in one. The only problem is that McCain has had to sacrifice the experience and superior qualifications others have. Romney, for instance, has a good deal more experience as a governor and in general is more experienced and qualified than Palin. But he has two things against him--he's not a woman, and he's super-rich, which would have meant two very rich men running together. (Less relevant to the point I'm making here are Romney's other problems--bad blood between him and McCain and being Mormon, which would lose McCain votes in the Bible Belt and among evangelicals generally.)
I've also learned that Palin's position on some issues is more extreme than I had realize: her anti-abortion position allows no exceptions (including rape and incest), she favors teaching creationism in public schools, and she is sceptical about global warming. (I could give you lots of reasons why these last two positions are real problems.)
Palin seems likable and capable. She has an appealing personal story--she's the mother of five, including a Down's Syndrome baby born just a few months ago. Apparently, she's independent and reform-minded. McCain must feel comfortable with her and must feel they can work well together.
But for me, the positives are outweighed by many negatives. I'm anti-abortion, but I would definitely make exceptions for rape and incest as well as for a mother's health. (I'm talking about legal standards--individuals, of course, must make their personal decisions within the legal parameters, and those decisions will vary according to circumstances and, I hope, personal soul-searching and inspiration.) I'm entirely persuaded that global warming is a serious problem that requires our urgent attention. "Creationism" is not science and should not be taught as such in the public schools. It also (in most of its forms) happens to be inconsistent with Latter-day Saint doctrine: we do not believe in creation out of nothing; the idea of the creation of the universe within a period of seven twenty-four-hour days has not been held by most serious LDS leaders or thinkers; and the Church has clearly indicated that it does not have an official position on evolution. (I can provide links to exactly what the Church has said on that matter.)
I'm afraid the choice of Palin may revive the culture wars in the U.S. in some damaging ways. I don't agree with Obama completely on some social issues: specifically, I have a stronger position against abortion; but my position on gay marriage is basically the same as his--I don't favor the legalization of gay marriage, but I favor civil unions or other means that will allow some rights (visitation, etc.) to non-married couples. My main reason for preferring Obama on these issues, though, is that he genuinely respects those who disagree with him. He is willing and able to talk to people on both sides of the social issues and wants to find common ground where we can work together rather than draw the battle lines that will stall progress, as has been happening over the past generation. (Listen to his acceptance speech from last Thursday night for the approach I'm referring to.)
I've heard Republican spokespeople saying that Palin has more executive experience than anyone else on the tickets (that would have to include McCain, I guess). But whatever she has achieved, she's been governor for less than two years. Before that she was mayor of a city with about 9,000 inhabitants. Earlier this year, Karl Rove criticized Governor Kaine of Virginia as a possible vice president for having been governor for only three years and having been mayor before that of a city of only 200,000 or so. Hmmm.
The more I've thought about it, the more I've wondered about McCain's judgment and decision-making style. He met Palin only once before this past week. (Apparently he met her at a governors' conference in January.) He had a nice telephone conversation with her. And then they met in Arizona last week. That was it. In my opinion, that is nowhere near enough for making a decision of this magnitude. If McCain went with his gut (as apparently he did), it makes me nervous to think that as president he would "go with his gut" on foreign policy or even domestic issues with as little information as he had in this case.
Palin is currently under investigation for abuse of influence. She may very well be innocent. A staffer in her office apparently made many calls pressuring someone to fire a state trooper who was having a messy divorce with Palin's sister, and Palin's husband may also have been involved. Palin herself may have known nothing about the activities--though that shows some possible weaknesses in her administrative abilities. (By the way, if I've gotten any of these details wrong, I'll correct them as I learn more.) Again, it seems strange that McCain wouldn't have taken a further look into these problems--or if he looked adequately and felt fine about nominating someone who is being investigated, I see that as a problem of judgment as well.
So the current state of my thinking is this: I do not feel comfortable with the thought of someone so underqualified and unknown to the American public being so close to being president. (She asked a few weeks ago what exactly a vice president does, and she clearly has a very inadequate understanding of foreign policy and of how Washington works.) I'm not comfortable with her positions on a number of issues and am afraid her presence will be divisive. I also truly wonder about McCain's judgment.
There are some positives: It's great to have a woman running. She's a nice person, a mom, has a good family. But, boy, she is not qualified. And I'm not comfortable with the many other negatives I see.