Saturday, October 4, 2008

Heartbeat Away

There has been a lot of furor over whether Sarah Palin is ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. She has shown a lack of fluency in some national issues in recent interviews, and has a tendency to become almost incoherent trying to come up with an answer to some questions.

For instance, when Katie Couric asked her to name one Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade that she disagreed with, Palin responded:

“Hmmm,” Ms. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, said after a brief silence. “Well, let’s see. There’s — of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but — — .”

When she couldn't come up with a immediate answer, she should have just said something like, "I don't have one on the tip of my tongue, but in general, I would support appointing justices to the Supreme Court that do not legislate from the bench." What people like me want to know is if something happened to McCain and Palin became president, what kind of justice would she appoint to the Supreme Court if a vacancy arose. That is by far the most import decision relating to the Supreme Court a President makes. The incoherent rambling turns a weak answer into a substantial gaffe perfectly suited for ridicule.

In general, for a candidate like Palin who is a governor, lack of fluency in national issues is much less important to me than her ability to digest information and make good decisions.

On the other ticket, if one is worried about lack of fluency in issues, Joe Biden should raise more alarm. Here is a guy that has been in the Senate for 35 years, and a high-ranking member on the Judicial and Foreign Relations committees. And instead of making gaffes by incoherent rambling, Biden has a knack of making incredibly incorrect statements, but stating them with such conviction that he barely gets called on them.

For instance, this whopper in response to the financial crisis:

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed," Biden told Couric. "He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'"

Of course the stock market crashed in 1929 and FDR did not take office until 1933, and he wouldn't have gotten on TV because no one had a TV at the time. Further, FDR was very populist and did badmouth "greed", at one point even proposing a 100% tax on incomes over $25,000. (approx. $300,000 in today's dollars). So Biden was wrong on at least 3 points. Yet he made the statement with conviction like he knew what he was talking about.

In the VP debate this past Thursday, Biden made numerous remarkably inaccurate statements. Among them:

  • He repeated 3 times that we spend more in 3 weeks in Iraq than we have spent in Afghanistan since 2001. In reality, we have spent about $9 billion in Iraq in the last 3 weeks and over $177 billion in Afghanistan since 2001.
  • He said that along with France, we had kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, and that he had called for NATO troops. In reality, France and the US helped Lebanon pressure the Syrians out of Lebanon, Hezbollah had and maintains a strong presence in Lebanon, and there is absolutely no record of anyone calling for NATO troops. Further, there is about a 0.0% chance that NATO would have sent troops to Lebanon, something that a foreign policy expert shoud know.
  • He said is was "simply untrue" that Obama had said he would sit down with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. In reality, during the Democratic Primary YouTube debate in July 2007, a YouTube user asked if Obama would meet the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea without “precondition” during his first year in office. Obama replied, "I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous." (APPLAUSE) Further, Hillary Clinton said she would not commit to meetings, Hillary's and Obama's campaigns exchanged dueling memos with Obama's campaign highlighting Obama's "new thinking", and Biden said "Absolutely positively no" to the question in August 2007. Obama even used to say on his website: "Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions." So Biden is not only incorrect, but he knows it because both Biden and Clinton were disagreeing about it last year.
  • Biden said, "Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that." In reality, Article I of the Constitution deals with the Legislative Branch and Article II deals with the Executive. The VP's role is defined in both Articles. In Article I, the VP is simply designated as the President of the Senate and votes to break a tie. The Constitution does not spell out what the President of the Senate's duties are, but the position definitely has both a legislative and executive role, even if recent VP's have done little on the legislative side other than to break a tie vote.

Remeber, Biden is supposed to be an expert on the Constitution and Foreign Policy, yet Palin was much more accurate during the debate.

Maybe Biden is the one we should worry about being a heartbeat away from the presidency.

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