On August 29th I published a post on the Democratic Convention held in Denver. It's therefore appropriate that I now belatedly publish a post on the Republican Convention held in St. Paul, Minnesota in the first four days of September.
Republicans and many Independents no doubt felt it was a highly successful convention, highlighted by the impressive speech delivered by John McCain's very recent Vice President nominee, Governor Sarah Palin from Alaska. The apparent success seemed to be evidenced by the post-convention bounce in the polls given to the McCain-Palin ticket showing them virtually even, and in some polls slightly ahead of Obama and Biden. There is little doubt that Ms. Palin has energized Republican Party supporters and, at least for the time being, raised the confidence of Mr. McCain and his campaign staff.
However, just as the Republicans have been quite critical of Barack Obama's experience at the top of the Democratic ticket, which has not been an unexpected or unjustified charge, criticism has been raised by both Democrats and even some Republicans of Ms. Palin's experience. As a reminder, she served on the city council and later as mayor of the small town of Wasilla with a population of around 7,000 when she served, and for the past twenty-two months has served as governor of the state, apparently quite successfully, based on her widespread popularity up there. Her experience and qualifications are more important than in most presidential elections for two fairly obvious reasons: first, the relatively advanced age (72) and previous health issues of Mr. McCain, and second, the extremely serious economic and international issues currently facing the country.
Ms. Palin's qualifications will be tested in her October 2nd scheduled debate with Joe Biden and expected interviews with a number of TV and radio talk show hosts over the coming weeks. There will likely be some challenging questions about foreign policy and national security issues, as well as on her questionable recent comments on support for and against the "Bridge to Nowhere" and pursuit of earmark legislation for a variety of Alaskan projects. While she's a smart and impressive woman in many respects, she will most probably not get a pass on foreign relations expertise because of Alaska's long border with Canada and the fact that one can see a Russian island from an Alaskan island or peninsula across the Bering Strait.
One thing that particularly concerned me on this subject, although it was not incorrect, was her widely publicized recent statement, in a recent interview with ABC News anchor Charles Gibson, that we may have to go to war with Russia. I'm not sure she understood that that was a highly provocative statement for a candidate for vice president to say at a time like this when resumption of the Cold War we had with the Soviet Union is a real and serious possibility.
In any case, I suspect it will be, surprisingly, a very close election and many experienced political analysts believe it will come down to how the candidates do in the upcoming debates and the voting in three critical states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
It is very unfortunate for the American people that under our present system so much time and effort needs to be spent on endless fundraising and negative campaigning, despite earlier promises to take the high road, and expensive TV advertising that frequently contains erroneous and misleading statements about the opposition's viewpoints. Both major campaigns are guilty to varying degrees. It is tradition to say the American people "deserve better," and we do. However, it's a fact that to a significant extent, it's also our own fault, because much too high a percentage of our people don't vote (close to 45% on average in national elections!) and don't contact their elected representatives to convey their views on important issues.