VP wanted: Experience required



Bryan Kerns

Much has happened in this world of ours since my name last appeared on these pages in May.

The Democratic Party has formally put forth a black nominee to be president of the United States. The Republican Party has formally put forth a woman to be vice president. The remaining two spots on the two major tickets go to the standard political elite – white men frm the Senate.

The time-honored argument of experience that Sen. John McCain’s campaign co-opted from Sen. Hillary Clinton has been undermined by the fact that he has chosen a 20-month governor who was the mayor of a town of less than 10,000.

Think back to 1992 when Bill Clinton was attacked on experience for being the governor of Arkansas, a “small state.” The population of Alaska is 670,000. The population of the Little Rock metropolitan area? You guessed it: 670,000.

It seems as though the McCain campaign has decided to say that experience is passé. It would seem to make no sense to select a vice president about whom we – and, given recent reports, the person at the top of the ticket – seem to know nothing.

McCain has admitted to having only met Sarah Palin once before offering her the vice presidential nomination. Judging by the number of revelations unearthed since the meeting, one imagines that their conversation couldnd’t have been too extensive.

McCain admitted that he knew about Palin’s teenage daughter’s pregnancy when he offered her the spare set of keys to the Oval Office. Bravo to the senator for realizing that this is not a disqualifier. Bravo to the senator for making that tough call. Who, however, can help but question his judgment given the avalanche of other issues now appearing in the wake of the Palin selection?

No less an authority than conservative provocateur and The New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote on Tuesday, “My worry about Palin is that she shares McCain’s primary weakness – that she has a tendency to substitute a moral philosophy for a political philosophy.” Simply put: Every decision a president makes does not require the juxtaposition of virtue and vice. As Brooks wrote, “Most problems – the ones Barack Obama is sure to focus on, like health care reform and economic anxiety – are the product of complex conditions. They require trade-offs and policy expertise. They are not solvable through the mere assertion of sterling character.”

McCain’s description of Palin as a “soul mate” and fellow traveler on the road of Republican mavericks seems to portend problems with the senator’s ability to make the distinction between the real world and the moral universe. While morals are not separable from the real world, the president of the United States is the president of the whole United States – not just those who voted for him – and there will come a time when the president is asked to make real world decisions based on the welfare of the entire country. In those situations, McCain would actually have to step out from his supposed moral certitude and make pragmatic decisions.

His selection of Palin should call into question his ability to make those pragmatic decisions. There appears to have been next to no vetting done on her.

One reporter contacted the city clerk’s office in Wasilla, Alaska, for records on Palin’s time as mayor and was told that she was the first person to ask the clerk’s office for records of any kind. Stories like this have cropped up in multitude as the media began to investigate Palin’s background.

The problem here is not Palin. By all accounts, she seems intelligent and perhaps competent as governor. She seems to have a nice family. Palin seems to be an upcoming star in a waning party. The problem is McCain. Would you really want your president to have his designated successor be a person who has been the governor of Alaska for 20 months, the mayor of a small town for six years and serves a purely political end – the ability to solidify social conservatives and maybe even capture some disillusioned Clinton voters? Is that the kind of person to lead our country?


Bryan Kerns is a sophomore honors and humanities major from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].