Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Schooling (or Lackthereof) of Sarah Palin

As a political scientist who studies the organization and functioning of the White House and teaches a course on the American Presidency, I had serious reservations about the pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin by Senator John McCain as his 2008 runningmate. It had nothing to do with ideology of party ID; rather, I felt she was wholly unqualified for the post. One year and a half as governor of one the least populous states in the country, preceeded by her stint as mayor of a small town in Alaska, was not the resume of a vice president. Couple this with McCain's advanced age and dubious health and I was troubled to say the least.

Well, with reports streaming out of the warring camps of the failed McCain campaign over Palin's excessive shopping spree and lack of preparation in the very basics of American civics, it looks like my fears were confirmed. Perhaps the most shocking revelation comes from Fox News Carl Cameron who reports that Governor Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent or which countries composed NAFTA--you know, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Most 3rd graders could tell you that Africa was a continent and probably name several countries. Same goes for North America.

Though the Palin story has provided some very interesting gossipy inside baseball reading for politics-watchers, there is an important sober lesson to be learned: presidential candidates need to pick a highly qualified person for the job. Ideology and geography must be secondary considerations. VPs, afterall, are a mere heartbeat away from the presidency. One out of four presidents have not finished out their elected term. It's a deadly serious issue. All presidential candidates should put their country first, not their campaign, and pick the very best person for the job.

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