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Madeleine M. Kunin

Madeleine M. Kunin

Posted: August 30, 2008 03:39 PM

Sarah Palin: McCain's Insult to Women


Governor Sarah Palin is no Senator Hillary Clinton. A bold choice, yes. No one expected this from the Republicans, and there is some irony in that. I have long suspected that the first female President is more likely to be a conservative Republican than a liberal Democrat. Conservative armor provides protection against the feminist label.

But Sarah Palin has a long way to go before we can consider her a serious contender for Vice President. At first blush, her gender may provide wish fulfillment for some still disappointed Hillary supporters. Her Evangelical credentials may ignite some fervor in the McCain camp.

But there are many risks. With this decision, McCain pushed the delete button on the experience issue. No longer can he use that argument against Barack Obama.

As for voting for a woman because she is a woman, many young women refused to vote for Hillary on that basis. Now, older women will do the same. How could Democratic women, who are pro choice, vote for a candidate who is against abortion, even in the case of rape or incest? She believes in no exceptions.

We don't know much about her beliefs, except that she adds an exclamation point to McCain's rant of "Drill here, drill now!"

The biggest risk is not only for McCain, who chose a woman who was mayor of a town of 7,000 people two years ago; it is for the American people. Does she have the ability to be the most powerful leader in the world? I ask that question being fully cognizant of the fact that women are always held to a higher standard than men. In her case, I have to admit, that had McCain chosen a man with those credentials, I would be asking the same question.

Alaska is far removed from the lower forty-eight, not only by geography, but also from the center of gravity of American politics. A state that gives its citizens a check each year from oil revenues is not about to invest in renewable energy and address global warming. Can this recently elected governor of this frontier-mentality state understand the fear that so many Americans have of losing their homes, their jobs, their health care, and their ability to send their children to college?

The biggest gamble John McCain took in selecting Sarah Palin is that he has underestimated the intelligence of the American people. He believes this obviously bright and attractive mother of five will help him get elected. He did not seem to give much thought to the fundamental question that a President should ask when he names his VP: is she capable of being President? Can this person protect and defend the United States in an increasingly dangerous world, not only on the battlefield, but also in the conference room where diplomacy happens.

It is hard for me to make the leap from her ice float in Alaska to the international arena.

Sure, I would love to vote for a woman. I was an avid Hillary supporter who is now backing Obama. But I'm not gender blind. It's a slight to women to expect us to vote for any woman, no matter what she stands for, and whether or not she can do the job.

On another note--when we were in our taxi riding home from the airport last night coming back from the convention, I breathlessly said to the driver, "We are coming back from Denver."

"Must be a different part of the country," he muttered.

"I was at the convention," I explained further.

"I don't follow politics, I don't vote," he said.

I was more horrified than usual when I heard that answer, being so pumped up by the Denver experience.

"Oh, but in this election, you've got to vote, so much is at stake," I said.

"I have all I can do to keep things together. I don't have time, and besides, nothing will change."

So much for hearing Obama's "Change" message.

I was heartened this morning when the white-aproned man at the fish counter raved about how wonderful the convention was and held up the line as he told me what he thought of Sarah Palin: "It's an insult to women."

Madeleine M. Kunin is the former Governor of Vermont and was the state's first woman governor. She served as Ambassador to Switzerland for President Clinton, and was on the three-person panel that chose Al Gore to be Clinton's VP. She is the author of Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead from Chelsea Green Publishing.