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Country Second

Guest Columnist | Monday, September 22, 2008

Much of the political commentary that we will be exposed to in the coming weeks will undoubtedly be focused on the typical political sideshows that make up an unfortunately large portion of our country’s political discourse.

If one digs deeper than the sound bites on cable news there will also be plenty of coverage of the substantive policy issues that would differentiate an Obama versus a McCain presidency. I would like to take a moment and discuss the one issue of this campaign that has concerned me the most. Abortion? Taxes? The economy? No. The issue that has disturbed me the most at this point in the campaign that not enough people are talking about is how John McCain shamelessly sacrificed the best interests of the American people, putting country second, not first, by choosing Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

There was a time when I respected John McCain. I paid close attention to his campaign in the 2000 presidential primary. If I had been eligible to vote in that election I would likely have voted for Al Gore, but I was rooting for John McCain to win his party’s nomination because it would have been in the country’s best interest for McCain and Gore to have a 50/50 shot at the presidency as opposed to Bush and Gore. Eight years later, history seems to have vindicated that insight. During this primary season while I was considering voting for one of the many Democratic candidates, in the Republican primary John McCain had my support once again. I had the same conversation with a few conservative friends who were undecided. I told them, in all honesty, that I hoped they would vote for McCain because while he would probably be the strongest candidate to run against whoever won the Democratic nomination, should he win, the country would be better off in his hands than in those of the Arkansas governor with no concept of the separation of church and state, or another MBA president who thinks running a country is no more complicated than running a business.

I was wrong.

In his first test of presidential leadership, selecting an heir to the presidency, should, God forbid, anything happen to him, John McCain resoundingly failed. History will write of John McCain’s decision to offer the vice presidency to Sarah Palin, as the single most irresponsible decision a presidential candidate has made in the modern era.

Partisan arguments aside, Sarah Palin is grossly unqualified to hold the second most powerful office in the country, if not the world. Once referred to as a job “not being worth a warm bucket of spit,” for better or worse, the power of the Vice Presidency has grown dramatically in recent decades. The next administration will face numerous challenges on the international scene: an emerging China, a re-emerging Russia, two wars in the Middle East of which Iraq is fragile at best, while we are losing control in Afghanistan, and the Taliban is gaining influence in a nuclear Pakistan. America needs leaders with keen insight into foreign affairs, the ability to appreciate nuance, and who formulate policy based on thoughtful consideration of the best intelligence and contributions of different opinions. What we do not need, is another leader that makes decisions from his gut, as was obviously the case with the Palin pick, a woman he met only once prior to his decision. Furthermore, we definitely do not need a woman whose approach to foreign policy is, “don’t blink,” being a 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.

Do not dismiss my concerns as merely those of a partisan who wasn’t going to vote for McCain in the first place. I assure you, I am in the company of many respected conservatives. Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote about Palin in a recent column, “She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.” Republican Senator Chuck Hagel shares my concerns as well, “I think it’s a stretch to, in any way, to say that she’s got the experience to be president of the United States.” He also had this to say about Sarah Palin’s absurd claim of possessing foreign policy expertise because she lives close to Russia, “I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense… That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.” I agree, Senator. In addition to being insulted by that pathetic attempt at overcompensation, I am also rather disturbed that, not yet a college graduate, I am more qualified for the vice presidency than Sarah Palin is. In fact, you could probably randomly select any political science major at our university and odds are, they would have more foreign travel, and foreign policy expertise than our potential next Vice President.

The American people deserve more from someone asking to seek the highest office in the land than we have seen so far from John McCain. For someone who’s campaign motto has been “Country First” he sure has put the nation’s priorities on the back burner. I have many policy disagreements with John McCain, and many issues with the manner in which he has chosen to campaign. However, none of that matters in comparison to this ultimate failure of leadership and judgment. The selection of Sarah Palin was irresponsible and dangerous. Period. I hope our country will never have to experience another presidential decision by John McCain.

Brendan McPhillips is a junior majoring in political science. He can be reached at bmcphil@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necesarily those of The Observer.