Sarah Palin

August 29, 2008

This is an interesting choice for vice president.  The few Clinton defectors for McCain I’ve seen briefly interviewed (I have never actually met one) say that they cannot vote for Obama because of his lack of experience.  This harkens back to a Clinton speech in which she said that McCain would be better able to serve as  commander in chief than Obama.

McCain selects a woman who is two years out of Wasilla, serving as its mayor, and who is younger than Obama.  This suggests to me that he believes that he can forge a majority with Bush’s Republican far right wing base and women who would have voted for Hillary and just want a woman (other than as First Lady) in the White House, regardless of her policies.

Geraldine Ferraro’s presence on the ticket with Mondale did not bring independents into the fold, nor did it keep Democrats from voting for Reagan.  McCain is hoping that a woman on his ticket will attract that same group (although the Reagan Democrats tended to be male but then again Ms. Palin’s bathing beauty background might appeal to this group).  It seems like a lunge at the Clinton supporters who said they would not vote for Obama.

What is interesting is that this undercuts the rationale for switching parties presented by this group.  If experience is really the critical factor in their vote (which seems preposterous to me), then why would you want Wasilla’s mayor of two years ago “one heart beat away” from the nuclear button.

This choice puts McCain’s age to the forefront as an election issue, something that McCain wants to downplay.  How can the oldest first term candidate in the history of our country running with a 44 year old governor of two years, question the qualifications of the Democratic ticket to govern?  While Obama was pursuing public interest work in New York and Chicago before law school, Ms. Palin was being crowned Miss Wasilla and later runner up Miss Alaska.

This suggests to me that McCain does not believe that the election will be determined by policy decisions or substance so much as impressions and psychological associations.  I hope that I’m wrong, but it does not in my mind augur well for the kind of principled, high minded campaign that Obama called for.

At least some Alaskans are amused by this choice.  Remarkably the Internet videos of our v.p. candidate in beauty contests have been disabled.  This could turn out to be like McGovern’s selection of Eagleton in terms of blowing up in the face of the candidate.  I sincerely hope though that both sides show restraint in the coming months and that the campaign is one of ideas.

The Speech

August 29, 2008

Who are the best American orators? Reagan and Bill Clinton are politicians whose success was based in large part on oratorical style. The civil rights movement owed a great deal to Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to inspire audiences. Kennedy is remembered for lofty and inspiring speeches. From the previous century we have the icons Patrick Henry, Webster and Lincoln, among others.

Obama is second to no one I’ve heard, as an orator. In the campaign Hillary Clinton downplayed this, as will McCain. Nonetheless, Obama is an historical figure who is profoundly gifted as a speaker. In terms of inspirational content, his speech last night was not far from the “I Have a Dream” speech 45 years earlier and not far from Kennedy’s exhortations to give America your best.

If you have a chance you must attend an Obama speech but in any case watch them on t.v. In years to come you will want to be able to say that you saw this.

Here you can see the speech.

De Facto Parents

August 29, 2008

Benjamin v. Reich , just decided by the Washington Court of
Appeals, discusses the rights of an adult who has  raised a child not related to him or her and not adopted. In 2005 the Washington State Supreme Court adopted a common law rule that a person caring for a child as if he or she were the child’s parent can assume the role of a parent in the child’s life and, if so, the adult’s parental rights will be protected.

Before 2005, and in states that have not adopted this doctrine, both the child and the surrogate parent were out of luck if a biological parent wanted something else for the child.  The old law seemed to treat the biological parent’s rights almost as property rights and gave no consideration to the welfare of the child where someone else was functionally the parent. The new law seems to be much more protective of the child.

This is an illustration of how the common law adapts to changing societal circumstances.  The facts of  this case are far from unique: the child abandoned by the father and the mother living with a man who rears the child as if it were his own.  Calamity befalls the mother and without the de facto parent doctrine, the man who has reared the child, and with whom the child has a primary relationship, has no right to see the child or have a voice in its care.  There are many variants from this fact pattern, and the Court’s recognition of a child’s parental relations with reponsible people who are not biological parents goes a long way to stabilizing the life of a child of unfortunate domestic circumstanes.