Palin: average isn't good enough
By SAM HARRIS, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Added: Tue, 02 Sep 2008 23:00:00 UTC
If you haven't seen this video, watch it first, then read Sam's article.
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YouTube version: Part 1 | Part 2
ALSO SEE: Palin exposes herself as a religious nut on video
She's not qualified to be president, and in picking her, McCain shows that he has little respect for the presidency.
So let us ask the question that should be on the mind of every thinking person in the world at this moment: If John McCain becomes the 44th president of the United States, what are the odds that a blood clot or falling object will make Sarah Palin the 45th?
The actuarial tables on the Social Security Administration website suggest that there is a better than 10% chance that McCain will die during his first term in office. Needless to say, the Reaper's scything only grows more insistent thereafter. Should President McCain survive his first term and get elected to a second, there is a 27% chance that Palin will become the first female U.S. president by 2015. If we take into account McCain's medical history and the pressures of the presidency, the odds probably increase considerably that this bright-eyed Alaskan will become the most powerful woman in history.
As many people have noted, placing Palin on the ticket has made these final months of the already overlong 2008 campaign much more interesting. Is Palin remotely qualified to be president of the United States? No. But that's precisely what is so interesting. McCain not only has thrown all sensible concerns about good governance aside merely to pander to a sliver of female and masses of conservative Christian voters, he has turned this period of American history into an episode of high-stakes reality television: Don't look now, but our cousin Sarah just became leader of the free world! Tune in next week and watch her get sassy with Pakistan!
Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.
This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism. Let me put it plainly: If you want someone just like you to be president of the United States, or even vice president, you deserve whatever dysfunctional society you get. You deserve to be poor, to see the environment despoiled, to watch your children receive a fourth-rate education and to suffer as this country wages -- and loses -- both necessary and unnecessary wars.
McCain has so little respect for the presidency of the United States that he is willing to put the girl next door (soon, too, to be a grandma) into office beside him. He has so little respect for the average American voter that he thinks this reckless and cynical ploy will work.
And it might. Palin's nomination has clearly excited Christian conservatives, and it may entice a few million gender-obsessed fans of Hillary Clinton to vote entirely on the basis of chromosomes. Throw in a few million more average Americans who will just love how the nice lady smiles, and 2009 could be a very interesting year.
Tune in next week and watch cousin Sarah fuss with our nuclear arsenal ... .
8/03/08 - UPDATE FROM SAM
I've received more than the usual amount of criticism for my recent opinion piece on Sarah Palin, most of it alleging sexism and/or an unseemly infatuation with Barack Obama. For those who care, I'd like to briefly respond:
My alleged sexism: It is true that I used some hackneyed, gender-slanted language in the piece ("get sassy," "girl-next-door," etc.). This was deliberate. Clearly, I played this game at my peril. I can say that if Sarah Palin were a man of similar qualifications, I would have used equally slanted language to describe him. I might have called Mr. Palin a "frat-boy" or a "lumberjack." I would have invoked some silly macho phrasing like,"Watch Cousin Jim flip Putin the bird." My concern is not that Mrs. Palin is a woman. My concern is that she is a totally unqualified and poorly educated woman who was added to the Republican ticket as a token woman (and Creationist wacko). For what it's worth, the article was vetted by the two women closest to me (wife and mother) and by two female editors at the LA Times. If anything, the editing at the Times made the piece even more "sexist."
My alleged Obamamania: Many McCain supporters have written to say that (1) Obama is also unqualified (or even less qualified than Palin) and (2) I have shown myself to be a hypocrite by not objecting to Obama's religiosity. Briefly: My criticism of Palin should not be construed as uncritical acceptance of Obama. Needless to say, I find Obama's religious pandering repulsive. The suspicion that he is pandering, out of obvious necessity, and not quite as religious as he makes out, is somewhat comforting, however. But even if Obama were precisely as religious as he appears, he is not a Creationist, Rapture-Ready blockhead. Palin, by all appearances, seems to be one. This is a difference worth noting. Whatever you may think of his politics, Obama is very intelligent and reasonably well educated. Palin thinks the universe is 6000 years old. Unfortunately, I wrote my article before some of the most disturbing signs of her religious extremism came to light.
So, let me simply declare that I would be overjoyed to have a qualified woman in the White House. I would, likewise, be overjoyed to have a qualified African American in the White House. In fact, I would be overjoyed to have a qualified WASP man in the White House. I will be guardedly optimistic to have a very smart (and somewhat qualified) Barack Obama in the White House. And I would be frankly terrified to have a religious bumpkin like Sarah Palin in the White House. I think you should share this last conviction. Hence my latest opinion piece.
Sam Harris is a founder of the Reason Project and the author of "The End of Faith" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."
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