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The · Psychohistorian

I owe an apology ...

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... to Sarah Palin.

When I first heard that McCain had picked a young freshman governor of Alaska for a running mate, I thought he was crazy. Experience is about the only thing McCain has going for him; why ruin it by picking someone ridiculously inexperienced for a slot that could have a very real chance of succeeding to the presidency?

I took the sound bites and headlines painting Palin as an airhead at face value, probably because they agreed with my own initial assumption. I should know better, of course - I ought to research the facts, even if, or maybe especially if, I make strong initial assumptions - but in this case, I didn't, at least not right away.

My views didn't change when I couldn't get to sleep one night and figured watching Palin's acceptance speech would help. It was actually pretty good speech - it was all about public service, something I think is sadly missing from most supposed public servants these days - and I always consider it a good sign when Republicans make speeches that don't mention opposition to abortion. However, it was also very obviously read off teleprompters, so I figured it proved little beyond that the speech writer was good and that Palin could read. Basically I was able to take it as confirming my assumptions, so I did.

Then I actually found a site that seems to document the candidates' opinions fairly objectively. There I found some things that seemed to reveal a more thoughtful Palin. A couple of things jumped out at me in particular.

I knew she was against abortion, and being proabortion myself, I figured her for having the stereotypical religious right view - something like, "if you have sex, the constitution should require you to get stuck with a kid". Her own family certainly doesn't belie that. However, it turns out she's actually pretty far from that stereotype in a couple of key ways. For example, she thinks that abortion laws should be decided at a state level rather than at the federal level. Given that the supreme court has basically thrown out the Roe and Casey precedents, it's good to know there are some antiabortion folks who don't necessarily think it's their right to impose their views on everyone else. Her signing of a "safe haven" bill was also interesting to me - call me uninformed, as I'd never heard of it before - as it showed she was at least aware of the problem that unavailability of abortions can result in unwanted children.

The other thing I thought was very telling was her record on homosexual partnerships. Not surprisingly, she's against them. However, when a law came to her desk to deny benefits to same sex partners of state employees - a law whose objectives she agreed with - she vetoed it. Why? Because it was against the state constitution, and she wasn't willing to sign an unconstitutional law. I just wish either her opponents or her running mate had been willing to apply the same reasoning to their senate votes - for example, on the so called "Patriot" act and its provisions on things like warrantless wiretapping.

None of this changes the fact that I disagree with Palin on many things. It's nice, though, that she seems to be able to see that there is more than one side to any issue. While I still don't think that half a term as a governor qualifies one to be president, it does seem like she might be the kind of person that would get useful experience from a few years as vice president. Consider this my apology for assuming otherwise.

Acceptance speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCDxXJSucF4
On abortion: http://www.ontheissues.org/2008/Sarah_Palin_Abortion.htm
On civil rights: http://www.ontheissues.org/2008/Sarah_Palin_Civil_Rights.htm
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