Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sarah Palin: Policy on the Stump.

Apparently Palin loyalists within the McCain campaign have finally gotten to whoever has been calling the shots. The past week-and-a-half saw the VP candidate deliver her very first policy proposals on the stump. On Oct. 24th she spoke about her ticket's support for children with special needs. This should have been one of her easiest missions to date, as not even the harshest of critics could summon enough vitriol to attack the extension of aid to disabled kids. But nonetheless she managed to screw up the pitch. While she was able to appear especially compassionate and forthright in her new-found dedication to the less fortunate, those who paid close attention found an empty core at the center of her expansive speech.

Just what exactly have McCain and Palin offered on this issue? Specifically, they have pledged to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act*. They are "exempting " programs to assist those with disabilities from their proposed across-the-board federal spending freeze (no details here), and they want to provide school vouchers. That last suggestion is simply a repeat of their plan to dissemble public education, and would offer only marginal (at best) benefits for parents of special needs children. So there's not much meat on that plate. One could be forgiven for being underwhelmed by the ticket's commitment, simply on the basis of what they are promising. But her chronic bungling of the issue belies her fundamental lack of interest in it.

How would Palin suggest funding IDEA? Well, she believes that the money can come from what the administration would save by cutting "unnecessary" earmarks. Here the Alaskan Governor actually got specific- she would target "projects having little or nothing to do with the public good -- things like fruit fly research in Paris, France" (that's a direct quote from her speech). While some might admire such frugality, scientists couldn't keep themselves from identifying Palin's deep ignorance. That "useless" research with fruit flies has led to valuable discoveries that have boosted autism research. One might answer that Palin only knows about Down's Syndrome babies... if one didn't hear her talking about her 13-year old nephew with autism in this very same speech.

Instead of reining Ms. Palin back in after that notable gaffe, her handlers pressed to have her deliver another policy speech on the trail. This time she was in Toledo, Ohio talking about the McCain/Palin energy plan. Naturally the Alaskan native (and wife of a longstanding employee of BP) framed the situation by talking about reliance on "foreign oil". She pointed out (in an odd moment of rationality) the dangers of depending on fuel supplies from the Middle East. She even identified the increased risks of providing obvious targets like oil industry infrastructure to terrorists. So what did she offer as a solution to this "national security" concern? "Drill, Baby, Drill!" Rely on Alaskan oil instead!**

Surely any new oil rigs built in the Last Frontier will be immune from terrorist attacks. They've got "Real American" hunters there (as well as a vibrant secessionist movement). I guess in Palin's mind it doesn't matter that the reserves there are not nearly sufficient to make a substantial dent in our reliance on overseas oil. Luckily, the Pork Queen's got an answer for that as well- build lots and lots of nuclear plants... because those facilities are uniquely safe from sabotage, and present a "clean" energy with no risks to Americans. And unlike on the subject of disabilities, this "Hockey Mom" is an expert on energy. As John McCain said, Sarah Palin "knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America" (link).

* However, a Palin aide has admitted that a McCain/Palin administration would ask for only $45 billion over 5 years for IDEA, which would be $30 billion short of the amount necessary for full funding. Furthermore, support for the program is back-loaded, with only $3 billion put aside for the first year.

**This particular message was met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, since Toledo's civic leaders are banking on the future of solar technology to revive the city's struggling economy.

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