September 8, 2008


A Heartbeat Away (WILLIAM KRISTOL, 9/08/08, NY Times)

Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of the venerable New Republic for the last 34 years, wrote a blog post Thursday while he was “still reeling from last night’s malign hysteria at the Republican convention. This is a rotten crowd, even the pious Christian Huckabee and certainly Mayor Giuliani and the aspiring vice president, Sarah Palin.”

Despite reeling from the speeches, Peretz was able to “give [Palin] her due: she is pretty like a cosmetics saleswoman at Macy’s.” He continued that it was “good to see that the Palin family didn’t torture poor Bristol, at least in the open.” And he concluded: “Yes, please God, do bless America and rescue us from these swilly people.”

No malign hysteria there. [...]

Should voters be alarmed by a relatively young or inexperienced vice-presidential candidate? No. Since 1900, five vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency during their term in office: Teddy Roosevelt in 1901, Calvin Coolidge in 1923, Harry Truman in 1945, Lyndon Johnson in 1963, and Gerald Ford in 1974. Teddy Roosevelt took over at age 42, becoming our youngest president, and he’s generally thought to have proved up to the job. Truman was V.P. for less than three months and had been kept in the dark by Franklin Roosevelt about such matters as the atom bomb — and he’s generally thought to have risen to the occasion. Character, judgment and the ability to learn seem to matter more to success as president than the number of years one’s been in Washington.

We had a friend visiting last week and he mentioned that on one of the news channels--maybe CNN--they'd claimed that Ms Palin is the least experienced member of a national ticket since the 19th century. So we started reeling off some of her peers who have the same or less--which would have to include first term Senator Barrack Obama--and then looked up some other ones. You can game this question by fiddling with the definition of experience, but for our purposes let's just look at when presidential and vice presidential nominees were elected to either a governorship or the Congress:

Oops, that already took out Taft, FDR, Herbert Hoover, and Henry Wallace--mere cabinet secretaries--and Ike. Oh, and William Jennings Bryan's vp pick in '08, John W. Kern and Alf Landon's, Frank Knox, and Wendell Willkie and Sargent Shriver and Charles Dawes (Coolidge's vp) and Garret Hobart (McKinley's first vp) and Alton B. Parker ...

Meanwhile, other governors who ran while in their first term include not just the obvious ones TR and Woodrow Wilson, but: Wilson's vp, Thomas Riley Marshall; Landon; Thomas Dewey (in '44); Spiro Agnew...

And, certainly, honorable mention should go to Geraldine Ferraro, who though she was not a first term congressman (indeed, had more electoral experience than fellow rep, George H. W. Bush), had not yet risen to so much as a committee chair and to Adlai E. Stevenson who'd served only two non-contiguous House terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 8, 2008 11:52 AM
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