Katha Pollit has some questions for Sarah Palin

I know this is serious stuff and it shouldn’t cause me to snort.  But it does.  I loved this dual question:

What is the European Union, and how does it function?

Not quite as good is:

What is the function of the Federal Reserve?

The link is from Ezra Klein.  Bear Stearns, Ireland, Georgia, and Denmark are invited to submit their answers as well.  How about Lehman Brothers and Turkey?

Addendum: On this list, questions #2, 4, 6 and 17 bear some pondering too.  Nor is #3 as simple as many people think.

Comments

The European Union functions?

Legend has it that every year, one Cabinet member is selected randomly to stay home and watch the State of the Union on TV. The reason: In case of a catastrophe, it ensures the existence of a clear successor to the Presidency.

I wonder if they should give all the Cabinet members the Pollit Exam beforehand. You know, to ensure competency.

Seriously, this reminds me of the scene in "Back to School" with Rodney Dangerfield where he has the oral exam with the mean business professor.........very rich.

How's this for economics: liberals get to make each other snort and feel oh-so-good about themselves, and McCain gets to take the White House.

Many folks seem willing to make that trade ...

Man, do I love how much Democrats despise Sara Palin. I don't even really care what she stands for, she has the power to reduce any liberal pundit to an adolescent level of inarticulate nastiness.

The issues (such as they are) were eked out long before the election cycle started, and the presidential parties and platforms have been established for months now. With the final addition of VP nominations, there's nothing left to do until November but degrade into ugly, emotional politics based entirely on personality. Will it be John McCain: American Hero, or Barack Ghandi of Nazareth?

This was probably destined to happen from the start, but with the nomination of Sara Palin, a young, well-spoken newcomer with little substance that differs from the party's core, we get the added treat of having the entire left moan like a child who's just lost their favorite seat it's not fair, they had Barack Obama first.

"what is the function of the federal reserve" isn't such a ridiculous question. we all saw how she confused Fannie and Freddie for government entities, right?

Someone should ask her: "how do you feel that the US has entered Pakistan or were you (like the rest of the country) too distracted by the media coverage about you at the time to notice?"

^^BH, I would definitely agree with you that Sarah Palin is the victim of sexism, but nobody's heard her say much on any current event, except that she opposes the bridge to nowhere and is in favor of opening up domestic areas such as the OCS and ANWR to exploration/drilling.

Whereas both Obama and McCain have expounded quite a bit on a number of issues.

No one's saying that the candidate needs to have an informed and enlightened and well researched opinion on EVERYTHING--but such an opinion is necessary on at lease SOME things.

B.H.:

She's being singled out because she has not answered ONE. SINGLE. QUESTION. in two weeks on the national stage.

And yes, the potential leader of the free world should know how the Federal Reserve works. That's not "being a policy wonk." That's a basic job requirement. So far, the only evidence available-her Fannie/Freddie mixup-doesn't look good.

Ask Palin and Obama how many state are in the U.S.A.

Oh yeah we already have Obama's answer being 57.

Pants--great one. Add "explain the status of the securities issued by the GSEs" (pre-bailout of course) to the list.

Tyler, I'm afraid that many are missing the joke.

Nobody is being mean by asking these questions. They are perfectly reasonable, even if they are not entirely comprehensive. The first question by Politt is rather blunt, but hey, her position is far outside the mainstream. Why is it so outrageous for her to answer our questions about how she'd want to shape policy regarding a very significant issue?

Perhaps Biden couldn't answer these questions. I wouldn't have any problem having answer them, but the reason he doesn't have to is that, rightly or wrongly, he doesn't raise the same level of doubt that Palin does, as he's been a national figure for more than two weeks.

All of the people who claim that Obama isn't qualified because he made a mistake about the title of the Canadian leader or the misspoke about the number of U.S. states are ridiculous. Those are mistakes, much like the times I give my old cell phone number instead of my new one. They are hardly comparable to the possibility of Palin not knowing the basics of national policy.

Nobody is being mean by asking these questions. They are perfectly reasonable, even if they are not entirely comprehensive.

Sure they're reasonable. But they are reasonable to ask all 4 presidential and vice-presidential candidates, not just Palin. The implication of singling her out for a hypothetical oral exam is that the others are presumed competent and knowledgeable (and so there's no point in administering such a test), whereas Palin is presumed stupid and ill-informed and such an exam would expose her as the fraud she is.

Does anybody think Bush has an especially keen grasp of the nuances of finance? But did this prevent his administration from appointing Bernanke and Paulson and from their taking on financial problems in ways that knowledgeable people across the political spectrum seem to regard as appropriate and necessary?

Man, if I read any more sneering articles by Obama partisans, the annoyance level is probably going to rise to such a level that other considerations just won't be able to compete on election day.

Palin Haters,

Maybe McCain restricts access to Palin on purpose. It builds interest for when she does speak. And the criticism she gets just lowers expectations. Afterwords, even a so-so performance looks good. It happened for her convention speech and it may very well happen for her first big interview.

I think negative comments just help her and make her stronger. Especially when they seem condescending ("snort" Tyler?) or just plain awful. And by "awful" I mean some of those questions in The Nation article. The ones trying to belittle her religious beliefs or asking her to think about her daughter being raped. I'm a pro-choice atheist and they seemed wrong to me.

Keep up the good work?

This discussion reminds me that here, in Brazil, the qualifications of our current president was an important question to a lot of voters, but no candidate used this in campaign because there is a certain consensus that criticize Lula by not having too much education(he abandoned school at the age of twelve)is a sign of prejudice and elitism.

I wonder how this lack of formal education would be perceived by US voters and pundits.

Palin is beautiful, tough and posed. I am sure she is very smart too. But it disturbs me deeply to think that, one day, she may become the president of the United States, and her values may be elevated and become the values endorsed by the state. If I were a U.S. citizen, I would vote solely on my values in this election.

Democrats just don't understand how they are undermining their candidate with the sneering attitude.

My answers to the dual question are "United States Wannabe" and "by sheer luck".

And, pants, I think it clear that the GSEs were/are government entities.

In the course of about 2 years while working on my Ph.D. and having a child, and keeping up with politics, I became pretty versed in the economy and the basics of investing. Having a child while working on my Ph.D. does not distinguish me for intelligence. I don't think it would take a smart person more than a few weeks to learn all the ways the clowns in D.C. have screwed up foreign and domestic policy. They are just variations on a theme. Not knowing how it works under the hood is a feature, and not wasting any brain cells on it up until absolutely necessary, I highly recommend.

we all saw how she confused Fannie and Freddie for government entities, right?

I must be in trouble - they're not?

"Sure they're reasonable. But they are reasonable to ask all 4 presidential and vice-presidential candidates, not just Palin. The implication of singling her out for a hypothetical oral exam is that the others are presumed competent and knowledgeable (and so there's no point in administering such a test), whereas Palin is presumed stupid and ill-informed and such an exam would expose her as the fraud she is."

Nobody has said Plain is still or even that she's definitely ill-informed. But instead of formulating a series of policies after consulting experts in various fields over the course of a primary and/or a long career in national politics, she's been plucked from extreme obscurity and placed into a position where she has a greater than average chance of moving up quickly. The standards here are different, because she doesn't fit into a normal mold.

"Not knowing the number of states WOULD be like giving out an old cell phone number if the number of states had recently changed. News flash: it hasn't."

Okay, so that wasn't the best example, but I think you understand my point. Obama's mistakes were just that: mistakes. Nobody seriously thinks that he believes there are 57 states.

"Maybe McCain restricts access to Palin on purpose. It builds interest for when she does speak. And the criticism she gets just lowers expectations. Afterwords, even a so-so performance looks good. It happened for her convention speech and it may very well happen for her first big interview."

The McCain campaign is definitely playing the expectations game, regardless of whether it is worried that she wouldn't do well during interviews. Who would deny that?

"I picture Obama, McCain, Biden and Palin all sitting down at old style school desks, working at this exam. Give em pencils and 45 minutes and grade them all, right there on TV. Best score gets to be president - isn't that what the lefties want?"

That is without a doubt the best straw man I've seen in a while.

I don't understand why Palin suporters are so offended at the FP list of questions. (Though I have my suspicions).

Many are pretty broad, and not wonkish at all. Why shouldn't a candidate for President or VP be able to answer these, at least:

Do you support the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, which would lift restrictions on sales of nuclear technology and fuel to India, a country which hasn’t signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

What's more important: securing Russia's cooperation on nuclear proliferation and Iran, or supporting Georgia's NATO bid? If Vladimir Putin called you on the phone and said, "It's one or the other," what would you tell him?

Critique the foreign policy of the last administration. Name its single greatest success, and its most critical failure.

What do you think will be the most defining foreign-policy issue in the next five years?

In your opinion, which U.S. president was the most successful world leader and why?

Which U.S. political thinkers, writers, and politicians would you enlist to advise you on matters of foreign policy and why?

Who is the first world leader you'd like to meet with and why?

Answers would give some insight into her foreign policy thinking. Of course, her supporters are too busy explaining that she's an expert because Alaska is close to Russia to realize that foreign policy is actually somewhat complicated.

We have elections in Austria right now and here politics is all about policy. All party leaders get to debate each other directly for one hour. They ask each other questions, interrupt each other and always bring documents, have facts and statistics memorized and sometimes even compromise on issues on TV. There are also roundtable debates. The leader of the austrian green party which usually gets 12-15% of the vote is actually an old grumpy economics professor.
And this intensive policy debates don't just happen during elections, but all the time, albeit at a lower intensity.
There is little emphasis on speeches and press conferences. I also barely know whether any of the candidates are married, how many children they have, let alone whether they enjoy hunting, the opera or what kind of food they prefer.

American politics are a farce in contrast. It is all about image. A bunch of billionares pretend to be averages joes and down to earth, while mostly adressing only carefully selected cheerful crowds. An altogether new development seems to be that instead of pretend average joes, real average joes, like the hockey mom Sarah Palin, enter the political scene.

A women like her wouldn't stand a chance over here. While many renowned politicians used to work at regular jobs, they have to prove themselves and gather a lot of experience before being considered viable for important positions.

Now there is a lot of populist politics in Austria, escpecially right now. But it is policy based populism, rather than image based populism.

It's silly to waste time harping on how she "hasn't answer A. SINGLE. QUESTION." when that argument is going to evaporate on ABC in under an hour. Let's wait and see what she has to say.

Wouldn't you have done a lot of the same thing? I would have. You get picked 10 days ago and have 4 days to help write and prepare for a speech in front of what might be 40 million people. I've focused in my office for 4 days for much less.

We can go on all day about her 'qualifications', but for her they are what they are. She wants to spend one week preparing while flying to 7-8 states to help campaign. In the meanwhile knowing that a gaffe could cost her party the presidency. And against professional reporters for whom a career could be made by making you look stupid. Reading just this blog post would tell anyone that going in unprepared would be fun, but suicidal.

Honestly, she's going to have to answer questions. I'm okay with giving her a week to prepare, which looking at how she schedule is packed, is probably more like 2-3 days of time to you and me.

Biden and McCain and the senate (and bush and cheney) have decades of experience and lots of knowledge and it was worth nothing.

I'm taking a step back and giving her the benefit of the doubt as a courtesy. "Politics ain't beanbag", but her actions seem reasonable and smart and I don't think she's maliciously hiding. If what she's selling is that she's an uncorrupted regular person who's not from washington, she gets some slack from me. For about this long.

I looked at Pollit's questions. It's clearly more of a "gotcha" list , but there's still some things she should answer:

§†‚You say you don't believe global warming is man-made. Could you tell us what scientists you've spoken with or read who have led you to that conclusion? What do you think the 2,500 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are getting wrong?

§†‚If you didn't try to fire Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Baker over her refusal to consider censoring books, why did you try to fire her?

§†‚Forty-seven million Americans lack health insurance. John Goodman, who has advised McCain on healthcare, has proposed redefining them as covered because, he says, anyone can get care at an ER. Do you agree with him?

§†‚Cindy and John McCain say you have experience in foreign affairs because Alaska is next to Russia. When did you last speak with Prime Minister Putin, and what did you talk about?

§†‚McCain says cutting earmarks and waste will make up for revenues lost by making the tax cuts permanent. Experts say that won't wash. Balancing the Bush tax cuts plus new ones proposed by McCain would most likely mean cutting Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Which would you cut?

§†‚You're suing the federal government to have polar bears removed from the endangered species list, even as Alaska's northern coastal ice is melting and falling into the sea. Can you explain the science behind your decision?

§†‚You've suggested that God approves of the Iraq War and the Alaska pipeline. How do you know?

Can anyone claim these are irrelevant, or that a lie about the Bridge to Nowhere is an adequate answer?

"What do Obama supporters fear? That if she takes a week, she'll have a chance to 'cheat' by getting up to speed and filling in a few gaps? Hey, if she's a quick study, that'd be fine, too."

It would be fine, I guess, if she can get up to speed, but there's no certainty of that. There's also the idea that they are purposely keeping her in hiding because she risks the chance of embarrassing the campaign as she reveals her ignorance and/or that she is part of their plan to game the media into the us versus them routine.

"Right. Which I'm sure they all wrote themselves based on original research and thinking they worked through themselves. . Sorry -- a politician giving a speech or putting his name at the bottom of a policy paper or casting a vote is no guarantee of relevant domain knowledge or expertise."

Nobody said she has to be an expert in anything, or is an expert in anything, unless you count the idiots on television saying she has foreign policy expertise because Alaska is close to Russia and Canada or her potential boss saying that she's an energy expert. Nobody is saying she has to be an expert on monetary policy, for instance, but if she is pretty much clueless about the role of the Federal Reserve, it's not a good sign. We're just wondering if she can answer some basic questions concerning national issues. All candidates who go through a national primary gain exposure to these issues and can probably, if not certainly, talk intelligently about them. They may not be experts, but after drafting a team of advisers, they become familiar with the issues and also have a team of people who can provide expertise they may lack. She can always gain the team, just like anyone else, but she hasn't put in the time.

I want questions that bring out her character, temperament and approach to problem identification and resolution.

Whether she has book knowledge on national capitals or up-to-the-minute foreign policy minutae (how "smart" she is, even though she does seem smart) is a nice-to-have but is not what's going to sway my gut on giving her the nuclear trigger. It's going to be, do I feel safe in her responsible hands?

American politics are a farce in contrast.

In contrast to Austrian politics? The country that elected Kurt ("Now more than ever!") Waldheim even after it was revealed he'd lied about the extent of his WWII service as a Nazi Party member and officer in the German Army? Who, once elected, was persona non grata just about everywhere? That Austria? How would we poor Americans ever live up to those lofty standards...

Kurt Waldheim served as the UN secretary general for ten years. He was never a Nazi Party member and was in fact accused of being not loyal enough by Nazi supperiors, as documents have shown.
He lied about his past, like many polititians did. Recently the german author Günther Grass, who was the head inquisitor of former nazis who lied about their past, had to admit that he himself had eagerly joined the Waffen-SS, when certain documents came to light.

The austrian president has basically no power anyway. We had a jewish chancellor for 13 years on the other hand.

Your attack is besides the point anyway. My point was about the nature of politics, not about objectively liked outcomes. I would have expected a knee-jerk response regarding Jörg Haider. But his rise and fall proves my point as well, since his success was based on issues, not on his hobbies or family life. (There is pretty good evidence that Haider is bisexual. Neither the media, nor his opponents, who otherwise harshly attacked him all the time, made an issue out of this.)

While many renowned politicians used to work at regular jobs, they have to prove themselves and gather a lot of experience before being considered viable for important positions.

Seriously, are you talking about the same Austria I live in? Which real job outside of politics has any of the well-known politicians ever had? Do you really think that slowly rising in party ranks is the same as proving oneself?

here politics is all about policy

And now they want to fulfill their campaign promises even before election day. Which will prove that breaking those promises is a feature, not a bug of democracy. If only they spent their time dragging their families in front of the cameras...

Actually, if I could ask a questions, I would ask them each to identify three areas where the Congress cannot legislate either due to lack of authority in Art 1, Sec 8, or because it is a power reserved to the States (amendment 10). Bonus points to Biden if he answers the portions of his Violence Against Women Act that were found to be unconstitutional.

Whether she has book knowledge on national capitals or up-to-the-minute foreign policy minutae

dieselm,

Read the FP questions. They are not, in general, about minutiae or capitals.They are general questions about the world. If someone can't tell us what she thinks are the major foreign policy issues faced by the US in the next five years or so then her character is irrelevant. There are lots of people whose character I regard highly (she's not one) but who I don't want running the country.

Ethnic Austrian,

I concur with you on Waldheim. OTOH, it proves that politics here can in fact even uglier than in America, even when the election is of minor importance and no polarising and important issues are at stake.

There is pretty good evidence that Haider is bisexual. Neither the media, nor his opponents, who otherwise harshly attacked him all the time, made an issue out of this.

In the one discussion I saw his opponent made a jab at him about this issue. If American election campaigns seem to be worse, it's only because the stage is much bigger and the whole world watching.

happyjuggler0 wins.

Some of those questions could pose real danger for the Dems and their causes:

"§†‚Cindy and John McCain say you have experience in foreign affairs because Alaska is next to Russia. When did you last speak with Prime Minister Putin, and what did you talk about?"

I'm pretty sure O has never spoken to Putin. Don't you guys ever learn?

§†‚You say you don't believe global warming is man-made. Could you tell us what scientists you've spoken with or read who have led you to that conclusion? What do you think the 2,500 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are getting wrong?

Go ahead - make William Gray the second most famous person on the planet. Bring some scrutiny to the composition of the IPCC and the climate models it uses while you're at it. If you think the public isn't looking for a reason to dismiss AGW is a bunch of absolute BS, think again.

On the bridge, factor in this from the NYT:

Regardless of the ridicule about the bridges as a pork-barrel binge, there are political facts that have kept hope alive for those who believe the projects are necessary for Alaska to grow economically. To direct the federal financing to other projects, for example, would require action by Gov. Sarah Palin, a Republican, and the State Legislature. It would also mean undoing the work of the powerful Congressional delegation, led by Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, both Republicans, who secured the money for the bridges.

Why does the tense in the quote seem wrong? Because it was written before she did what the NYT hoped she would do: show she had the political will to direct the funds to a better use over the objections of her own senior Republican representatives in Washington. The NYT story was written in early 2007:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/06/us/06bridge.html

Ok, she didn't turn down a no strings federal handout. As governor, that would have been fiscally irresponsible. But since joining McCain she has endorsed his consistent record of opposition to earmarks. Obama and Biden have not.

I'm surprised no-one has noticed that question #1 is similar to the first question that Dukakis faced in 1998 when debating Bush, the response to which he later felt had cost him the election. Why shouldn't Palin have to answer that? If she feels strongly about her position, surely she'd rather be right than VP?

Also, others have offered up snarky responses to the questions about the EU and the Federal Reserve. All of which I would accept from a VP nominee. What I will not accept is a blank stare.

Personally, I would like her to answer this question:

"What is the airspeed of a fully laden swallow?"

If she can answer that, I will vote for her in a heartbeat.

B.H. you said,

She's being singled out because she has not answered ONE. SINGLE. QUESTION. in two weeks on the national stage.

Sauce, goose, gander, etc.

Access to Obama and Palin.

the Obama campaign's long history of struggles with the press over access to Obama, intermittent refusals to hold regular press conferences with the reporters following him (favoring instead short interviews with local and national press less up on the issues), and the habit of punishing any reporters who probe too deeply, especially about his carefully crafted personal history.

Aw common. Guess we can ask Hillary Clinton some D.C. bar exam questions while we are at it--she did go to Yale and fail the D.C. bar. We can ask Obama about optimal regulation of GSES. Actually, if you ask any of the columists in the WAPO and some Poli-Sci faculty the same questions you suggest be asked of Palin they too would fail--long time democrat here and economics professor but hell lets be honest. Also, surprised that people festoon their arguments with campaign and partisan rhetoric. Economists, look at the behaviors not what people say--revealed preference (rp). Stick to it and you can be part of the reality based community. Tyler--thanks for responding to my autism posting with a whole post...

[Does anybody think Bush has an especially keen grasp of the nuances of finance?]

presumably Harvard Business School does, they're quite particular about that as a criterion for handing out MBAs.

"And, she was under a formal ethics investigation instituted by the Alaska legislature for her apparent use of the state machinery to go after her ex-brother-in-law. The judge in the divorce case even lectured her and her family on what a crazy thing this was to do (more generally to keep trying to have him fired). They want him to pay child support, but then they want to get him fired."

WOW! She puts the interests of Alaska before her own family -she's out of the race.

Her brother-in-law is a trooper who has tasered his 10 yr old son, has been caught drinking in his squad car, and has threatened the lives of Palin's family. Surely a slap on the hand would have been better. Most Alaskans would probably prefer him not to carry a gun and a badge. But maybe there is an opening in your home town Barkley?

Gotcha journalism. Ask what amounts to trivia questions and then make fun of the candidate when he/she doesn't get it exactly right. It happened to Bush in 1999, when he was asked who the president of Pakistan was (remember -- pre 9/11).

For example, the answer "the EU is a confederation of European countries" is about right, but is far enough from being precisely correct and lacking in detail that it could be used to attack whoever said it.

Really now... Soccer Moms and Rednecks.. enough with the names OK I am a very proud softball mom that works her ass off and wonder what you do for a living. I am self made, no formal education and God help me I hope I'm your HR Rep and you are doing this on company time. NO human is completely qualified on all points of government; however a certain amount of integrity is. I don't want some individual that was groomed in college making descisons for me. I want some one that knows how to lead and Sarah is a natural born leader. Biden is a groomed product of a fancy university and Washington. That is what we don't need! Most of these post sound like they are coming from sniveling, spoiled over educated brats that have never broke a sweat in their life.

See, I proved my point. This kind of response is EXACTLY what McCain expected when selecting Palin. Select redneck soccer mom candidate, wait for the left to hate on her for that, and then watch middle America attack Obama like a pitbull.

What do you think Rex, are these maybe the same folks who are clinging to their religion and guns?

They are certainly the same folks who don't understand sarcasm, or the fact that I was actually making fun of the Democrats this time.

When are the various Obama detractors going to realize that what he meant by 57 "states" included states, territories and Washington DC, all individual voting entities? (Total = 57) The use of the word "states" was a slip of the tongue, not an expression of ignorance.

Get over it.

Brandon,

If you are interested, "The Onion" has a humorous video on Bush and one on Obama; The one on Bush is about the collapse of the anti-Bush T-shirt etc. industry; The one on Obama is about how his being labeled an "elitist" is a signal of social progress.

I really miss Hilary....

You mean Hillary?

You mean Hillary?

Her too.

If this is the best our country can muster for executive leadership I'm seceding and taking all the truly smart people with me. Fuck the rest of you.

Finally, some reasoned, civil, and realistic commentary....

That is after all the votes are counted, the winner has the loser taken out back and shot.

Oh yeah. That's worked out pretty well for all the places where the losers were (and in some places still are) "taken out back and shot" (or put into jail for a long time).

There are very few (none that I can think of) democratically elected governments where the losers are shot. Anyways the reason I even bring up shooting the losers is because I wanted to raise the issues of incentives regarding elections and how they can be used to promote better candidates. Economics in all things and all that.

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