Sarah Palin could not have arisen in any country but the U.S., said Janice Turner in Britain’s The Times. It’s not just that the Republican vice presidential candidate is a gun-toting moose hunter or an evangelical creationist opposed to abortion, two female types in short supply in Europe. It’s her feistiness. “American women such as Mrs. Palin—whatever their politics—exhilarate with their sense of limitless opportunity, their unquestioning can-do.” This vim comes partly from their unbridled, not to say unwarranted, self-confidence. “Not overburdened with self-doubt or introspection, they plough on.” What a sight to behold!
“But the Sarah Palin Story is not just a show,” said Alice Miles, also in The Times. Her breathtaking political incorrectness is certainly entertaining—this is a woman who wants to drill for oil in the parks and kill polar bears. But her utter lack of qualification for high office is not amusing; it’s frightening. Does anyone believe that a woman who was mayor of a tiny Alaska town and then governor of that virtually empty state for 20 months is ready to step into the most powerful job on earth? “They call it feminism, but the Republicans have done women a disservice. They have selected a female candidate who is a cartoon,” and her candidacy may well end up looking like “a joke.”
Palin seems to have been chosen not just for her gender, said Luis Lema in Switzerland’s Le Temps, but also for her attack-dog skills. In her prime-time speech during the Republican convention last week, she “didn’t elucidate a single policy,” either foreign or domestic. Instead, “she aimed her fangs at her rival,” hurling insult after insult at Barack Obama and the Democrats. Her main qualification seems to be that she comes from a small town, which supposedly makes her more authentically American than Obama.
How absurd: You can’t claim “a higher moral standing for coming from a great big empty on the map,” said Heather Mallick in Britain’s The Guardian. Canadians like me know Alaska well. Alaska is “our redneck cousin,” a “frontier state full of drunks and crazy people.” It is the backwoods even by Canadian standards. And Palin knows nothing else. In her whole life as an Alaskan, she visited neighboring Canada “precisely once”—and she got a passport only last year, to go see Alaskan National Guard troops in Kuwait. Does America really need another president who makes a virtue out of utter ignorance of the world?
Of course not, said Thomas Klau in Germany’s Financial Times Deutschland. What’s truly alarming is that it’s not far-fetched to imagine that Palin could end up president—and sooner rather than later. “American presidents are extremely vulnerable to attack,” as the JFK assassination and attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan make all too stark. And of course, there is the matter of McCain’s advanced age. Yet much of the U.S. media has been obsessively focused on “Palin’s family and personality,” rather than on the thin credentials of this woman who could be running the free world in a few months. “The nation where this is taking place is the mightiest on earth. But for how much longer?”