XX Factor bloggers Ann Hulbert, Rachael Larimore, and Emily Yoffe discuss Sarah Palin.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Sept. 4 2008 2:36 PM

Parsing Palin

XX Factor bloggers take readers' questions about the Republican vice-presidential nominee and her speech.

(Continued from Page 1)

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Falls Church, Va: How long before the media covers Gov Palin's environmental views? She approved aerial hunting of wolves and sued to keep polar bears off the endangered species list. I'd like to know what her plans are if she makes it to the White House.

Emily Yoffe: I'm sure we're going to be hearing a lot about this. Already one environmental group has put out a video about the horrors of aerial hunting. The Wall Street Journal today mentions her opposition to putting polar bears on the endangered species list and her reasons—the polar bear population in Alaska is doing well and such a listing has widespread implications for development and drilling.

But I'm sure the Democrats will hit all this hard as well as her doubts about global warming.

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Fairfax County, Virginia: Peggy Noonan used a choice swear to describe McCain's motives for choosing Palin. Krauthammer pointed out that by appointing Palin as VP the GOP admits to having lied to us all for the last six years—the threat of terrorism and the command of two foreign wars aren't important to them.

Inside the Beltway the general bi-partisan feeling is one of sympathy for Palin and intense criticism for McCain.

What is the mood and atmosphere like at the convention? Are the attendees uniformly impressed? Are there factions within the GOP that are privately expressing misgivings?

Emily Yoffe: None of us were at the convention—but hearing from people who were certainly the place was blown away by her. Sitting in my den, I was too. I thought she announced herself as a figure to be reckoned with. I haven't read Noonan today but Krauthammer last night highly praised her performance but said there is no cure for her lack of experience and how that gives an opening to the Democrats to rebut McCain on the importance of experience.

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Virginia: After Palin's incredibly nasty speech yesterday, you can expect Biden will take the gloves off. The Ds now have the green light to go after her hard. The Republican base will like it, but her nastiness turned off lots of independents.

Ann Hulbert: Thanks to its we're-not-about-politics-as usual ethos, the Obama-Biden ticket will invite charges of flip-flopping if suddenly they get vicious. In any case, Biden will have his chance to respond in a debate, which is a very different format, and one in which Palin has yet to show herself. I would think he'll be capitalizing on his foreign policy expertise, and figuring that even the most feisty and charming candidate won't be as confident as she was amid an adoring crowd when she's on a stage with him, working from a very recently mastered briefing book. Time limits should help limit Biden's worst habits—though maybe he should be working on that smile of his, because hers is a killer.

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St. Mary's City, Md.: In your view, are Palin and the McCain campaign using Palin's family situation in an exploitative way? I'm generally uneasy with any politicians dragging families into the debate, either their opponents' or their own. I would be especially uneasy if the McCain campaign were using Palin's daughter and grandchild used to bolster their candidate's pro-life credentials.

I'm less interested in Palin's family and more interested in her views on the church/state separation. Her positions on many social issues match those of the religious right. Certainly some of those positions could be argued on secular grounds, with the exception of teaching creationism in public schools. But the religious right believes that scripture should be the sole basis for secular law. Do you know if Palin believes this?

Emily Yoffe: All campaigns always use candidates families, then declare the families are off limits when it suits their purposes. I think one has to have respect for children dragged into this through no fault of their own. On the other hand, when they embody issues their parents want to make policy—the right to abortion, say, or abstinence-only education—then they can't have it both ways.

I read an account of her brief remarks about creationism and as I recall she said, "Teach both" (which is ludicrous) then added that her father was a high school science teacher and she believes in science education. So she doesn't sound as if she wants a creation-based curriculum.

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Betterton, Md.: Glad to have a trio of women who can raise these issues today... It was really noticeable last night how almost ALL the political commentators were male, and none addressed the obvious: This woman has got some really severe family problems on her hands! I'm a working mother, and I struggle every day to meet everyone's needs when things are stable. Imagine how much worse it must be to have TWO troubled children simultaneously. She's a damaged candidate from the get-go. Then it made it even scarier when McCain appeared on stage with her looking disabled, and pretty old, himself. I have admired John McCain, but the decision to name Palin makes him seem fundamentally clueless to me—even if he get some votes out of it.

Emily Yoffe: Is there any woman who doesn't wonder at how you manage five children AND run a state? It's astounding. But if her husband Todd were the candidate, would you feel he shouldn't run because of his family obligations?

I agree about the contrast with McCain when he got up on stage with her. He seemed ancient. But he also was clearly thrilled at how well she did and how she appeared to vindicate what had appeared to be a capricious choice.

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Savage, Md.: When Sarah Palin advocated teaching creationism in public schools, was she aware that the Supreme Court had outlawed that practice back in 1987? (Edwards v. Aguillard,482 U.S. 578)

Rachael Larimore: I believe Palin answered a question off the cuff saying she'd suggest teaching both evolution and creationism. Not sure if it was a debate or an interview.

When she had the chance to clarify, she said she would not suggest that creationism be added to the curriculum, merely that she supported the idea of debate, and that students who wanted to discuss creationism should be stifled. Not that teachers should have to teach it.

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Raleigh NC: Has anyone talked about how bizarre the response to ugly rumors about Bristol was? Wouldn't a release of family photos that included one of the family in the hospital with the newborn have defused the rumors without throwing her daughter under the bus?

Emily Yoffe: You're talking about the now-discredited rumor that Sarah Palin did not give birth to Trig, but that the real mother was teenager Bristol, and Sarah pretended to be pregnant to protect her daughter.

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