Déjà Vu

A campaign blog.
Sept. 10 2008 12:32 PM

Déjà Vu

In every election, recycling is inevitable. But rarely does a candidate (or his supporters) use the exact same attacks that were once leveled against him.

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So it has been with Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. If some of the charges against Palin sound familiar, maybe it’s because they were the same arguments used against Obama by his primary opponents and by McCain himself before he picked Palin. Here’s a quick rundown of the accusations, and why they might ring a few bells:

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She’s inexperienced. You’d think the Obama campaign would avoid this line of attack, given Obama’s own résumé. Apparently not. "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton the day McCain picked her. In response, McCain/Palin tried to shift the conversation to "executive experience."

She’s just a pretty face. Joe Biden’s comment that Palin is "good-looking" got twisted from a self-deprecating joke into a slur. But others have tried to use Palin’s looks against her. Critics on the left commonly refer to her as a "former beauty queen" or, my favorite, " the woman who failed to become Miss Alaska ," as if that presages future failures.

She only gave a good speech. "Sarah Palin delivered a great speech, but we haven’t heard anything else about what she’s going to do," said Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Compare that to Hillary Clinton’s line that John McCain has "a lifetime of experience," while Obama "has a speech he gave in 2002."

She’s not right for Jews. Obama allies are capitalizing on Jewish discomfort with Palin, just as his opponents once suggested that Obama doesn’t suit Jewish interests. Rep. Robert Wexler has attacked Palin for appearing at a 1999 event with Pat Buchanan. Critics also point to a recent speaker at Palin’s church, David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, as reason for mistrust. Nor does it help that McCain passed over Joe Lieberman for the veep spot.

She’s a "gimmick." In a now-famous hot-mic moment, former top McCain adviser Mike Murphy called the Palin choice "gimmicky." Critics have long Obama of being an unserious candidate as well—a " lightweight ," a product of " hype " over substance. He has also been criticized for using campaign "gimmicks" like texting supporters his VP announcement.

Soon we will hear that Palin’s promises are "just words," that’s she’s unprepared for 3 a.m. phone calls, and that she wanted to be vice president since kindergarten.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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