I was thinking today about the difference between the Obama and McCain VP picks (well, obvious given the last few posts!). One thing that struck me was the (at least prima facie) reason for the choices. Biden was chosen because he speaks to what is perceived as a flaw in Obama — a lack of experience. Palin was chosen because she speaks to what is perceived as a flaw in McCain — a lack of conservative values (partly, I think her being a woman plays a big role too, obviously).
If this is true, however, the logic of the choices seems strange to me, as I’ll explain below.
So let me think this through. Obama’s weakness is experience. So Biden was added to do away with that worry — Obama gets a knowledgeable guy at his side to mitigate his weakness and to contribute to his knowledge base when he makes decisions. I can buy that, and it seems reasonable to think that this, to some degree, makes Obama more palpable as a candidate.
Now McCain. First, how strongly should the analogy be taken? Is McCain values-challenged? Does he need Palin as a way to make up for his own lack of values? That seems odd, to say the least. But it’s the next part that is strange. In Obama’s case, it seems reasonable to think that he could actually make decisions strongly influenced by Biden’s council, because he lacks experience. But should we similarly believe that if McCain is not really all that conservative, that the addition of Palin will make him so? Will he now start making decisions strongly influenced by Palin’s advice? This seems not reasonable, because the guy really does have a value system already. So it will determine his choices. So Palin’s role as “advisor” (the person who “fixes” his perceived weakness) doesn’t seem to work in the same way.
With this in mind, I am curious about how people think about these tickets. I can easily see a person who felt that Obama was experience-challenged feeling better about it now because, in all likelihood, Biden at least will provide that experience and help him along. But what about the McCain voter? If a voter felt uncomfortable about him before because he was values-challenged, in what way does Palin being in the ticket make that voter feel more secure, given my suggestion above that she probably will not serve in any real way as a values-influence?
In other words, is it the case (and this can happen on either side of the aisle, by the way) that adding a “values” VP is really just window dressing in a way that adding an “experience” VP is not? If so, why would a voter feel more comfortable voting for the values-challenged candidate?