Is Tim Pawlenty’s experience enough?
posted at 4:49 pm on June 20, 2012 by Libby Sternberg
This is a tale of two vice presidential candidates.
Both are governors. Both ran for and won local races in their states. One served a term on a city council, then won two terms as a mayor, becoming president of the state’s mayors’ conference before a successful statewide run for chief executive. The other served ten years in the state legislature before becoming governor. Both have significant achievements on their gubernatorial resumes. In total, one’s public service clocks in at around 12 years while the other’s public service at the time of the veep vetting adds up to about 14 years.
But the year I’m writing about is not 2012. It’s 2008, and by now, you might have guessed that one candidate was Sarah Palin. The other? Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who had also been considered as a running mate to John McCain four years ago.
Palin served one term on the Wasilla City Council and two three-year terms as the city’s mayor before her successful run for governor. While that experience was often mocked—or, at the least, sneered at—Tim Pawlenty’s similar local-yokel stint in the Minnesota state legislature before his successful run for governor was never seriously questioned as being too parochial or not adding up to enough experience for someone aspiring to be vice president.
Yes, Palin’s Alaska is small. With its 722,718 residents, it shows up as number 47 on the list of states by population, while Pawlenty’s Minnesota , with its 5,344,861 souls, sits at number 21. So one could argue that their executive experiences as governors were entirely different. But do you know what state is number 45, just two above Alaska? That would be Delaware, with 907,135 residents, the state from which our current vice president hails.
So, if state population governed/served isn’t a part of the “experience” equation, shouldn’t we be as concerned about Pawlenty’s meager experiences as we were about Palin’s? Sure, he has a few more years as governor under his belt now, but his recent unsuccessful bid for the presidency was a little cringe-inducing, don’t you think? Shouldn’t the party leaders, conservative pundits, men whose names rhyme with Schteve Schmidt, be gnashing their teeth and rending their garments at the possibility of his selection as Romney’s running mate? Good grief, what if some reporter asks Pawlenty what he reads every day? What on earth will he say?
But that’s the point – no one will be asking Tim Pawlenty what he reads should he be chosen as a vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney. They’ll assume he reads newspapers, magazines, blogs, books, cereal boxes and even the FBI warnings on DVDs because…well, because he’s a guy. And we all know guys are more experienced and smarter and wiser and just gosh-darned better at everything. I mean, look at our current vice president—he has years and years of plagiarism, wrong policy decisions, speaking gaffes experience. It’s reassuring to think such a man is just one heartbeat away from…
Excuse me, I had to run and take an antacid pill.
This trip down memory lane was triggered by the recent posts about Pawlenty possibly being on the short list for a Mitt Romney running mate now. It presents a “teachable moment” about the higher standards that apply to women candidates…on the Republican side of the aisle at least, something Allapundit cited in an update to a piece on the veepstakes, referencing a First Read article by Michael O’Brien:
“I think, unfortunately, Palin poisoned the well on that (choosing a woman),” said one informal Romney adviser, fretting that any woman selected as VP would draw inevitable comparisons to the former Alaska governor. “I would guess if I were inside the Romney mind that they’re worried that any woman chosen will be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny. “
But Palin didn’t “poison the well” on anything, and she shouldn’t be used as a reason to keep qualified women off any lists. She ended up providing a tremendous boost to the McCain campaign, drawing crowds and excitement that were lacking in his efforts before her selection. She had a wonderful folksy style people could relate to, and she happened to be particularly knowledgeable about an issue of great importance—energy policy. Yes, she had flaws—just as other vice presidential candidates have had since there were V.P. candidates. But her imperfections were highlighted, analyzed and even ridiculed well beyond the norm.
No, if anyone did any “poisoning” at all, it was the eager crowd of media and political apparatchiks (both liberal and conservative) who held an attractive, conservative woman to a different standard than the one by which they measured those in the “boys club,” including the current occupant of Number One Observatory Circle.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.