But who cares -- Americans hardly ever vote based on the bottom of the ticket. As for the health of John McCain should he be elected, we could all follow Joe Lieberman's lead. Asked at the Republican convention about Palin's qualifications, he said, "Well, you know, let's assume the best. John's in great shape; he's gonna be the president and let's assume that nothing bad will happen."
Great advice, senator. As Iraq proved, hope is a wonderful plan.
But as people are finding out more about Palin, there's too much that's not being said. We're familiar with McCain's take on foreign policy. Going back to January 2002, when he shouted, "Next stop, Baghdad!" while speaking to U.S. troops headed for Afghanistan, it's been clear he thinks, if anything, President Bush has been too timid in pursuing his policies.
About Palin, though, we don't know. In her first television sit-down, she famously didn't know what the "Bush Doctrine" is. This has been explained away by supporters saying, in effect, "So what? Most people on the street don't know what it is, either." To which one can only respond, most people on the street are not running for vice president.
But what's most important isn't her lack of knowledge (though that is a serious problem); it's that the Republicans are promising to keep these policies going.
In the ABC interview, after stalling for a moment, the governor got it wrong. So did her interviewer, Charles Gibson. "The Bush Doctrine, as I understand it,'' he said, "is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a pre-emptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us."
He's wrong. No one in the political mainstream disputes the right of "anticipatory self-defense" or a pre-emptive strike. If the country is going to be attacked, the nation has a right to defend itself.
The Bush Doctrine goes further. Leading up to the war in Iraq (which is still going on, by the way), the president laid out the right for our country to attack any other country that might -- someday; we don't know when, but it could happen -- somehow pose a threat. That's why we attacked Iraq (supposedly; to this day, no one but the president really knows). They weren't a threat at the time, but they could have become one someday, maybe.
That's not pre-emption. It is insane, but it is not pre-emption.
Bush favored "preventive" war. If that's our policy going forward, we should expect a lot of wars in the coming years. How many countries are there that might pose a threat someday? Russia, China, North Korea, Iran -- and we may have just added Spain. Are we supposed to invade all of them?
With the stock market crashing and the government nationalizing the finance industry, no one is talking about these things. But they matter. In a best-case scenario, American troops will be out of Iraq by 2011 or so -- a full eight years after we invaded. We spend the equivalent of an AIG bailout, $85 billion, over the course of a few months there.
And still, despite the happy talk from people who supported this war from the beginning (Chris Shays, that's you), Americans are still dying there -- fewer than a year ago, but they are still Americans who would otherwise be alive. Iraqis are still dying. Car bombs are exploding on a weekly basis. McCain, though, told Time magazine last month that Iraq is "a peaceful and stable country now."
He's wrong about a lot of things, but he will never top that one.
Palin gives every indication that she's OK with the way this country went to war. Since she might be president someday, she could at least tell us her thoughts on the matter.
Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.