US Army Brigadier General Janis L. Karpinski. (Photo: John MacDougall / AFP / Getty Images)
The author is former US Army Brigadier General (retired) Janis L. Karpinski.
"We shall never have rights until we take them, or respect until we command it," said Belva Lockwood, activist and the first female lawyer to argue before the United States Supreme Court.
Hmmmmm. My intuition is kicking into high gear on the nomination of Sarah Palin as vice president on the Republican ticket. Hmmmmm. It is haunting me. There is something sneaky behind her and methinks it is the devious orchestration of Karl Rove. Months of criticism for Barack Obama's allegedly short supply of expertise, then McCain selects a true novice as a partner on his ticket. Does this make any sense at all?
I'm afraid it does. Palin is bringing new life to the ticket. McCain was in dire straits and absolutely knew he was going to lose the election on his merits, so he pulled the proverbial bunny out of his hat - presto, Palin.
I know enough about Palin's character to assess her as ill-equipped, clueless and unprepared to take control of our nation in the event of McCain's early demise or incapacitation, much less qualified to serve as the commander in chief of all military forces. Unfortunately for Palin, leadership is not derived by a process of osmosis. She does not automatically qualify for commander in chief or get to check the "Military Service" block because she has a son in the Alaska National Guard who is deployed to Iraq, or because she dons a camouflage uniform and knows how to shoot straight. Military leadership develops with a true concern for the lives of soldiers and civilians placed under your command. Military leadership requires the leader to be ready, willing and able upon assuming command; to be able immediately to execute those responsibilities without hesitation, to have the tools and skills to command and lead. Leadership comes from experience of "walking the ground where your soldiers will fight" as opposed to working and planning in a vacuum with little regard for the soldiers serving on your watch. It means the commander in chief will never use military force and take the nation and the military to war until every other option is exhausted, and then only with the greatest intelligence information available to ensure a course leading to victory. If it isn't there, you aren't going to find it in a desk drawer or in the process of going to war.
Palin wants desperately to be accepted as tough and capable in the skills she sees as critical to being as tough as any man - tough talk, tough walk and tough as nails. Sarah Palin apparently thinks because she claims to have the skills, we must trust her and take her at her word. Note the absence of military leadership skills in the current administration, due largely to the sum total lack of military experience amongst the elected and appointed officials.
There is something almost sinister in Palin's attempts to seduce the voting public. She has a "come hither" look all of the time, and dares anyone, men or women, but especially men, to approach her or challenge her. Pay attention. Nobody believes qualifying as Miss Alaska in the Miss America Pageant really prepares you for service as the vice president of the United States, let alone as the president of the United States of America. Obama is right, although he may have chosen the wrong animal to use in the comparison - put lipstick on a soccer mom, as opposed to a pit bull, and you still have a soccer mom, not a pit bull. The fierceness of a pit bull, which Palin is trying to use as proof of her ability to serve as the vice president, is ridiculous at best and sadly ironic. Pit bulls are senseless and out of control when angry; they are certainly far from being of good mind, rationale, organized or focused. Her personal comparisons to Hillary Clinton are insulting to Clinton. Senator Clinton did not stoop to use of her sexuality as a means of attracting votes or attention. She is articulate and stays on message, whether in the primaries or campaigning for Obama. Hillary's supporters, men and women, accepted her for her experience, her credentials and her qualifications, deservedly so, unlike Palin who is trying to steal mileage on the shirttails of Hillary. You can easily recollect memorable events of Hillary's campaign, but you will not remember her parading about or flirting with her supporters or the media. She did not behave in such a manner. Her wardrobe aside, Hillary Clinton was competing on a level playing field and behaved accordingly, like an intelligent, confident and capable candidate. This is what women hope for and seek to achieve. Sarah Palin's behavior sets our progress back by decades and encourages the fashionable use of sexuality as the tool to measure success.
I spent more than 28 years in and around the military, mostly as a member of the Army Officer Corps. I saw what women think they must do in order to fit in with their male counterparts and feel a part of the male bastion of control. Sarah Palin is cut from the same mold as these women who were desperate to fit in with male colleagues - desperately trying to prove herself as tough as, or tougher than, "the boys" who are competing with her. Palin sets the stage with stories of her prowess in murdering wolves, moose and caribou from a helicopter platform vantage point, begging the question, "C'mon boys, don't you think I am tough enough?"
Men want to screw her, literally - it is a fantasy of many men, particularly those in the high power, high profile assignments, and she knows it. She uses her sexuality, and men's vulnerability, to intimidate them and expose their weaknesses. They imagine what she is like in bed; they fantasize about screwing the vice president of the United States because they have never had this chance. They imagine what she is like as a sex object and they drool over possibilities, not necessarily thinking the fantasies will come to fruition, instead focusing on four years of possibilities. She projects the willingness to let them fantasize. She is not businesslike, rather power hungry and control-like, offering, subtly and directly, suggestions of her feistiness and daring men to try and conquer her. Somewhere in the mix, she attempts to say something noteworthy to demonstrate her readiness and capabilities to serve as the vice president of the United States. She wants to be seen as a sexual object because she has a track record of success using the same techniques at increasing levels of responsibilities. Sarah Palin tried, unsuccessfully, to get credit for foreign affairs and international experience through three stopovers, and walkovers, involving Germany, Kuwait and Iraq. Many officers and soldiers found the same low road to "credible international and combat experience" by staying comfortably and safely, and often only occasionally, in Kuwait, while real soldiers, men and women, crossed the border into Iraq, and spent a year or longer in harm's way. The coveted "right shoulder patch," symbolizing combat duty, was awarded equally to any and all deployed officers and soldiers, those serving in Iraq as well as those serving in better and safer assignments anywhere but in Iraq. This may have inspired Palin to claim international experience involving Kuwait (short stopover) and Iraq (walked across the border into Iraq) and Germany (flight layover). This type of exaggeration migrates to the unimaginable - claiming some quasi-military experience because she stood near a soldier, or because her son is serving in Iraq or because she wore cammies while hunting. It is not beyond the thinkable.
Sarah Palin may be responsible for breaking through another level of the glass ceiling by being the vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket and she deserves credit for this.
Palin, however, is a dangerous choice and her style goes against the grain of feminists and women everywhere. We spent years seeking equality, and ask only for a level playing field where we can find credit for our accomplishments and capabilities and the opportunities to compete fairly. Sarah Palin can launch us back in time and remove years of progress, albeit slow and incomplete. She encourages men and women to be drawn first to the sexuality and beauty of a woman before making a decision about her credibility, intelligence and leadership. There is abundant truth in the age-old saying "beauty is only skin deep." We need and deserve a vice-presidential candidate who offers far more than "skin deep" - her absolute lack of substance on the issues; her lack of experience, particularly in the international and foreign affairs environment; her lack of a sound economic policy to regain control of our national treasure; and her insistence on propelling herself as tough and capable because she can murder wildlife when there is virtually no chance of missing, are the issues of substance. The fact she refuses to discuss any of the issues is troubling. Voters need to take a deep breath and return to reality in the aftermath of the hype created by Sarah Palin herself. Pay attention - she does not have international experience or foreign affairs capabilities simply because she can see Russia from her backyard in Alaska.
Sarah Palin is amazingly popular and she is dangerous. She is George Bush in disguise, in terms of policies and principles. Karl Rove is in the middle of this and we all know what Karl Rove did for President Bush and what he did to every American. Keep this in mind when throwing support to the ticket of McCain and Palin. The legitimate concerns about McCain being joined at the hip with the president and the potential for four (and potentially eight) more years of the same worthless policies of this administration seem to pale in comparison when considering the strong attachment, admiration and support Sarah Palin gives to this administration.