I wouldn’t (yet) question the shrewdness of the pick — it might well be brilliant politics, as Reihan explains, though we won’t know that right away.
But regardless of whether or not the pick was shrewd, it puts McCain’s and his party’s political interest squarely ahead of the national interest. As an understudy for the Presidency, she doesn’t pass the straight face test. How much occasion has Governor Palin, and before that Mayor Palin, and before that self-described hockey mom Palin, had to become familiar with the facts of, let alone develop a consistent overall approach to, foreign affairs? She may be thoughtful, she may be an accomplished manager and executive, and she may be a quick study. The decision to put her on the ticket would imply that close scrutiny confirms her to be each of these things. But how long has she spent getting ready for this? Readers, do we know how long the vetting process ran? Do we know if Palin prepared herself for this possibility even before being vetted? Given how unlikely the choice was, it seems that Palin would have had scant incentive to study up for the contingency of being made a vice-Presidential candidate.
Comparisons of life-long experience are interesting, but what most worries me is the difference in preparation between Palin and less startling choices. National political figures who have formally sought the Presidency, or even seriously considered so doing, have had to prepare. They have been extensively briefed. They have recruited and gotten to know advisors. They have thought about, and variously developed, and variously expressed, views on the wide range of subjects a President is required to confront. Even if McCain, Obama, and Biden had each literally fallen off the apple cart following the 2004 election, each has spent a substantial fraction of the last few years in serious, full-on preparation for the Presidency. Palin has not. Each of them has been poked and prodded, tested and parsed, stressed and analyzed. Palin has not.
This means that with McCain, Obama, or Biden, we can at least be confident that we have a competent potential President. With Palin, we cannot.