After listening to Sarah Palin's VP speech last night, I really don't want her and Mr. McCain to win the election. I disagree with almost all of her substantive policy prescriptions. But I may say that members of the so-called non-judgmental left who I know have made a very poor showing of the type of tolerance and compassion they blame conservatives for lacking.
One friend, in a display of his detached, urbane academic wit, told me yesterday that Ms. Palin's daughter "needed an abortion" and her failure to choose an abortion demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of Ms. Palin's pro-life stance. (He did not use the word "moral bankruptcy," but I think that term is consistent with the point he was making.) Aside from facts that neither he nor I had access to--neither of us knows whether Ms. Palin's daughter actually wanted an abortion or if she chose to keep the baby--can't one at least recognize that abortion is a complicated issue and that sincere pro-lifers, who honestly believe that human life begins at conception, or some point before childbirth, might not advocate the outlawry of abortion solely out of misogynistic motives?
Another friend complained about a double standard: if Mr. Obama's daughters were, say, 16 or 17 and were pregnant, the media wouldn't treat him as lightly as they treat Ms. Palin. Maybe and maybe not, but probably. Still, what's the point: the Republicans would do it in a hypothetical situation and therefore we have the right to do it now.
Ms. Palin appears to be underqualified, at least if experience is taken into account (although I wonder if any experience can prepare anyone for the presidency), and her substantive policy issues (pseudo-tax cuts, oil drilling in Alaska, a pro-life policy that is just as bigoted and unreflective as--and almost certainly more dangerous than--some people's advocacy of pro-choice policies) leave so much to challenge that taken by themselves, in open debate, they should show her wanting.
Of course, political campaigns are not won on reason, and whether it is right or not, ad hominem attacks are, and have been for a very long time (at least since the election of 1828), within the pale of acceptable political discussion. The goal is to get as many people as possible to vote for your guy or gal, and my moralistic posturing (let's face it, I can be just as judgmental and as the people I criticize: see what I wrote above) probably contributes nothing practical to the debate. Still, one effect of the personal attacks against Ms. Palin will likely be to energize a heretofore more or less apathetic "base" of conservatives to vote for the Republicans in November.
UPDATE (12-2-09): Today I "struck" two phrases (above), the tone of which I believe was inappropriate and disrespectful.