Who is Sarah Palin? More importantly, what does McCain's pick for vice president think or know about foreign policy? Even after her speech at Wednesday's Republican National Convention, Palin remains both a mystery and a subject of intense curiosity. She is by turns characterized as a savior of the Republican party, an enormous mistake and something in between.
"Here's how I look at the choice Americans face in this election," said Palin during her speech Wednesday. "In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers, and then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change."
Some, however, see her very candidacy as a cheap ploy to steal some of the limelight from a charismatic opponent. Palin's family drama has certainly splashed her name all over the media. "Our family has the same ups and downs as any other, the same challenges and the same joys," said Palin at the convention as she introduced her husband and five children -- including her pregnant 17-year-old daughter, Bristol.
As a plucky outsider, though, she may appeal to some voters who want change, though not Obama-style change. Palin is thoroughly uncompromised by national politics. "And I've learned quickly these past few days that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone," she said at the convention. "But here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion; I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this great country."
German papers appreciate Palin's maverick qualities -- especially since McCain's "straight talk" turned into straight talking points once he became the Republican candidate. But they fret about her lack of foreign-policy knowledge and argue that the narrow scope of Palin's experience has deflated one of McCain's primary criticisms of Obama.
Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"If anyone's nominating party congress stands for change this year, for flouting conventions, it is that of the conservative Republicans. The Democrats' mobilization show in Denver ran just like people are accustomed to from past conventions. Highly emotional and professional and staged down to the very last detail. Obstacles were overcome; love of country and love of family were celebrated. Not so for the Republicans . With the nomination of Sarah Palin as vice-presidential candidate, John McCain took on exactly what Obama avoided at all costs with Biden: a much-talked-about risk. McCain/Palin -- this is where real life romps."
"The McCain campaign can be sure of one thing while running with Sarah Palin: unceasing media coverage of the type reserved until now for Obama. If Palin is regarded as having managed to deliver a good talk as an engaged politician, mother and non-fanatical middle-aged pro-lifer on Wednesday, she might peel off her label as an 'Oh my God!' choice and advance as a 'Hey, wow' candidate. It might just be enough to steal the show from political comet Barack Obama in the last two months of the race."
Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung argues:
"McCain used to look like an ideal candidate for the party. The conservative free spirit repeatedly defied the current president and thereby emanated seriousness and self-assurance."
"Sarah Palin threatens to demolish [McCain's] halo. The part-amusing and part-dramatic details that people are discovering about their potential vice president are in themselves no reason for panic. On the contrary, many Americans sympathize with this full-of-life 44-year-old woman, who hunts and fishes and governs a state for good measure and who will be a grandmother sooner than she expected. Destiny! However the the lingering impression that McCain called this fresh face to his side purely out of strategic campaign calculations and without adequate vetting could be fatal. Palin's selection comes across as imprudent, unserious and, yes, dangerous."
"McCain has miscalculated: those Democrats who were disappointed by Hillary's failure and might possibly have voted for the Republican veteran will hardly be lured by the ultraconservative pro-lifer. ... McCain only hopes that the evangelical base will gather behind him with new fury. That is important -- but not enough to win the election in November. The payoff for this deputy from the right is less than the price of the risk that McCain runs with the center. Sarah Palin will cost the Republican Party dearly."
The Financial Times Deutschland writes:
"McCain's hubris and irresponsibility are by now blatant. Hubris -- because only a belief in his own immortality for the next four years could justify the choice of a vice president whose only experience, aside from two years as governor of Alaska, was as mayor of a suburb of Anchorage. Irresponsibility -- because US presidents run a high risk of being attacked, as exemplified by John F. Kennedy's assassination, but also by the attack on Ronald Reagan. That occurred on March 30, 1981, 69 days after Reagan took office, and almost cost the new president his life. Imagine what would happen if a President McCain were shot on the evening of March 30, 2009. The world would wake up the next morning to a President Palin, who in an interview about the Iraq war less than two years ago said: 'I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq.'"
"More has been publicized in the last few days about Palin's person and family than about her views on domestic and foreign politics, which doesn't show either the American intellectual condition nor their public media in the best light. A minister moderated the first debate between presidential nominees Obama and McCain during which they had to answer questions on faith and how they would handle the evil bad guys of the world. A politician whose attitude toward war and peace are largely a mystery could become president in five months -- and people discuss the implications of her daughter's pregnancy. The country where all this is happening is the most powerful in the world. But for how much longer?"
-- Rachel Nolan, 2 p.m. CET