One question ABC's Charles Gibson neglected to ask Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during his interview with her last week was this: You are young enough to be John McCain's daughter. Twenty-eight years separate you. Will you be able to walk into the Oval Office and say, "Mr. President, you are wrong about this and here is what you should do instead"?
Palin says she will focus on energy, government reform and helping families with special-needs children if she becomes vice president, but to what extent will she consult with McCain on other issues, and how much influence will she have on his decisions?
Given that McCain has plucked her from relative obscurity, will she feel confident enough to tell a President McCain things he may not want to hear? There are already some issues on which Palin disagrees with McCain, such as global warming, drilling in ANWR and stem cell research. How hard would she push her own beliefs?
The last vice president to experience a large age gap between himself and the president was Dan Quayle, who was two weeks shy of his 42nd birthday when he was sworn in in 1989. President George H.W. Bush was 64. Their 22-year gap is close to the 28-year difference between McCain and Palin, but unlike the McCain-Palin relationship, Quayle had known his running mate for a number of years before he was selected. Quayle also had experience as a senator and congressman.
Quayle's youthful looks and exuberance at being selected invited the media to mock him, which they never tired of through his four years in office. In a telephone conversation, I asked Quayle if he thought Palin could deliver her own straight talk to McCain. He said, "I believe she can. She is strong and not reluctant to express her opinion." Asked whether he thinks Palin is prepared to be vice president, Quayle said, "By January 20, she's going to have a lot more knowledge than she has today. Every single day she will gain valuable experience working with John McCain."
Quayle also said every criticism leveled at Palin was leveled "almost verbatim at me." He said, "People who supported us were called by the media and our opponents 'dumb' and 'mean-spirited.'" He added, "The liberal media are scared of effective conservatives."
Recalling the "running battle (Michael) Dukakis and I had for two weeks in 1988," Quayle said, "I just hope they continue to go after her." He noted that when Dukakis kept attacking him, Dukakis' poll numbers declined.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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