Palin for President?

By Anthony | September 1st, 2008 | 9:43 am

I’m fascinated by McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for Vice President. Considering how much emphasis McCain has placed on the necessity of “experience”, it seems highly hypocritical of him to choose her, when there were so many other potential picks who had far more experience. Apparently, experience isn’t as important as he’d led us to believe – McCain was for experience before he was against it.

Some McCain-Palin supporters will justify the VP pick by pointing out that she’ll only be number two, so a lack of experience is ok – “Obama heads the ticket, Palin doesn’t” as Sam Spagnola commented over at Ed Cone’s blog. This is true – as long as McCain is actually able to serve his entire first term. At 72 years of age, that’s far from a given.

It’s easy enough to brush off such concerns – life expectancy is pretty high these days. So let’s look at some actual numbers and see how concerned we should be. What are the chances that McCain will take up residence in the White House of the Great Beyond before his first term is up, thereby promoting Vice President Palin to the position of President Palin?

Looking at a 2004 actuarial life table, we can find the probability of a person dying within one year for any given age (the first column in the table). Obviously, the older a person is, the greater this probability becomes. We’ll look at three numbers here – the death probability for a male at ages 72, 73, and 74. This would cover essentially the first three years of McCain’s first term, up until 2011 – I’ll assume that after that point we’re close enough to the next election that a “President Palin” wouldn’t be as much of a potential issue.

The probabilities for death within one year at those three ages are 0.032978, 0.036086, and 0.039506 – essentially between three and four percent for each year. To figure out the probability that McCain will die within his first three years as President, we first calculate the probability that he will survive all three of those years. The formula for that is:

(1 – d1) * (1 – d2) * (1 – d3)

Where d1, d2, and d3 are the probabilities of death for each of the three years in question. So, plugging in our numbers:

(1 – 0.032978) * (1 – 0.036086) * (1 – 0.039506) = 0.895301

That’s the probability McCain makes it through the first three years of his presidency. We subtract that from 1 to find the probability that he doesn’t survive his first three years:

1 – 0.895301 = 0.104699

As you can see, going by the actuarial numbers there’s roughly a 10 percent chance that McCain will go off to be with that great Commander-In-Chief-In-The-Sky by the third year of his first term. Of course this doesn’t even account for the possibility that he may have to step down for other, non-fatal reasons, such as a recurrence of melanoma or some other health-related issue. That makes the 10 percent a baseline number.

So keep that in mind – if you vote for McCain, there’s at least a 10 percent chance that you’re actually voting for Sarah Palin for President. If you think she’s actually qualified to be President, then you’re all set. But if you agree with many people, liberal and conservative alike, and you don’t think she’s qualified, then you should reconsider your views on McCain. Is he being less than honest, lacking in sound judgment, or both? Is experience critically important, as he said? If so, there were many, many more people who are vastly more qualified that he could have picked, guaranteeing our safety and security in the not-too-unlikely event of his death. If experience is not critically important, then one of the key arguments of his campaign has been a lie.

2 Responses to “Palin for President?”

  1. Ged Maheux Says:

    I also find it hilarious that the right is trying to actually make us believe that 18 months as the governor of Alaska equals or beats 12 years of state and federal experience from Obama.

    They say she has “executive” experience so she knows more about running the country than he does. If that’s true, then she has more experience than McCain himself since he’s never been an “executive” in charge of anything either. Why don’t we just get rid of McCain and run Palin for President then?

    As you said, it comes down to the fact that Obama has been preparing and developing policies and went through the campaign where millions of people selected him to lead. No one picked Palin except one person – John McCain.

  2. Anthony Says:

    “Why don’t we just get rid of McCain and run Palin for President then?”

    Going by the crowd reaction at the convention, it seems like many Republicans would be very happy to switch the ticket around.