The two Republicans on the panel—media consultant Alex Castellanos and Tammy Mosher, the Massachusetts director of Concerned Women for America–supported Palin’s record against the challenges of the two Democratic members of the panel—Kennedy School lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy ’93 and Massachusetts leader of the National Organization for Women Vicky Steinberg.
Castellanos cited Palin’s experience as governor of Alaska overseeing a $10 billion budget and 24,000 employees as proof of her qualifications.
“We need somebody who can step in who has a knowledge of what it takes to protect this country on a daily basis and that is what the Alaskan governor has done,” Mosher said, specifically referring to Alaska’s role in national missile defense.
McCarthy and Steinberg said that Palin’s lack of federal-level experience and her scanty foreign policy knowledge make her unprepared to tackle the nation’s big challenges.
McCarthy, who is a member of Barack Obama’s national LGBT advisory committee, also attacked Palin’s stances on social issues, saying that her position on gay marriage comes from “a place of prejudice.”
The Democrats also said that they worried about Palin’s experience with energy policy, citing Alaska’s dependence on oil revenues and the governor’s opposition to federal incentives for renewable energy technologies.
All members of the panel agreed that the McCain campaign erred in attempting to limit Palin’s exposure following the announcement of her selection as the Arizona senator’s running mate.
“Part of the problem that we don’t know what she stands for is because she hasn’t told us,” McCarthy said.
Castellanos agreed, saying that Palin should have participated in a greater number of interviews.
Panel members said that Palin’s candidacy was hindered by sexism in the media.
“What we’re witnessing in the media is a tragic study in what women are up against running for office in this country. Either they are seen as competent and threatening or as a joke worthy of ridicule,” Steinberg said, speaking about the coverage of Hillary Clinton as well.
All panelists agreed that Palin has great potential in the future of the Republican party, but Castellanos said that she needs to recover her strong populist message. Steinberg said that Palin could set a new standard for Republican policies with a feminist direction.
The event was presented by the Harvard College Women's Center and co-sponsored by the Committee for Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, the Institute of Politics, the Harvard College Democrats, the Harvard Republican Club, the Radcliffe Union of Students, Harvard Right to Life, Students for Choice, and The Crimson. It was moderated by Crimson President Malcom A. Glenn ’09.