mav·er·ick (māv'ər-ĭk, māv'rĭk) n.
1. An unbranded range animal, especially a calf that has become separated from its mother, traditionally considered the property of the first person who brands it.
2. One that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter.
It's one thing to call John McCain a maverick. He's hung on in the political arena for so long that it may be hard to believe he's really a maverick, but he has definitely had highly-publicized moments of dissent from his party and even from his party's president. (For the last year he's been Bush's lapdog, but that's another story.)
To be maverick is to break rules. But to break the rules, you first have to know what those rules are.
Sarah Palin is new to the arena of national politics. She doesn't know how things really work within the Beltway yet. (Remember Bill & Hillary's first painful year in D.C., when, fresh from Arkansas they couldn't get anyone in Washington to do anything they wanted? Experience in state-level politics often doesn't prepare one for national-level politics. Even in that first awkward years, the Ivy-League-educated Clintons were vastly more politically sophisticated than Palin).
It's easy to call yourself a maverick from a podium at the RNC. But if she does get to Washington, Palin's missteps will not be the evidence that she's marching to a different drummer. They'll be true faux pas, made because Palin doesn't know the steps of the dances in that formal ballrooms of the Beltway.
She might make a good candidate for a version of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." She may, like Mr. Smith, learn the rules, break them, and lead others to do the same.
But America can't afford her learning curve. If she wants to be a maverick in the national arena, fine -- she can run for Congress or Senate like everyone else does. She can serve as one voice among many on committees where her misstakes can't lead us into an economic depression or a untenable war (like a certain former governor of Texas has).
It's plain dumb to look at the "experience" issue in terms of years served. Where and how you serve those years count. Very little about governor of Alaska will be good preparation for national politics -- I don't want to diss Alaska, but it is isolated. It has no major cities, a one-dimensional economic base, a unique, even bizarre, set of environmental issues, and a tiny population that is more heavily conservative than the population of the lower 48 states. Alaska has no physical contact with the rest of America! They want to secede (and sometimes I can't blame them)!
Barack Obama, on the other hand, has spent his entire life training for the role of statesman. He didn't become a television sportscaster or a commercial fisherman or the owner of a company that rents all terrain vehicles. He studied law and politics in order to learn about government, citizenship, and social responsibility. Even as he served Illinois he did so in the national arena.
Palin may not know what the Vice President does all day, but you can bet Obama does -- and has known that and so much more about statesmanship for most of his adult life.