Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin. Really, John McCain? Really???

When I first heard reports on CNN about the mysterious flight from Alaska and speculation that governor Sarah Palin might be John McCain's pick for Vice President, my thought was, "clever decoy." After all, with the mountain of criticism he and his party have thrown Barack Obama's way for being too inexperienced to be President, there was no way he'd choose someone with a mere 18 months of gubernatorial experience. Right?


It seems that Senator McCain decided to give the dice one big assed roll to see if America was paying attention. No doubt his intentions were to a) shore up his reputation for being a maverick, b) try to woo perceived disenfranchised Hillary Clinton supporters, c) add someone with better conservative credentials than he himself possesses, d) add a reform minded Washington outsider to the ticket and e) try to capture some of the young energy that the Obama campaign is generating.

Years from now it is likely that this will be viewed as one of the biggest misreads in the history of presidential campaigns.

There's being a maverick and there's coming across as reckless. Senator McCain appears to have crossed that line. As countless others have already pointed out, the man is 72 years old with a checkered health history. By selecting someone with such limited political experience, he's put the "heartbeat away from the Presidency" argument in play. Curious judgment call.

But stranger still is his apparent belief that the Palin pick will somehow engage Hillary Clinton supporters. Governor Palin is an anti-abortion, pro-NRA, anti-gay rights type of Republican. In other words, the "Anti-Clinton." Does he really think that Hillary supporters will vote against their best interests simply because Governor Palin shares the same genitalia? Not exactly the strongest analysis of the data!
The best thing that can be said for the pick is that it will energize the aspects of the Republican party that feel disenfranchised by the selection of Mr. McCain as the nominee. But whether that will be enough to get them out to the voting booths in November, remains to be seen.

Perhaps the most troubling thing about the pick is that it does not seem as though Ms. Palin was well vetted. Republican Alaskan leaders have been in the spotlight a lot lately for a slew of ethics improprieties and indictments. Right or not, the media will focus their attention on Alaska every time the Ted Stevens or Don Young indictments go the next step. Is that really where the McCain campaign wants the national spotlight? True, the governor does not seem tied up in those particular scandals, but there are rumblings that she may have used her authority to get a former brother in law fired. Two days ago that might have been an issue for the local media. The bloodhounds will be out now.

Perhaps Governor Palin is a great up and coming Republican. Perhaps she will even be their presidential nominee one day. But putting her on the national ticket now seems like a move of style over substance. Of course the Republicans will try to package it as bold and historic. If you're the first party to have a woman on the ticket, that's historic. If you're the first party to have a woman almost win (or win) your nomination, that's historic. If Ronald Reagan had put a woman on the ticket in 1980, that would have been historic. But if you put a woman on the ticket after the opposing party has done both of these things, and then don't even choose the most qualified woman your party has, you run the risk of looking both cynical and stupid. Congratulations, John McCain, you just hit the daily double.

And history will view it as the last desperate act of a party doing anything it can to hold power.