Friday, August 29, 2008

The Hidden Blunder of the Palin Pick, Revealed

There's (general) support for John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin for running-mate among the analysts of the mainstream media. Very few have openly questioned the decision and a few have even resurrected the word "maverick," notably CNN's website, where a besotted editorial staff has been handing McCain get-out-of-jail-free cards for the thick end of two months, now, in the interest of stoking their ratings by tightening the race.

Here in the comment fora of the blogosphere, reactions from both sides of the spectrum seem to suggest that McCain gains ground by choosing Palin. There are now several separate stories in the internet news community about the pick (either that it's about to be made, has been made, someone has reacted, or that Palin herself has expressed doubts as to the job description), and in each case the comments beneath the story may be fairly characterized as either "back-slapping approval," from the rightward-leaning, or pursed-lipped unease from the political left.

She certainly does nothing to rattle the already-rattled Evangelicals on McCain's right flank. She likes to hunt and fish (two activities which were described by Kay Baily Hutchinson on national television a few hours ago as "things Americans like to do," emphasis original), she eats mooseburgers (also good news, apparently--assuming you're not a moose), and she is a lifetime member of the NRA. Her fervently pro-life credential is well known and would be no less convincing if the press didn't continue to insist on the odious practice of suggesting that she might otherwise have aborted her youngest child, a line of argument for which someone, somewhere, surely should be fired if not actually shot.

Those who've criticized Palin have focused on two things: the fact that she's a first-term Governor from a sparsely populated state (indeed, eighteen months ago she was the Mayor of a town with about 9,000 people in it), and that she has become ensnared in a controversy that carries with it all the trappings of a Cheney-esque abuse of power: As her sister and brother-in-law sank into the nightmare of an acrimonious divorce, Palin apparently tried to pressure a subordinate official to have her brother-in-law fired from the Alaska State Highway Patrol. The investigation is, at this very moment, still open--and could conceivably lead to Palin herself being criminally charged.

But, for all of that, there's actually a much bigger problem with the Palin pick.

A casual trip through those same blogosphere comment fora over the past six hours leads a person inexorably to a realization that the VP-pick-bounce for McCain might carry an Alaska-sized sting in its tail. What seems to have happened so far is a pattern in which a left-leaning blog commenter says something to the effect of, "If this first-term Governor with no foreign policy experience is ready, then Barack Obama is ready, period," after which a right-leaning counterpart posts back with, "Governor Palin isn't auditioning for the top job," with the latter comment generally punctuated by venomous name-calling of the sort that suggests the first commenter is a knife-raping puppy eater who plays golf with Satan every Wednesday on his way to the Communist youth-rally.

This may have been--I hate to question a decorated POW's judgment twice in one day, but this may have been--the extent to which Team Crankypants bothered to think this all through. Obviously I'm not privy to their discussions on the matter, but still it's easier than it should be to imagine this entire discussion unfolding in those same two, as-then hypothetical sentences. "What do we do about the charge that Palin isn't ready?" "We'll point out that Palin isn't running for President, and then call the other person an America-hater."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, that is an unforced error on the part of the McCain campaign.

Because, you see, the obvious retort on the part of the left-leaning blog commenter is to bring up something that McCain had done a relatively good job of keeping from prominence in the conversation--something Team Obama had been justifiably gunshy about hitting with any kind of forcefulness for fear of backlash: John McCain is a 72 year-old cancer survivor and, let's face it, even right this minute he's not in especially good health. By choosing Sarah Palin to be his running-mate, John McCain just shined a 100,000 candlepower klieg light on the subject of his own, frighteningly imminent mortality. Over the span of a week we went from talking about someone who could easily step into the job and certainly won't have to, to someone about whom may be said neither of those two things.

Worse still for McCain, the gravity of this mistake is front-and-center in those same comment spaces--where the words "die," "death," "succeed," "succession," "seventy-two," and "cancer" have descended onto the conversation like a summer hailstorm, with even some of the most fervently conservative respondents succumbing to the temptation to get into a medical debate about the prospective longevity of their candidate. Time after time, in blog after blog, the "is she ready" critique has been swatted down by the Republicans on the basis that she's not auditioning for the top job--followed instantly by a retort from the left that she could well get it anyway, indeed probably will.

And after last night, a prolonged discussion about whether or not John McCain is about to die, is quite possibly the very last news story that he needed right now--aside from a hurricane smashing into New Orleans at the moment of the Republican Convention's keynote address, that is.

Dave O'Gorman
("The Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida

3 comments:

isuyankee said...

Your points are well taken, but to the average guy on the street, she is just plain likable. And likable matters. I am a Democrat and I like her despite disagreeing with her on 9 out of 10 issues.

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

Dave,

Well said, but I have to agree with isuyankee, at face value Palin is a problem for the Dems.

Here's a bit of what I've written elsewhere:

* First, her selection immediately changed the subject from a phenomenal speech by Obama to a ‘what the…?’ pick by the opposition. All post-convention news coverage and speech accolades……gone.
* Second, the re-appearance of a woman in the mix. And while I don’t want to overstate the ‘woman scorned’ aspect, the pre-eminent woman candidate was left hanging by one party and the other one offered an alternative. The result: there are women who will at least take a LONG look at Palin instead.
* Third, the evangelical vote has now been re-awakened. They drifted off to sleep when Huckabee folded his tent, but now there’s Sarah, fiercely pro-life and devoutly religious.
* Fourth, she brings home the Libertarians, (whose home planet is Alaska), who didn’t really want to waste their votes on Barr anyway, especially if it would help Obama.
* Fifth, as a lifelong member of the NRA, she not only brings the sportsmen/women into the voting booth, but she bizarrely quiets the ‘weak on national security’ folks, probably because she can likely outshoot McCain and definitely Cheney. Go figure, but true.
* Sixth, the entrance of a ‘people’s candidate’ into this race. The other three men are clearly professional politicians, while Palin, a ‘working mom’, has spent just two years as a governor, almost half of which while she was pregnant, with a wind-up swing for her previous child next to the governor’s desk.
* Seventh, did I mention that unlike the other three, she can garner male votes even with the sound off on the television? Yeah, she’s beyond pretty - Julia Roberts runs for president. (When you combine ’six’ and ’seven’, I’m sure that Hollywood is already negotiating for the rights.)

cowanl said...

I just dawned on me where I've seen Palin (or her grandmother) before. It the old Hi Karate aftershave commercial where the businesswoman with her hair pinned up and with her glasses on gets a whiff of the aftershave. She unpins her hair, whips off her glasses and crawls across the desk to the guy.