Friday, August 29, 2008

The McCain VP Watch That No One is Watching

Our morning news from the campaign trail? Try this and see if it fits your mood as you sip the last of your second cup: Sources both from within the McCain camp and within the offices of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty have indicated that he will not be selected as John McCain's running mate, with the expected announcement just hours away at a rally in Dayton, Ohio.

Now, seriously. On this Friday morning, is that even really the question anymore--who McCain will pick to be his running mate? After a speech in which Barack Obama responded, deftly and elegantly and with the surgical precision of a man ready to handle any job in the universe? After a night in which the Democratic nominee reached out to the middle both in content and in rhetoric? After a stirring and perfect-pitched rallying cry, a speech in which Obama made it virtually impossible for McCain to cling to the self-evidently preposterous notion that a volcanic-tempered septuagenarian was the country's best choice to handle foreign policy for the next, critical four years? A speech which none other than Pat Buchanan described as "the single greatest convention speech of all time"? Is the question really who McCain will name today, in a half-empty basketball gym in Dayton, Ohio? This is the question we're expected to be buzz about, over our morning coffees and around our water coolers???

Of course not.

In an election cycle in which many of the Republican candidate's miscalculations, unpopular stances, unfortunate off-script mutterings, and general administrative and electoral slip-ups have passed all but silently through the suspiciously permeable membrane of the mainstream media, this miscalculation on the part of McCain and his people will need no analysis, no flurry of blog-posters, no grassroots demand for greater attention; it will be dangling out there, lonely and forlorn beneath the dusty overhead lighting of an Ohio midcourt, for all to see: The McCain camp will metaphorically book its own, rival cotillion this afternoon... and, metaphorically, and perhaps even physically, almost no one will come.

There are numerous stories on the web about how much difficulty the McCain people have had, finding enough persons willing to listen to the Arizona Sidekick announce his choice of sidekick--and these were stories that broke before Obama, at an elevation of 5,280 feet, so comprehensively and irreversibly sucked all of the surplus air from the room that is the 2008 election. Now, in the cold, hard light of morning, the person picked will seem even less significant a response to Team Obama's agenda for the dialogue as he or she would seem naturally by the nature of the job, while McCain, never Obama's equal in oratory but often his rival in warmth and by that measure effectiveness, will appear older and crankier and all the more at sea in this contest than he really is.

Still, some of us await the announcement -- as much out of courtesy as for any real concern that the person chosen stands even the slightest chance of altering the plane of the discussion for the next one, or two, or perhaps many more news cycles, from that of the speech that broke this whole thing as wide open as any modern election in our history. Sources both from inside the McCain campaign and from the offices of the Governor of Minnesota appear to have confirmed that the choice will not be an at once soft-spoken and divisive fellow that you have absolutely, positively, never heard of, by the name of Tim Pawlenty. Over the last twelve hours or so, he himself has said that the process does not seem to have seriously involved him--though it isn't clear from the text of these remarks whether he said them with hurt feelings or unconcealed relief. Neither would surprise me, at this point.

With the semi-official departure of Tim Who from the list, McCain's remaining choices grow even thinner and less palatable than they were before: Romney, always a difficult choice for his unfortunate track-record of liberalism, his withering critique of the candidate, and his religion, was somewhere in California at the moment of Obama's acceptance speech, having quietly slipped out of Denver to convene a fundraiser in the suburbs of Los Angeles. This would seem to make his appearance later today on a stage in Dayton, Ohio, considerably less likely if not actually impossible.

Lieberman and Ridge are both reportedly close at hand, traveling with the candidate. As The Key Grip has noted in these pages before, the choice of either would lead to full-scale revolt in the Evangelical Right--highlighting McCain's advanced years and frail health in a manner far less veiled, and far more effective, than the Democrats would ever have dared. Indeed at this point it seems that the inevitable dialogue about McCain's imminent mortality would surely do even more damage to his candidacy than the Evangelical defections themselves. Still, McCain is good at nothing in this world if not shooting himself squarely and repeatedly about the feet and ankles. Certainly much stranger and less wise things have issued forth from Team Crankypants, this year.

The choice of a military leader -- be it Petreaus or someone else -- is plausible but, presumably, not under serious consideration for the imbalance it would create in the campaign's offensive capabilities headed into the fall. A self-proclaimed non-expert on the economy, choosing a General for his running-mate, at a time when unemployment and inflation are both inching higher and middle-class jobs are disappearing down T-1 lines to India? Not even the McCain organization is that self-destructive.

Which leaves the wildcard in the mix: Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Surely this is the person that the Obama campaign would have wanted least: A woman, first and foremost--someone who could have suggested a viable reason for disaffected supporters of Hillary Clinton to make good on their half-idle promises to defect, but, ingeniously, a woman whose conservative credentials were forged in a venom-spewing keynote delivered at the 1992 Republican Convention. Hutchinson would've worried Obama/Biden, and her whereabouts at this hour are not known.

But a funny thing happened along the way to McCain's brilliant counter-punch: The supposedly selfish and "Ego First" Clintons stole the Hillary supporters back from McCain before he'd even properly had a chance to pitch his case to them, with stirring speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday night, with soaring speeches and unflinching support and determination to see Barack Obama in the White House. Today it seems unlikely that a shrill, hawkish, Nixon-throwback Texan will do much of anything to peel the women's vote from Obama, regardless of her gender.

And as for the scheduling itself? What adjectives are left to a sober columnist reaching for the opposite of "brilliant"? The opposite of "deft"? The opposite of "Machiavellian," or "genius," or "skillful"? The decision to try to steel Obama's thunder with a next-day change of subject always seemed just juvenile and petty--but now, this morning, with the stirring words and stunning turn-of-rhetoric carried off by Barack Obama less than twelve hours earlier, it also seems, frankly, stupid.

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

1 comment:

isuyankee said...

Brlliant pick by McCain I think. The lack of experience angle Democrats are trying to take will backfire I think. The bottom line is that she's likable--a Washington outsider, a reformer, a beauty queen, a high school basketball star. Pro-life with a Down's Syndrome child---she is bulletproof. I am rooting for Obama, but give McCain credit for this---should pull in some Hilary Democrats too.