The news was so stunning I refused to believe it until I saw John McCain on the TV screen announcing his pick for Vice President. There's no need to disparage Sarah Palin. She's seems like a smart, serious person. But what the choice reveals about McCain is devastating with a capital D for Desperation.
Within forty-eight hours, all America will be talking about her. What people will say is, "You mean, if John McCain croaks, she becomes our president?" Gasp, yes. That is what McCain has decided. So much for "experience" and wise judgment as a campaign issue.
The Senator was widely thought to be on the fifty-yard line, nose to nose with Barack Obama. But this selection reveals the Republican campaign strategists knew better. Picking the obscure and under-experienced governor from Alaska for veep means McCain and his people recognize they are in a very weak position for the fall campaign. So weak they decided to throw a forty-year Hail Mary pass and hope audaciously for a lucky catch.
It won't succeed. In fact, I expect this gambit is going to drive far more voters to Obama's column than it does for McCain.
Choosing Palin kills the "experience" argument. Republicans must have recognized from their own market research that it wasn't working for them. For two months or more, McCain and his handlers have smeared and slandered Obama, mocked his star quality talents, belittled his lack of tenure in Washington back rooms and accused him of unpatriotic egotism. Clearly, their internal polling told them this line of character attack wasn't grabbing the public. Playing the wise old man was not going to be enough to overcome McCain's other significant handicaps, his somewhat doddering style and memory lapses, his deadly embrace of right-wing cant and G.W. Bush.
So, what the hell, let's take a wild shot and see what happens. The other veep possibilities are dull guys in good suits. Let's go with the young gal from Alaska. She's not only a woman--she's a mother! You want history-making? We Republicans can do history-making.
Their internal logic was obvious, it was also pathetic. Putting a woman on the ticket is supposed to draw away those discontented Clinton voters in the Democratic party. Not going to happen, I think. First, that group has dwindled considerably in the last few days--thanks to Hillary Clinton's straight-shooting endorsement of Obama and especially to Bill Clinton's brilliant blessing. The former President went the full mile in defending Obama as ready to be President by reminding everyone that he too had been dogged for a youthful lack of experience. Any remaining bitterness among Clinton voters will not be salved by supporting a hardcore right-winger on feminist issues.
The early returns I am hearing from people suggest that McCain's gambit may prove to be a home run (mixing my sports metaphors) for Obama. One young friend first heard the news from his mother who called to say, okay, she was switching to Obama. For months, she had rooted for Hillary and insisted Obama was too wet behind the ears. "You can stop arguing with your mother," she said.
Palin's previous political experience was as mayor in a town of 6,000. Did they mention this to John McCain? Or did he perhaps forget? Senator McCain says he has seasoned judgment, but he may have been over-cooked.