Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is Palin the pick of a born-again maverick, or just a dirty old man?

Who saw that one coming? Sen. John McCain's selection of Gov. Sarah Palin to round out the Republican ticket seems to have struck almost everybody as a stunning surprise.

In an off-the-wall way, this rather strange pick does work to help revalidate McCain's maverick credentials, which have come into question this year, as he seems to have moved toward President George Bush. McCain didn't pick a guy anybody expected.

Palin has served as Alaska's governor since December of 2006. Prior to that she served for six years as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a village of some 7,000, and as Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for two years. And, by the way, she placed second in the Miss Alaska pageant in 1984.

Yes, Palin, with her sparkly smile, nice cheekbones and schoolmarm cheaters, is a lot prettier than the likes of the former governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge, or Sen. Joe Lieberman. No doubt, much will be made of her good looks during the campaign.

Palin is a proud pro-lifer, too, who seems to have ideological appeal to the far right element of the GOP. Ultra-conservative Richard A. Viguerie says: "She's perfect ... McCain has chosen to balance his ticket with a principled conservative."

Viguerie is the sort of taste-maker who doesn't mind that his comment might suggest McCain is neither genuinely conservative or particularly principled. Many of Rush Limbaugh's dittoheads would probably be happy to second such purity test slurs.

With a less-than-subtle gesture, Palin mentioned Clinton's "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling" in her first opportunity to speak as the presumptive vice presidential nominee.

Whether Pailn will have much appeal to Sen. Hillary Clinton's
sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pantsuits type of supporters remains to be seen. Are women really going to be so fixed on electing a female this year that they will freak out by the millions and abandon their concerns for traditional issues that have always been at the top of the feminist agenda?

"I know Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on MSNBC.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to do with McCain's pick for Veep was his willingness to give up being able to effectively criticize Obama as "not ready." If McCain thinks Palin is ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, then he can hardly say with a straight face that Obama isn't ready to be president.

Maybe McCain, 72, just wants to travel around the country with a former beauty pageant contestant who, at 44, is aging gracefully. Like, if he's looking at losing, anyway, because it's just not his year ... why not make it a pleasant ride?

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea


Anonymous said...

I don’t know about McCain accepting that it isn’t his year, but I don’t doubt that his predilection for pretty gals can’t be ignored in his selection of Palin. While he doesn’t rank up there with Bill Clinton, or even his old Senate buddy Bob Packwood (R-Oregon), who was forced to resign his seat due to charges of sexual misconduct, McCain has a history, and lots of rumors, to support that theory. Forget about traveling around the country for a couple of months with a partner who could be considered easy on the eyes; he’s looking for someone prettier than Cheney to share those Prez/Vice Prez breakfast meetings with ;-)

With regard to giving up the “not ready to lead” claim on Obama, I felt the same way. However, it appears that the McCain camp had done some testing which indicated that label, while worth something, was not as valuable as the “change” moniker. With Obama’s choice of Biden (36 years in the Senate doesn’t sound like change to most folks), McCain saw his opening to somewhat equate the "change" value of the tickets. In addition, the Republican surrogates have already started making the case that Palin has a lot more experience than Obama in the area of executive decisions/actions, and before it’s over they’ll be saying that her being in charge of the Alaska National Guard makes her more qualified than Obama to run the Pentagon should she have to step in for McCain. Interestingly, she’s almost exactly where Virginia’s Tim Kaine is in the experience arena (he was my favorite among the group that Obama was supposedly considering.)

While Wasserman-Schultz was correct in her paraphrasing of Lloyd Bentsen’s Dan Quayle/JFK debate line, that somewhat misses the point. Of course the Hillary base in the feminist movement isn’t going to vote for Palin, but one has to remember where Clinton’s strength was in the primaries – working class, non-college educated whites, especially in small towns. A lot (or, at least enough) of the women in those communities weren’t aligned with Clinton as strongly on the feminist agenda, as they were on what they perceived to be a “more like us” image. If Hillary could sell them on that, I’m sure a self-described hockey mom, with a blue collar/union member husband, and a brood of 5 kids, will get a lot of attention from those women. And yes, just as there were lots of Catholics who voted for JFK who didn’t define themselves as Dem’s, and there will be plenty of minorities voting for Obama who haven't bothered voting in the past, there will be women who vote for Palin just to see one of their own reach the top – well almost. In a close race, that slice of the pie could be important.

All that being said, choosing someone so untested, and unfamiliar with the glare of those national spotlights, is fraught with opportunities for serious mis-statements, so this pick is definitely a big gamble, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Ernie Brooks
Washington, DC

Parker said...

Wait until all the scandal that she's involved in comes out. "Troopergate" anyone?