Read Stephen's bio and previous columns


September 5, 2008

Despite the Cheers, McCain Will Regret the Palin Pick 
Sarah Palin, after her well-received speech Thursday, is no doubt the hit of the Republican National Convention, and there’s little doubt that she has won the hearts of the GOP rank-and-file. But despite the happy reception with the base, there are many reasons to believe John McCain is going to regret this choice.  

Palin appears to be wildly popular among the conservative base, especially those who feel most strongly about abortion, those who favor the "values" of a candidate above any one issue, or those who believe that standing up to the "liberal media" is more important than any particular policy stand. 

But legitimate questions have been raised about the candidate. Whether she was actually given more than minimal vetting by the McCain campaign. Whether she supported or opposed the controversial "Bridge to Nowhere" (it appears she did both at different times.) Whether she or her husband Todd ever belonged to a secessionist Alaskan political party (Todd, it appears, did; Sarah didn't but went to their convention.) And perhaps most prominently, the controversy over the firing of a state public safety official who refused to fire Palin's former brother-in-law (the investigation is ongoing; she has lawyered up). 


And this is only what has emerged in Palin's first few days in the national public eye. She even appeared on the cover of the notoriously liberal journal US Weekly, above the headline "Babies, Lies and Scandal." (And it's Barack Obama who's similar to Paris and Britney?) 


But the problem isn’t Palin herself. It’s the utterly false and dishonest narrative the GOP has built around her.


In reaction to all this, the conservative talk radio and blogosphere universes – with marching orders from Steve Schmidt and the McCain campaign – have constructed an elaborate narrative about Palin and what has happened since her pick, and it goes something like this:


The mainstream media, or more broadly, “the left,” has made the collective decision to destroy Sarah Palin, through the daily and sometimes hourly circulation of clearly false smears. Any and all bad news or negative disclosures about the candidate are a result, completely and entirely, of this conspiracy.


The media, according to his narrative, has spread the “fictions” that Palin was never vetted, spread lies about her family and background, and it’s all based both on liberal bias and sexism. This is both false and bound to fail.


It’s false, mostly because the idea of a massive media conspiracy doesn’t even begin to stand up to scrutiny. Take it point by point: The New York Times and Washington Post have both published elaborately sourced pieces, pretty much confirming that Palin was never seriously vetted until the days before she was picked, and the campaign never even sent staff to Alaska until the day before the pick was announced.


Did the “mainstream media” violate Palin’s privacy in disclosing her daughter’s pregnancy? I’d say no, considering that the news was broken, on Monday, by the Palin family itself. Yes, the National Enquirer claims that it was about to break the story before the family came forward, but I don’t remember the Enquirer being considered part of the Liberal MSM Complex back when it was ending John Edwards’ career a few weeks ago.


As for the wildly untrue, "Paul-is-Dead"-like conspiracy theory about the parentage of Palin's youngest child, it started on one blog, and was virtually ignored by the mainstream media until it was called false in light of the later news.


The “Media Hates Palin” narrative was also sort of undermined when that very same media gave nearly universal praise to her acceptance speech.


The reason this strategy can’t work is that a constant blame-the-media strategy works with the base and only the base – and this year, the Republican base isn’t large enough to win by itself. If they’re going to defeat Obama, the GOP needs to pursue some independents and undecided voters – who tend not to be persuaded by the-media’s-against-us appeals.


For a party that for decades has claimed to reject both identity politics and victim-mongering, the GOP has certainly found ways to love both in the past week.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # SS118. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause