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