David B.




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September 22, 2008

Sarah Palin: Giving McCain That Sinking Feeling


Even in the cavalcade of absurdities and juvenelia that have come to characterize contemporary America, John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate stands out as one of the most peculiar, feeble-minded political decisions in living memory. Never especially revered for his vision, prescience or intellectual acuity, the doddering “maverick” seems to have outdone himself in his selection of Palin, a woman destined to go down in history as the living embodiment of a political albatross.


There once was a moment when it seemed that at last, John Sidney McCain’s time had perhaps come. A few months ago, as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton clawed each other to shreds on the long bloody path to the Democratic nomination, McCain was ascendant: The elder statesman, reassuringly above the fray, the very vision of steadfast security and steady helmsmanship. While it was never assumed that a President McCain would navigate too far afield of the tainted route established by George Bush, Dick Cheney and company, the popular perception of McCain as an honorable, straight-shooting rationalist looked pretty appealing to an electorate weary of he said-she said squabbling.


All McCain had to do was play his cards right, remain above the fray, and present some semblance of a leadership vision to a public clearly hungry for “change,” in whatever form it might take.


It wasn’t especially surprising to find that in fact, McCain had no vision whatsoever. It was surprising to find that even armed with a phalanx of high-powered lobbyists in senior campaign positions, and with a full summer in which to generate an idea or two, he couldn’t even manage to fake one. When the primary battles had faded and America once again turned its attention to the septuagenarian senator from Arizona, they found him in the same befuddled and rudderless state they’d left him in at the conclusion of the GOP primary battle several months earlier. Asked to provide the slightest scintilla of fresh thinking, or even the most general idea of how his hoped-for administration would differ from the eight-year Bush train wreck, it was plain to see that John McCain had nothing to offer as he creaked his way towards the joyless, lifeless GOP convention in St. Paul.


John McCain needed a trick, and needed it fast. Bingo: A comparatively youthful, comparatively energetic female running mate – just the ticket. And without further ado, a disgraced, failed governor was magically transformed into St. Sarah, the miraculous rejuvenator of an old man’s fading dream and a waning party’s failed ideology.


It seemed so brilliant at first: Suddenly, Barack Obama and all of his tiresome talk of policies and principles took a back seat to hockey mommery and moose hunting. Now there’s a maverick for you! Blows away wildlife with a .30-06 out in the field, and transforms its habitat into drilling fields once she’s back at the office. For a nation chock-full of puerile cowboy fantasists, what wasn’t to love?


Well, plenty as it turned out. As a candidate, Sarah Palin turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving – for Democrats. From Troopergate through $24,000 sport utility vehicles, from stunningly clueless interview responses to forcing rape victims to pay for their own investigation kits, from quoting white supremacists in her acceptance speech to spouting debunked lies repeatedly on the stump, Palin has transformed herself from McCain’s salvation into his Waterloo. The candidate packaged and sold as an all-American hockey mom has been gradually outed as a backwoods mini-Mussolini equipped with a pint-sized intellect and an elephantine ego.


There is a limit to what even Americans will fall for, and a corrupt screeching-voiced Alaskan crank doesn’t pass muster as change they can believe in, no matter how badly they want to. A hard swing toward unfavorability in current polling numbers – over 10 points in the past week, and showing no sign of slowing – demonstrates that in selecting Palin, John McCain’s biggest, most desperate bid for political currency consisted of diving into deep water while handing himself an anvil.


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


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