McCain Picks Palin

By now I’m sure you have heard that John McCain has chosen Alaska governor Sarah “Teach the Controversy” Palin to be his running mate. I think The New Republic has the most sensible take, by Peter Scoblic:

But surely a campaign that has been charged with being too naive to manage rogue state dictators can have a bit of fun with the idea that a one-time Miss Congeniality could effectively face down Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Kim Jong Il. Surely, Obama’s “eight is enough” quip ought to apply not only to President Bush’s economic and foreign policy travesties, but to the elevation of mediocrity that has characterized his appointment of Michael Brown to FEMA and his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. And surely we can agree that if the McCain campaign was desperate to transparently court voters put off by Hillary Clinton’s loss, there is no dearth of women with far greater intellectual, executive, and political abilities–abilities that would allow them to assume the presidency in a heartbeat.

That’s the conclusion. Go read the whole thing.

By any objective standard this is a terrible pick for precisely the reason Scoblic gives. There is no way she is ready to handle the Presidency. Obviously, though, the McCain folks have done the necessary cynical calculations and have decided that such charms as everyone says she has will be useful to the campaign. And since we have learned that Republicans don’t really take seriously the business of governing, it probably never even occurred to them to worry about her credentials.

Biden’s in trouble. Palin will have Quayle-like expectations on her in the debates. (Of course, Quayle himself underperformed his own very low expectations, but Dukakis was far too weak a candidate for that to matter.) She only needs to get through without a major gaffe to get favorable coverage. From the other side, there is already a media script on Biden: specifically that he tends to put his foot in his mouth. If he says anything, anything, that can be tortured into that script the pundits will pounce.

And if Biden does wipe her out in the debate, the Republicans will shamelessly play the chivalry card. The same press corps that gleefully and relentlessly went after Hillary Clinton in grotesquely sexist terms will turn on a dime and parrot Republican talking points about how the Democrats are beating up on a woman. They will do grimly serious segments in which right-wing mouth-breathers, red in the ears with phony outrage, take on hapless “Democratic strategists” who will find themselves unable to apologize fast enough for Biden’s boorish behavior. This, while a tag line reading, “Is Joe Biden a Raving Sexist?” appears at the bottom of the screen.

I have believed for some time now that McCain is likely to win this race. I have not decided yet whether that likelihood has increased or decreased with this pick.


  1. #1 Rich F
    August 29, 2008

    Biden’s in trouble. Palin will have Quayle-like expectations on her in the debates.

    Oops–just the other way around, I think you meant….

  2. #2 rich F
    August 29, 2008

    Damn! Didn’t read the whole thing before responding–bad! You got it right….

  3. #3 Tony
    August 29, 2008

    Likewise, I have figured that McCain would win this race… up til now.

    I find it more than coincidental that nearly every national race, including primaries, is a deadlocked tie. This is mostly due, IMO, to media manipulation of the various candidates: painting the underdog in a favorable light and, conversely, savaging the leading candidate, to make the race closer. It’s in their best interest that the races are all close.

    Now they have their work cut out for them. It will be interesting to see how the media polish this turd.

  4. #4 Matt Hussein Platte
    August 30, 2008

    ..more than coincidental that nearly every national race, including primaries, is a deadlocked tie..

    Yep, Tony, I’m standing beside you at the rail of yet another horse race, thinking the same thing.

  5. #5 SLC
    August 30, 2008

    The choice of VPs is interesting in that it illuminates the difference between McCain and Obama when it comes to gambling. Both candidates are gamblers. Senator McCain is known as a high stakes player at the craps tables in Las Vegas, while Senator Obama is a poker player who is known to be conservative in his approach to the game. McCain has rolled the dice in a high stakes gamble by choosing Palin while Obama showed his conservationism by choosing the safe candidate in Biden.

  6. #6 iRobot
    August 30, 2008

    Its not that Repubs dont take governing seriously, they actively set out to do it poorly so that they can continue to run against that terrible, incompetent big government. The end is to go back to Dickensian England. You have no rights but corporations are people with all the money and rights.

  7. #7 JimV
    August 30, 2008

    My first impression of Ms. Palin is that my religious friends and relatives are going to see in her someone who is just like themselves (or their wives). How that influences their votes will then depend on whether they think someone like themselves is qualified to be the backup president.

    We know how that turned out in 2000, but have they learned anything in the meantime? I am very nervous.

  8. #8 bmkmd
    August 30, 2008

    Palin and Intelligent Design? Why no, let’s have a discussion about evolution and CREATIONISM in our schools.

    …earlier that year (2006), the Anchorage Daily News reported that Palin said the following about creationism at a debate:

    “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information….Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject — creationism and evolution. It’s been a healthy foundation for me. But don’t be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.”

    Let kids debate both sides. Kids.

  9. #9 mufi
    August 30, 2008

    “I have believed for some time now that McCain is likely to win this race.”

    Based on what? Polls? Too soon to tell (although even exit polls on Election Day are known to be poor predictors of the final results). Evidence of Republican conspiracy to commit electoral fraud in swing states? Possibly — it’s been tried before, but that observation might just as well increase vigilance, or perhaps inspire a kind of arms race with this tactic.

    In any case, there’s enough uncertainty involved here that, instead of making predictions (which, on a cumulative scale, may lead to self-fulfilling prophecies), may I suggest that we stick to arguments as to which candidates would make better leaders?

    Having said that, it seems clear from Palin’s nomination alone that the McCain ticket has an anti-science agenda lurking in it.

  10. #10 Interrobang
    August 30, 2008

    By any objective standard this is a terrible pick for precisely the reason Scoblic gives.

    By any subjective standard, it was a stroke of genius. Considering that any criticism McCain gets, he deflects with something on the order of “You can’t say that about me, I was a POW!”, he can now claim that any criticism of Palin is misogyny. Together, they’re the Teflon Candidacy.

    Never mind that Republicans spent the entire Democratic primary throwing egregious sexist slurs at Hillary Clinton; it’s not like a little hypocrisy even slows Republicans down these days.

  11. #11 Jim Harrison
    August 31, 2008

    McCain’s choice of Palin is evidence of panic, not of advanced strategy. He hardly knows her, and she was never adequately vetted. The best historical analogy is McGovern’s choice of Eagleton. Far from insuring McCain’s election, I think there’s a pretty good chance Palin will be dropped from the ticket before the election. Lots of Americans don’t believe in evolution, but most of ’em do believe in birth control and some version of the separation of church and state. She was a hasty and indefensible choice, and she’s going to look worse and worse as the details come out about what she believes in.

  12. #12 mark
    August 31, 2008

    Now that she has be selected by McCain, what will become of the investigation into her scandal?

  13. #13 wbk
    August 31, 2008

    She may help turnout with right wing religious voters, but they were never going to vote Obama/Biden. She’s apparently not a popular pick with undecideds. I’ve seen the effect of her lack of experience argued both ways – it undercuts McCain’s attacks on Obama for his lack of experience, and it baits Obama into attacking Palin’s lack of experience, which can be turned around on him. Personally, I think it could go either way, and Obama/Biden should be able to deal with it if they’re careful. For example, it’s not a good idea to try to attack her as completely unsuitable because of her lack of experience, but rather criticize her record. Sounds like she wasn’t a great mayor of her tiny town, because she over-spent on a sports complex. It won’t be necessary to point out that her resume is thin, the fact that you’re talking about a sports complex in Wasila in a presidential race will more than make the point. Similarly, the fact that as a governor she had admittedly not been paying much attention to the war in Iraq means she has been willing to trust Bush/Cheney to get it right (I think at one point she said something to the effect that, since we hadn’t been attacked since 9/11, she figured they were doing well). It doesn’t matter whether she thinks that way because of a lack of experience, that’s what she thinks. I think the best way to make her look bad is to get her to talk as much as possible about as wide a range of topics as possible.

  14. #14 BobbyEarle
    August 31, 2008

    My first impression of the Palin choice was that McCain felt the desperation you mentioned, and went with his best bet for a winning running mate. Unfortunately, if he wins (and I just can’t believe that will happen), McCain, and all of us, will be stuck with an inexperienced godbot “pretty face” sitting just a heartbeat away from the oval office.

    Foresight…McCain is not doing it right.

  15. #15 Jud
    September 1, 2008

    I think Scoblic’s article takes slightly the wrong tack, and that the selection of Palin indicates a lower likelihood of a McCain presidency than you fear.

    First, McCain’s selection of Palin shows experience wasn’t as important to him as his attacks against Obama so strongly indicated. IOW, those attacks were Just Politics, and Just Politics ain’t playin’ well with the electorate this year, as you may have noticed. Many voters may not fully reason this out, but I’m guessing they’ll be feeling a vague disquiet regarding McCain, whatever they ascribe it to.

    Second, the pick indicates that, whatever national polls are showing, (1) internal McCain campaign polling must have indicated the attacks against Obama’s inexperience weren’t going to win; and (2) McCain has a major problem with what’s called the “intensity” of his support, that is, there’s a dearth of people whose support is strong enough that they are willing to make phone calls, car pool to the polls, volunteer for campaign field work, etc.

    The Palin pick is an obvious effort to ratchet up the support of the Republican base, and any “Reagan Democrats” who come along for the ride are pure gravy. However, the Republican base, and the numbers of independents who are receptive to “values” issues like abortion and gay marriage, are by all accounts smaller this year than at any time in the recent past.

    I think the pick shows the McCain campaign knows it’s in trouble. Very simply put, if he was cruising along nicely, he wouldn’t have made a pick calculated to shake things up.

  16. #16 Gerry L
    September 1, 2008

    A friend who is not all that wrapped up in campaign watching had this to say about McCain’s VP pick: He’s probably figuring he is going to lose, and this way he can blame his loss on a woman.

  17. #17 SLC
    September 3, 2008

    The attached Youtube video, hat tip to PZ, certainly will appeal to the blogs resident whackjob Mr. Jon S who has returned to offer us his words of unwisdom. However, it should scare the pants off of the sane visitors to this blog.

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