Monday, September 1, 2008

The McCain scrutiny XIV

With the Friday selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the most important decision John McCain made in his presidential campaign is the worst. The still-unfinished impact of Hurricane Gustav (whose arrival in the Gulf Coast overnight has effectively scuttled plans for a blowout event at the opening of the Republican convention) may pale in comparison to what's facing his campaign and its appeal to a wider number of voters.



What was at first and second blush a cynical, reflexive play to his conservative base and to any women voters still angered by Sen. Hillary Clinton’s defeat has now mushroomed almost overnight into a choice whose potential for disaster seems to grow every day.

The blogosphere takes no weekends off, and the media world was therefore aflame today with the latest BOMBSHELL! about the Alaska governor and the Palin family story: The campaign announced that Bristol Palin, the governor’s 17-year-old daughter and one of her five children, is five months pregnant, and the baby is due in late December.

In a family statement, Palin (and by extension Team McCain) tried to spin it like a scene from “Juno.” “Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents,” Sarah and husband Todd Palin said.

“Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family,” they added. (Apparently no ID available of “the young man she will marry.”)



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Don’t get it wrong: The coming birth of a child is a wonderful, transcendent and defining experience in anyone’s life, and is itself to be met with celebration. But this will be no ordinary child. This will be a child born to a teenage daughter of a sitting governor seeking to become Vice President of the United States, a governor with three other minor children, one of whom (still an infant) was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome shortly after birth.

The problem of Palin's lack of experience is already a campaign issue, one laid bare in a recent interview when Palin said she didn't know what it was the Vice President of the United States even does.



Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic finds that Palin's lack of knowledge extends to matters about the war in Iraq.

Palin's choice gets exponentially worse when you factor in the lack of judgment. It’s a lack of judgment evidenced by her imprudent willingness to take on the full-time rigors of a presidential campaign with so many pressing issues (literally) at home.

And worse still, it’s a lack of judgment on the part of John McCain for choosing a candidate with so many full-time personal issues in the first place, and knowing what those issues were before she was selected. WTF was he thinking?

Incoming! The blognoscenti at The Huffington Post weighs in:

LeaningIndy: Dad had a DWI some years back, teenage daughter gets pregnant, Mom can hold her own with her mouth and a shootin' iron, bearskin rug complete with head on the couch... I'm just waiting for the double-wide to roll up.

Interstate4Housewife: How could a mother be so selfish to put her political ambitions before her family? If she had declined the Veep position most likely this would have never made national news. Now her poor daughter has to go through unrelenting scrutiny from the public.

DebM: I am highly offended as a woman and mother that these children are now being thrust front and center in this campaign. Blame the media? Absolutely NOT. I blame Sarah Palin...she knew these kids were going to be exposed and instead of doing the right thing and saying no when McCain offered her VP, she went ahead for her own personal gain. So now her daughter especially, an innocent child who made a mistake, will forever be branded. Sarah Palin, you're an embarrassment. If I were a Republican who felt very strongly about family values, I'd be livid.

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It gets worse for the McCain campaign. The Washington Post reported that Palin began the process of establishing her political bona fides by acting as a director of an independent (527) political group organized by Sen. Ted Stevens, now under indictment on corruption charges, and set to stand trial before the election in November.

The Post’s Matthew Mosk reported that “Palin's name is listed on 2003 incorporation papers of the "Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.," a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. The group was designed to serve as a political boot camp for Republican women in the state. She served as one of three directors until June 2005, when her name was replaced on state filings.”

Want some more? Joe Klein, blogging at Time.com on Sunday, reported that a Frank Luntz/AARP focus group of undecided voters in Minnesota rejected the choice of Palin for vice president. “Only one person said Palin made him more likely to vote for McCain; about half the 25-member group raised their hands when asked if Palin made them less likely to vote for McCain. They had a negative impression of Palin by a 2-1 margin,” Klein reported. Maybe Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty should keep McCain’s number in the speed dial a while longer.

Can it get any worse? Oh yeah — the kickoff for the NFL season is the same night as McCain’s acceptance speech.

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That's just bad timing, nothing to be done about that. There's a bigger matter that persists, one of deliberate timing: Why’d it take John McCain so long to make this choice? He’s had the nomination presumptively locked up since the first week of March.

For all the chin-pulling and deliberation McCain wants the American people to think he was doing all this time, the list of his serious vice-presidential choices never really got much beyond five or six names — Mitt Romney, Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman and Tim Pawlenty, with Condoleezza Rice and Carly Fiorina on the outside rail. Others were mentioned in passing (Charlie Crist, Bobby Jindal) or should have been (Kay Bailey Hutchison).

Where the hell did Sarah Palin come from? When did she make this big move like an also-ran at the Kentucky Derby who wins coming from behind?

With all the time that’s passed since McCain won the presumptive nomination, it’s, well, curious that he’d wait until literally days before the convention started to name his vice-presidential pick. This is a little like those TV and movie studios that won’t give critics an advance look at one of their latest releases (since the word on the street is that it’s a bomb).

The burden of a candidate identifying himself, his message and the purpose and value of his vice-presidential choice is very squarely on the shoulders of John McCain right now. He has astronomically more work to do in this regard than the Obama campaign, and that’s assuming there’s no change in the McCain ticket.

Far-fetched? Richard Gizbert, formerly with ABC News and now at Listening Post for al Jazeera, went so far today as to say, plain and simple, that McCain would remove Palin from the ticket in the next week or so.

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Until or unless that happens, McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin will generate words for journos and pollsters for weeks to come. Some of those are likely to come out of her own name — a kind of an etymological/political Palindrama.

Here’s the ‘Vox list of words extracted from SARAH PALIN:

Rash (as in ill-conceived)

Ails (as in effect on the campaign)

Pain, pains (speak for themselves)

Rasa (as in tabula rasa, a blank tablet or a clean slate [or a short resume])

Spin (as in what we can expect constantly from Team McCain about his Veep choice)

Hairp[i]n (as in the turns awaiting the McCain Straight Talk Express from here on in)

Nail (as in coffin)

How many can you come up with?
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Image credit: McCain in Denver: T toes, republished under Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0. Sen. Ted Stevens: Public domain.

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