Saturday, August 30, 2008

Choosing Palin: Gutsy or Reckless?

There are two different views starting to form about McCain choosing Palin.

On the one hand, there are those like Nate Silver, who agrees with me that Olympia Snowe would have far and away been the better game-changing choice, but who nevetheless sees this move as a bold, gutsy gamble to come from behind.

On the other, those like Andrew Sullivan agree with me that in chosing Palin, McCain exhibits recklessness, showing that he's putting an electoral gamble ahead of what's best for leading this country should he actually win the election.

In the end, I have to disagree with Nate. I don't see this move as "gutsy" at all. In fact, quite the opposite. It was almost as if McCain looked at all his choices and said, "who can I select that will offend the fewest people and possibly change the story from Obama's great convention?" My sense is that he gave it no more thought than that, as this candidate hasn't even been vetted (according to Andrew, McCain met her once. And for someone who's been in politics only a couple years, she's racked up quite an array of scandals.)

That strikes me, as Andrew says, as quite reckless.

And again, the more and more I think about this pick, the more I have to say, why not Olympia Snowe? If McCain REALLY wanted to take a gutsy gamble, that would have been it. Yes, it would have blown up the convention. But that kind of internal drama would cause people to tune in after getting a bit tired of appointment viewing, and could have even led to better ratings than Obama received. McCain could have talked some pro-lifers into vouchesafing for them both and in the end, he could show the same kind of leadership of his party as Obama has.

That kind of standing up to the right wing I think would have not just put McCain ahead, it would have guaranteed the election for him. What have the Democrats done all week? Tied McCain to Bush - McBush, he's become. Palin does nothing to get out of that impression; in fact, with Palin's relationships to Big Oil and her cronyism scandles, it just reinforces that impression.

But Olympia Snowe would have signaled that McCain is his own man and the Democrats were wrong. It would have not just seemed a novelty pick but would have gotten the whores in the press to REALLY gush over the boldness of the Republican ticket. Even if the right-wing conservatives had stayed home, it would have won back the conservative Democrats and independants nervous about Obama's liberal roots. It would have allowed McCain to claim the mantle of being his own independent man, of creating history by putting a woman in the White House, and of being serious about tackling the country's issues. Palin only achieves one of those goals, and quite cynically, too.

And if he had chosen Snowe, the choice would seem *authentic*. McCain and Snowe worked together as part of the Gang of 14. He actually knows her. They have had very similar thoughts on policy. She would have actually SWUNG a Democratic state into his column and delivered another 4 electoral votes, and probably have delivered New Hampshire as well. And in states like Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina where the election is close and evengelicals might stay home, Snowe would appeal to women and conservative Democrats and he'd be able to have a decent fighting chance - to stay even at least, possibly pull ahead. There's no danger of losing states like Georgia or Alabama. Even if it alienated the base, on the electoral map, Snowe seems a no-brainer.

Perhaps, in the end, the biggest problem with Palin as a choice is that it seems totally *inauthentic*. A mere cynical (and not even well-though-out) ploy to do something novel. As I said before, it's not the VP themselves, but what it says about the candidate that counts. The one thing McCain had going for him over Obama was a feeling that many people had, correct or not, that he was more authentic. This choice squanders that. Now, if you ask me, he has nothing. He hasn't given the American public any credit for their intelligence. The public, typically, doesn't react well to that.

So the longer this choice sits with me, the more I think it's not just's stupid.

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