How Palin was chosen

Dan Balz and Robert Barnes in the Washington Post describe the vetting process that led to the selection of Sarah Palin. Far from being a last minute choice, she was at the top of the list from the start. But the McCain circle was so secretive in their deliberations that no one knew it. Joseph C. writes:

I was a bit surprised at first at John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as Vice President. But the more I think about it, the more the choice seems consistent with the rest of McCain’s arrogance and impertinence. Leaving aside the merits or demerits of Palin’s record, John McCain continues to define himself.

Most political observers know that—given a chance—McCain would have chosen a more liberal running mate such as Joe Lieberman, Chuck Hagel or Tom Ridge. The talk of a “fractured Republican base” was largely overblown, but still, the choice of Palin will be less damaging to conservative psyche. But given Palin’s lack of experience, name recognition, or accomplishments, this seems like a nominee that John McCain was dragged kicking and screaming into choosing. To paraphrase his hissy fit about the border fence, one can almost hear him saying “I don’t think a conservative is the best choice, but I’ll put a g****n conservative on the ticket if they want one.” As you pointed out, a half-term governor of a state very far removed from the continental U.S.—culturally as well as geographically—is hardly the best choice to fire up the base.

So what does McCain accomplish with this choice? The following:

• He avoids having the country club moderates like himself take full blame for his coming defeat;

• He placates his real base—the media—with the history making selection of the first woman on the GOP ticket;

• He gives cover to the “establishment” conservatives (i.e., Lowry, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc.), who can now cite Palin as “proof” that the ticket is not a slap in the face. (A moot point anyway, since they would have sold their own mothers into slavery before they declined to dutifully pull the lever for McCain anyhow); and,

• He plays up his maverick streak by not having chosen a more recognizable and ready conservative (i.e., Jeff Sessions, Tom Tancredo, etc.).

And furthermore, I think McCain knows that Palin is not the choice that gives him the best chance in November, but doesn’t care. He views this campaign as his last act of so-called patriotism. (My problem with McCain—or Obama—is not their patriotism, but their lack of nationalism). He will not run a very tough, negative campaign highlighting Obama’s many flaws—for that would be “divisive.” He will not fight Obama with nearly the same fire he fought the GOP over immigration, for that would be “uncivil.” More likely, he will assume the role of punching bag—a la Bob Dole in 1996—staying above the fray, getting clobbered in the press, and decrying the unfairness of it all in December.

For John McCain, nearly all of his goals have been accomplished. By garnering the nomination, he has saved the Democrats (and the country) from the mean old nationalists in the GOP who stand for American culture and sovereignty. He has proven his liberal bona fides by putting a woman on the ticket. And he has not overstepped his bounds by trying too hard to defeat the first black nominee for the presidency. All that is left is for him to fall on his sword, finish out his lackluster campaign, and seal his ignominious (and deserved) defeat.

LA replies:

It’s an interesting theory, and readily testable by the way McCain conducts himself in the rest of the campaign and whether he wins or not.

But read the Washington Post article linked in this entry on how Palin was selected. The picture that emerges is the exact opposite of McCain’s being dragged kicking and screaming to the Palin selection.

Larry G. writes:

The reaction to the selection of Governor Palin reminds me of how you can have in mind the image of a perfect spouse, and then one day by chance, you fall in love with someone who is not at all like that image. It makes you think and re-evaluate the qualities you thought were important. You might even start rationalizing that the absence of some quality you used to consider essential is actually an advantage. And you do all this because you like the person and really want to see the relationship work. Meanwhile, your relatives’ reactions may range from “Oh dear,” to “Are you out of your mind??!!” In the end, these unexpected selections are probably as likely to succeed (or fail) as the unattainable “perfect” ones.

The Washington Post article shows that while a chance meeting may have brought Governor Palin to McCain’s attention, she was subjected to the same lengthy vetting process as Romney, Pawlenty, Lieberman and others, and still came out on top. McCain didn’t pick her on a lark, or alone, but in consultation with five or six other people, all but one experienced political aides. They must have liked what they saw in her.

The criticism that Governor Palin lacks “foreign policy experience” is a strange one if you look back at previous Vice Presidents. Did Albert Gore have foreign policy experience when he was selected to run for the Vice Presidency? Did Gerald Ford? Nelson Rockefeller? [Lyndon Johnson? Harry Truman? Harry Truman was a purely political pick, was ignored and kept in the dark by Roosevelt, and yet was able to step up to the Presidency upon Roosevelt’s death, conclude World War II, and become one of our better presidents due to his inherent abilities and strength of character. [LA replies: I’m really suprrised by your examples. Every man you mention had had many many years in high political office dealing with among other things foreign policy.]

Managerial jobs being somewhat general in nature, it is those inherent abilities and strength of character that are more relevant than specific experience. The State Department is full of people who supposedly have “foreign policy experience,” and yet they have made a complete hash of our foreign relations. Condoleeza Rice was supposed to be an expert on the subject of the Soviet Union, yet it doesn’t seem to have helped her deal successfully with Putin’s Russia, never mind the Middle East.

My impression is that Sarah Palin has the skills and character necessary to be a good Vice President. I also feel she will have plenty of time to learn the skills necessary to take over as President should that become necessary at some point, something I feel is unlikely.

Larry G. continues:

There are some interesting blog postings about Palin here.

I also wanted to mention that I thought the way the announcement was handled was a political master stroke. It’s fitting that Alaska is home to part of our anti-ballistic missile defense system, because the Palin announcement was a “boost-phase intercept” of the Obama campaign shortly after it cleared the launch pad. Perhaps we’ve been “misunderestimating” McCain.

LA replies:

I agree it was remarkable. On one hand, the bizarre closeness of the two conventions, one takng place immediately after the other (which has never been done before in modern times), made that kind of “stepping on your heels” announcement inevitable. On the other hand, whatever one thinks about McCain, one must say that the sccrecy followed by the utter surprise, followed by the sudden appearance on the national stage of this new and intriguing political personality, was an unprecedented coup.

Zachary W. writes:

May I offer a prediction?

Barring some catastrophe (e.g. a McCain heart attack, or another Katrina), I think the Palin pick wraps up the presidency for McCain. Did you see Camille Paglia’s quote on Palin: “We may be seeing the first woman president. As a Democrat, I am reeling … That was the best political speech I have ever seen delivered by an American woman politician. [Sarah] Palin is as tough as nails … Good Lord, we had barely 12 hours of Democrat optimism … It was a stunningly timed piece of PR by the Republicans.” Now, Paglia is always hyperbolic and often wrong, but when it comes to women, she’s quite astute; and she has enough intellectual integrity to speak honestly where the Maureen Dowds of the world are grossly incapable.

Even if Palin makes a few Quayle-like blunders, I can’t see it mattering in the long run. As we can gauge from the donations pouring into his campaign, McCain has just shored up his conservative base. And any lingering doubts conservatives still have will eventually be assuaged by McCain’s “war hero” story and by their contempt for the Marxist mulatto running against him. (Bush wasn’t really conservative either, and they came out in droves for him.) Moreover, I think to independents and undecideds, McCain is overall significantly more likable and impressive than Bush was.

So, if you look at this map , it seems very likely to me that McCain will carry Virginia and every borderline state now leaning red (colored pink on the map), whereas it is highly doubtful Obama will win every borderline state now leaning blue (colored light blue on the map). If McCain wins any two of the following states: NV, CO, NM, IA—he takes the prize. (Bush won all four in 2004, despite trailing in them on and off leading up to November.) McCain’s also got a chance in any one of the bigger states: MN, WI, MI, PA—(he’s now trailing by only five percent in each)—any single one of which would put him over the top. Obama has to go seven-for-eight (or even eight-for-eight) in these states to become President. I don’t see it happening. Demographics haven’t changed all that much in four years.

Of course, there’s a mind-boggling amount of emotional investment in Obama. So, re your preference for Obama on the grounds that there’s a chance the truth about black America will come out into the open if he wins: it’s possible there’s a greater likelihood of that if he loses.

LA replies:


Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 31, 2008 05:21 PM | Send

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