There is so much to say about Sarah Palin, and John McCain’s selection of her (for now) as his running mate that it is difficult to know where to commence and even more difficult to encapsulate my argument, but here goes:
--My initial reaction was that this was a silly pick; McCain threw the Hail Mary when doing so was not necessary. (See my 8/18/08 and 8/28/08 posts.) Tactically, he would have been better off with a safe pick, like Tim Pawlenty or a slightly more daring pick, like Kaye Bailey Hutchison. My feelings have not changed on my assessment of the tactical benefits for selecting Sarah Palin. The experience/celebrity argument will resonate with a substantial number of voters, largely justifiably, no matter how effectively the GOP spins it.
--The more I learned about Sarah Palin (Which was just about everything; even I, who follows these things with, if not the rigor I once did, with more attention than most people, knew almost nothing about Sarah Palin.), the more I liked her politics, ideas, and, especially, her approach to the political establishment. I would even go so far as to say that if she were at the top of the ticket, I might even consider voting Republican, but still probably wouldn’t. Further, the argument that she has more administrative experience than Barack Obama or Joe Biden makes sense; she has actually run something, which is more than one can say about Messrs. Obama, Biden, or McCain. (Funny how Ms. Palin’s defender never seem to mention the last when engaging in the “having run something” defense.) Further, given the derision the GOP, and its standard-bearer, have given Mr. Obama’s level of experience, the bar they have chosen to boost Ms. Palin over is very low.
--The pregnancy of Ms. Palin’s 17 year old daughter Bristol does change things. Tactically, one has to wonder how those not very engaged voters (who will ultimately decide the election) who would like her story line will react to this one. I know several of those relatively apolitical Moms who were initially drawn to her who are now hesitating. Tactically, this can’t help.
--I’m not comfortable with the argument that Ms. Palin is an evangelical Christian, the type that likes to tell everyone else how to run their families, but can’t seem to run her own. It fails, or at least is unsatisfactory and/or mean spirited, at any number of points. But this simplistic argument will appeal to a lot of undecideds.
--My bigger problem with the pregnancy, or, really, Ms. Palin’s reaction to it, is her use of the word “proud” when describing both her daughter’s decisions to have the baby and to marry his or her father and Ms. Palin’s and her husband’s feelings regarding becoming the grandparents of a child of a teen mother. If Palin had said that she was proud that her daughter decided not to abort the baby, I would wholeheartedly agree. But is she proud of the fact that her daughter has decided to marry the 18 year old father of her child? It seems like adoption would the best option here for the unborn child and for his or her parents. That would be a decision of which one could be justifiably proud. But to be proud of teenage motherhood? The self-appointed champions of the unborn and of family values seem to be rallying around this decision. Hmm….If the idea of teenagers’ getting married because of pregnancy is the Religious Right’s idea of family values (which it sure seems like they would like to impose on all of us), perhaps the Religious Right is as scary as my liberal and moderate friends seem to think. Teen pregnancy is a HUGE problem in this country, and, as politically incorrect as it seems to be, restoring some of the stigma formerly attached to it might help reduce teen pregnancy. Having a potential VP of the United States tell us how “proud” she will be to be the grandparent of the child of a teen mom doesn’t help.
--It seems to me that Ms. Palin, with a Down’s syndrome baby and a pregnant daughter, has a lot on her plate at the moment. Is this the time to be running for a job like VP that could soon turn into the biggest job in the world? It is one of the odd juxtapositions of this campaign that it is people, primarily women, on the more liberal end of the spectrum who are making this argument while “family values” conservatives tend to argue that it is perfectly acceptable for Ms. Palin to be (Let’s be brutally honest here.) displaying at least a degree of neglect of her family’s current dire needs, and exposing her very vulnerable daughter to some harsh worldwide publicity at a very tough time, in order to further her own career. That’s the funny thing about principles: They seem to be amazingly disposable when they become inconvenient or interfere with ambition.
--John McCain (Did you know he was a POW in Vietnam? (Only once per post, Susan, I promise.)) tells us he was aware of the pregnancy when he offered Ms. Palin the VP spot on the ticket. Do you believe that? I don’t. Why would one take on all this baggage and grief? Is energizing the base worth it? If McCain is indeed lying and he did not know about the pregnancy, then Palin either lied or was not asked the final question: “Is there anything I should know before I ask you to be my running mate?” One or both members of the GOP ticket do not look great under this scenario. If Mr. McCain is not lying and did indeed know of the Bristol’s pregnancy, it says a lot about his judgment, his stubbornness, his ability to make an effective cost/benefit analysis, and/or his new found subservience to the Religious Right base. He looks bad under any scenario.
The best outcome for the GOP, Mr. McCain, Ms. Palin, her family, and especially Bristol, would be for Palin to “voluntarily” leave the ticket in order to attend to her family’s needs, which are indeed very great right now. It’s the right thing to do morally; Ms. Palin is a very strong woman whose family really needs her now. It might even turn out to be the right thing to do politically. Mr. McCain and the GOP can do without the baggage Ms. Palin brings. And Ms. Palin is a very young woman whose time will come again, and her living the values she propounds can only help her with her base when she resumes her political career, as I certainly hope she does…at a more opportune time.