Barack Obama gave an awesome, awe inspiring, inspirational, sensational acceptance speech. It had a little something for everyone and appealed to both populists and pugilists. He showed he could do the dance of politics while dazzling the proletariat. It was great. And everyone agreed. Even Pat Buchanan and the boys on FOX News. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann went off, on air nonetheless, over the lone, rouge Associated Press wire editorialist who dared to say otherwise. The fireworks, the cheering crowds. Say what you want, as Papa Snob said while admiring the 85 thousand plus in the Mile High city, “That’s impressive.”
And you know that’s what the opposition thought too.
Which explains yesterday’s “‘Hail Mary’ pass.” And I didn’t call John McCain’s pick of Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin for Vice President of the United States, a Hail Mary. Republican strategist and CNN commentator Ed Rollins called it that. In the history of “WTFs” this one was huge. Right up there with Britney Spears shaving her head bald and Julia Roberts marrying Lyle Lovett.
I wasn’t the only one who smelled a strong whiff of desperation.
Let’s stop pretending this race is as close as national polling suggests. The truth is McCain is essentially tied or trailing in every swing state that matters — and too close for comfort in several states like Indiana and Montana the GOP usually wins pretty easily in presidential races. On top of that, voters seem very inclined to elect Democrats in general this election — and very sick of the Bush years.
McCain could easily lose in an electoral landslide. That is the private view of Democrats and Republicans alike.
McCain’s pick shows he is not pretending. Politicians, even “mavericks” like McCain, play it safe when they think they are winning — or see an easy path to winning. They roll the dice only when they know that the risks of conventionality are greater than the risks of boldness. (“6 things the Palin pick says about McCain,” by Jim Vandehei and John F. Harris, Politico.com)
I still don’t know how I feel about the Palin diversion — because that’s what she is — a diversion, a MacGuffin, for something else. A MacGuffin for what, I’m still not sure. Perhaps just to hijack the news cycle. What’s obvious is that he did not pick her until the wee hours of Friday morning. There was no promotional material, no signs, barely a bio up on the woman and when McCain introduced her he visibly had to look down and read her name off of a piece of paper. (Skip to the two minute mark on the video.)
They’d only met twice and Friday was that second meeting. And the age gap loomed large as Palin looked closer to 34 than 44 and McCain looks closer to 82 than 72. People said they looked very “father/daughter,” you could go even further and argue “Grandfather/granddaughter” if you didn’t know that Palin had five kids and was celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary.
I have to admit. I’m rather confused. Some think this is part of some larger, genius GOP trickery, but the GOP has been … um … lacking in the genius factor this election. They’ve mostly looked old and out of shape, a sliver of their usual bare-knuckle, poo throwing selves. After all, the Dems haven’t been know for getting their hands bloodied in a fist fight for years now. It’s not like they’re hard to attack. It’s more that the GOP is so demoralized and pathetic, that the Dems are running rampant with Barack Obama doing Tiger Woods-fist-pumps all over the place.
The best attack they could come up with was, “Oooo! Look at that black guy. People like to hear him speak! He’s popular! Everyone thinks he’s all cool and junk but he’s really not and is like, totally a secret Muslim!“
And Obama murdered that schoolyard taunt in his acceptance speech. The one that more than 38 million Americans watched. (Not counting the C-SPAN and PBS audiences Nielsen doesn’t track. The Snob family watched it on C-SPAN.)
Perhaps the Obama campaign is even better off than I thought. Maybe we could win? Why else would McCain pull such a high risk/reward pick? It doesn’t make sense. When you’re ahead, you play safe. When you’re worried you hijack a news narrative with a gimmicky, condescending veep choice.
And this opened up McCain’s age issue for debate, something the Democrats were holding back from. And it killed their whole “experience” argument. (Which I suppose wasn’t working anyway. Who was the last president we actually elected based on “experience?” Oh, yeah. Bush 41 — the one-termer.) And dear Lord, did they even consider that Hillary Rodham Clinton was HELL BENT on being the first female to get into the White House via Electoral College? She was already going to campaign for Obama out of obligation. Why poke the bear? If she says anything even the slightest eschew Clinton will destroy her.
I’m sure Palin is politically savvy and bright. That’s obvious. But she can’t have a slip up. Not even a little one. The time is too short between now and election day. One gaffe could kill her, unlike with Obama, Biden and even McCain, who are known entities and can weather a misspoken word or too. She can’t fumble. She can’t falter. She can’t make one false move.
Which again begs to ask, why did McCain pick her? What is he up to?
Since I’m going that this was not something that was “planned” and is more about insecurity than trickery I’m going to posit that the McCain campaign saw something in their internal polling that scared the shit out of them. Perhaps it was the fact that the “experience” argument wasn’t sticking or that the statistical dead heat didn’t convey how he was really doing in battleground states. Maybe it was all the kumbaya of the DNC convention and Obama’s home run hit of an acceptance speech that really drove home the fact that the Republicans, demoralized and depressed, were facing a lackluster convention that might get usurped by Hurricane Gustav.
If that’s the case, McCain knew he needed to do something brash. McCain needed to pick someone who could A) make a play for disaffected Clinton supporters before they switched to Team Obama; B) make a play for moderates and centrists wh
o are dazzled by the historic nature of the Obama campaign and C) satisfy the Christian conservative base who don’t trust John McCain.
For that McCain was going to need an unconventional woman with culture wars credentials. Amazingly, a lot of Republican women who make it to the big stage in politics are pro-choice. Leaving the plucky Alaskan governor the last woman standing. She was for making abortion illegal — even in the cases of rape and incest — causing the hard right to squeal with joy.
So McCain has a woman, but she so far right on cultural issues (from teaching Creationism in schools to seeing homosexuality as immoral) that she might freak out the moderates and centrists if they ever get to know her too closely … and believe me, the Dems plan on making the world ALL TOO FAMILIAR with Palin and her views.
Hell, she once supported Pat Buchanan in his run for the presidency.
Will this gamble work?
Obviously McCain hopes so. All eyes on Palin have taken the bright lights off Hopey McHopington and Mad Dog McGraw. But all eyes on Palin also means all eyes on Palin. Judgmental eyes waiting to see what she says and does and prying into her personal life, something the nosy media and blogosphere will happily sift through.
I think Obama and Biden, who are obviously at a position of strength, should lay back a bit and let the press do its work. See what this “Palin person” is all about. Let Rahm Emmanuel and the other Democrats push the “WTF!” factor and the age issue. Hang back. See what McCain is up to. Does he actually have an ace in the hole or is Palin one big bluff?
Let McCain have this news cycle. He wants the ever watching media eye on him for a while, so bet it. Have his “own” manufactured hype of a “historic” ticket, go ahead. This “me too-ism” only adds to the desperation factor. Let’s see if car has a motor in it, before we charge blindly into what could be the most obvious trap in the history of politics.