If John McCain wanted to pick a running mate who would dominate the national dialogue, he sure made the right choice. Whereas Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden was met with muffled refrains of "oh, what a safe, smart choice", the reaction to Sarah Palin has been one that started with "who?" and has continued on to "what the hell is going on with this woman and do I want her as the person who would run the county in the event the 72-year-old president croaks?"
On all other accounts it seems that McCain made the worst choice possible. Is it too late for him to take it back?
The first-term Alaskan Governor's conservative political positions, lack of experience, and involvement in a scandal over the dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan gave opponent's enough legitimate ammo, but its her unwed teenage daughter's pregnancy that has really taken over the public discussion.
The saga began when rumors on the Internet began bubbling that perhaps Palin's infant son Trig was, in fact, actually the child of her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol. The circumstantial evidence was sufficient. The Gov didn't announce the pregnancy until her seventh month, not even to her staff, she never appeared to be showing, and after she went into labor, she delivered a speech in Dallas and then took an eight-hour plane ride back to Alaska to deliver.
Bristol meanwhile had been out of school for an extended period with a case of mono. Suspicious indeed, but the McCain camp shot down the rumors with the announcement that four-month-old Trig couldn't be Bristol's because the young lady is actually 5 months pregnant herself. Wowzer. The family said they released the information because of the rumors.
But this begs the question, uh, where you going to tell us otherwise and when? Or maybe the whole rumor was planted to make the eventual announcement seem less shocking and a chance to embarrass a left wing blogsphere that seemed convinced.
So the Palins aren't involved in the weirdest political cover up of all time. But they are involved in the highest profile case of teen pregnancy since Jamie Lynn Spears. I'm not really sure which is better for the campaign: a potential Law & Order plot line or following in the footsteps of Britney Spear’s family. Now, of course both campaigns are like “it’s a private matter, we’re not going to discuss it”. Basically they’re treating it the same way most of the press and politicians treated the situation with Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Dick (Lesbian Daughter of Dick. I wanted to repeat that). Except this is totally different, and maybe it deserves some national discussion and a place in the campaign.
I’m not going to argue that the outcome of child rearing has much to do with a politician's fitness. The right can’t even argue that. They tried to paint Bill and Hill as having the moral compass of a bloodthirsty prostitute zombie, yet their daughter Chelsea seems to have turned out a fine young woman. Meanwhile, the left knows that for every Kennedy who’s an eminent statesman, there’s another who’s a walking disaster (and some, a mix of both). It’s sort of like a no-win tactic, or is it? I mean everyone’s trying to dance around this as a way of weaving it into other talking points against McCain and Palin’s character.
-Did McCain show good judgment in picking Palin? Is this the kind of decision a president should make? I mean, George Bush sure made a lot of shitty picks and appointments and look how well that turned out.
-Did McCain even thoroughly vet her, or was he just so hot to trot to get a female (hey Hillary voters!), pro-life (hey, hey fundies!) running mate he rushed through the process?
-Is Sarah Palin being irresponsible by putting her 17 year old daughter in such a glaring spotlight? Surely she knew that this would be a huge issue. Politicians like Colin Powell have declined to seek national office because of the exposure it would bring to their family. No one is forced to run for office, and surely there are much better candidates who could serve as Vice President.
-Or wait did they think this was not going to be a big issue? Seriously did they think something like this would go away in a news cycle? Isn’t it pretty naïve to think that? It’ll die down eventually (after they lose the election, probably), but the next few months Bristol Palin’s baby bump is going to be a daily topic of discussion.
-Does this just add to her pro-choice credibility? No abortions! No excuse! Yeah Bible! Of course supporters are going to try to tear apart any opponent who politicizes this, but isn’t this, in a way, already being politicized by the campaign? Lots of Pols have talked the talk, but here’s one who’s really walking the walk.
Then there’s the people who could give a damn about politics, and just love the smell of a national scandal The New York Post uncovered the identity of the father. Blogs quickly found his my space, which brought a lot to mock.
“I’m a fuckin’ redneck who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes. But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s- - - and just fuckin’ chillin’ I guess.”
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Classic. We’ve now entered the age where a teenager’s stupid myspace profile has implications in the Presidential election. This is where this choice has lead us.
It’s a tricky, tricky mess. I guess I’m most surprised that at this point there’s been no buzz that McCain may want to rescind his choice. There’s still time, and rumors that other candidates were vetted more thoroughly than Palin, but would the unprecedented action of swapping out your VP pick during the convention week be more embarrassing than this. Probably, but on the chance that this person might be a heartbeat away from the presidency it would be what’s best for America.
Everyone says McCain is Bush 2.0. That’s not an argument I necessarily buy. There would be fundamental differences between a McCain White House and the current administration, but it is particularly troubling that McCain is continuing Bush’s habit of making controversial appointments and acting like nothing is wrong. And there is something seriously wrong with picking Palin. Nothing would be a clearer signal that McCain is an all together different beast than Bush by doing something that Bush almost never has done, admiting that he made a mistake.