by Julian X  /  non-fiction  /  4 Oct 2008
I legitimately like Sarah Palin as a person. She's not a looney, either: as much as I disagree with her, she's not nuts. She has a good record, one with some problems but enough to qualify her as a legitimate up-and-coming politician.
But I've thought from the start that she's a disaster as a V.P. choice. She displays a shocking lack of what should be basic knowledge about politics, about the general state of the world, and even about the Constitution and how the U.S. government functions.
I love how so many conservatives love her and treat her as a political messiah. Let's be clear from the start: she wasn't McCain's first choice. She was the best choice in a clinch.
McCain couldn't stand Romney and the other hardcore conservatives -- there was too much bad blood between them, to his credit. Word from inside the McCain campaign is that he personally wanted Joe Lieberman and was ready to go for Lieberman until his senior campaign aides convinced him that he'd face a full-scale Republican revolt. You know the campaign aides I'm talking about: they're the same dirty right-wing guys who libelled McCain in 2000 but to whom he's cozied up since about 2004, when he realized he could actually run for President again. Lieberman would've been a great choice: sure, his positions are pretty annoyingly hard-right but he would have at least represented the appearance of bipartisanship (in as much as Lieberman's traditionally been a Democrat), would have been historic (in as much as Lieberman was already a V.P. candidate on the 2004 Democratic ticket), and would have been a major showing of McCain's true maverick streak. But McCain bent, and that left him with no one. He needed someone conservatives would like, especially on abortion, but not someone he personally detested.
So he went with Palin, who hadn't been fully vetted and who had reportedly only talked with McCain twice before being nominated. As a bonus, Palin was young, a woman, and a Washington outsider -- and this was clearly an election where those were positives. McCain and company even hoped, in the wake of Hillary Clinton's close defeat to Obama, that Palin might be able to pick up a few disaffected women. But she wasn't chosen on her own merits.
I remember the day her selection broke. Rumors were flying. Journalists were desperately seeking responses from potential nominees and their locations. The rumor that it was Palin came out of left field. Conservative pundits, on the fly, discounted the rumor, saying that it would be a transparently desperate choice. Until it was confirmed, at which point it suddenly became bold, risky, and out-of-the-box.
Truman used to call himself "His Accidency" (instead of "His Excellency") as a self-conscious reminder of how F.D.R. had only chosen him as V.P., after several others, for political expediency. F.D.R. then proceeded to keep Truman out of the loop on everything, including the President's deteriorating health and not only the atomic bomb but war secrets in general. Then Truman suddenly found himself President, thrust into a situation for which he had no preparation.
Palin's no Truman, but I legitimately feel sorry for her. Her last-minute selection as V.P. meant that she had no preparation, no months of coaching to get her up to speed on national and international issues. She couldn't refuse, but she simply wasn't ready.
Trying to recover, the McCain campaign has kept her away from the press. When they've let her do a few interviews, it's been a disaster. And now they've made it clear, with the justification that the press is simply biased or that they prefer to speak to "the people" instead of the media -- as if cameras aren't involved or McCain campaign stops aren't actually more scripted than interviews. But then, interviews are about probing the interviewee's mind and opinions, and the problem with Palin is that there's nothing to probe.
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