The whole political world was shocked yesterday by John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his vice-presidential running mate. Many journalists are touting this as a "hail Mary," indicating that it is a sign that the McCain campaign is getting a bit desperate and felt like they needed to shake things up a bit. Certainly, it does give his campaign a certain buzz as they head into their convention next week in Minneapolis.
The next week should tell us a lot about how well Palin's pick is going to play. I suspect that Hurricane Gustav is going to steal a good bit of the Republican thunder next week, even if they delay their convention for a few days. Palin's pick will probably get lost in the shuffle.
For whatever it is worth, here are a few of my observations about Palin. (1) Democrats better not become complacent and celebrate too early about her lack of experience. Remember, George H.W. Bush won with Dan Quayle, who has got to go down as one of the worst VP picks ever. And, remember that in 1988 Dukakis came out of the Democratic Convention with a double-digit lead. The Democrats have a lot of energy right now but they need to continue to push back against the McCain onslaught.
(2) As the journalists begin digging into her background in Alaska, already they are finding some interesting things. See this article for some information about what the two leading newspapers in Alaska have to say about Palin:
She is currently involved in a political scandal and under investigation by the Alaska state legislature for misuse of her office. Evidently, she tried to have her brother-in-law fired from the state police. He and her sister are going through a bitter divorce right now. Palin is being investigated for firing the director of the state police for his refusal to fire Palin's brother-in-law. This scandal will probably dog her throughout the fall election season. Also, according to the article above, her popularity in Alaska is falling rapidly in the midst of the scandal.
(3) Her nomination is being touted as an attempt to win over disaffected Hillary voters. I suppose this is the most sleazy thing about the whole choice by McCain to go with Palin. It is almost as if the McCain campaign said to itself, "Let's find a woman for the ticket. Hillary's voters want to vote for a woman and they will flock to her." Do they not realize that women think for themselves? Do they honestly view women as being so stupid as to not be able to recognize that the only thing that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin have in common is their gender? They agree on none of the issues of this election. Hillary is a moderate-to-progressive Democratic icon. Palin is a newcomer to the political scene that is the darling of the far right of the Republican Party. She is an NRA member, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and believes that "creationism" should be taught in the public schools. I suspect that Hillary will campaign even harder for Obama because of this pick.
(4) The pick of Sarah Palin takes away McCain's most effective argument against Obama, namely, the claim that he is not ready and experienced enough to be president. Palin, with less than two years as governor of a state that has the population of the city of Fort Worth, Texas and before that the mayor of a town in Alaska with less than 10,000 people is woefully unprepared to occupy the oval office in the event of an emergency.
(5) Finally, if the McCain camp wanted to select a woman for the ticket (which I do applaud), is this the very best qualified female in the Republican Party for a 72 year-old presidential candidate who has battled melanoma twice? What about Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas? What about Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina? How about Condie Rice? Perhaps if he wanted to go after moderates and independents, he could have selected Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey. All of these women are light years ahead of Palin in experience.
It is said that the most important decision that a presidential candidate makes is his/her choice of a running mate. From that choice the voting public can get a good glimpse of the candidate's judgment on important decisions. You decide for yourself. Which candidate, Obama or McCain, made the best running mate decision? This was a bold move. It certainly shook up the race. How effective it will be remains to be seen