Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palin Agonistes I

If anything has become clear over the weekend, it's that the McCain campaign did not do any vetting of Gov. Palin before the Senator announced she would be his running mate. It seems she was chosen by a bunch of conservative Christians, who overrode his first choice, Sen. Lieberman of Connecticut (and wouldn't that have been a hoot and a half?).

It is also clear that neither the Republicans nor the McCain campaign think she is prepared for the feeding frenzy in the media. Whether it's lying about when and/or if McCain knew about her daughter's pregnancy, or lying about when and/or if McCain actually had people check out her record for any potential embarrassments, the entire episode smacks of McCain either being frog-marched to his choice by a bunch of hard-right Christians or closing his eyes and pointing at a list of names. Neither scenario bodes well, and Gov. Palin's absence from news programs, from speechifying, from interviews all smacks not of disciplined message control but desperate lid-clamping.

My guess on Friday (I kept it to myself because my track-record on political predictions [Obama/Gore! McCain/Giuliani!] has been pretty poor) was that, while McCain gained a certain advantage by announcing his VP choice the day after Obama's speech; that he gained a certain advantage by naming a relative unknown to his ticket; that his pick managed to dominate the news cycle the entire holiday weekend, edging out Hurricane Gustav; even with all that, I felt that this would be a long-run disaster. My reasons for believing this are simple. First and foremost, despite media-love for the guy, McCain has always managed to display horrid judgment. He sees his campaign not as a way to display his bona fides for governance, but as a way to show he can dominate media coverage. There is something not so much narcissistic as solipsistic about the whole thing. McCain is running for President so that the news reports can be about John McCain. To be frank - I think he just loves all the attention.

Second, his choice of a relative unknown, without a prior release of information to the press on her record as governor of Alaska or mayor of Wasilia should have been proof enough that they had no idea who they had picked. Usually, there's some kind of cursory list - even a bullet-point presentation - but everyone (including most especially me) was sitting around scratching their heads.

Finally, since the first reports concerning Gov. Palin were bad (TrooperGate), then worse (personal issues, membership in a fringe, secessionist political party), I felt confident that this would backfire on McCain. With polling numbers coming out showing Obama pulling away from McCain over the weekend, I think the picture that's emerging will become more and more clear. McCain managed to redirect the fervent gaze of the media on himself and his campaign, but in a way that, as the dust settles, I am quite sure he does not want, or appreciate. She may be loved by the Christian right, but most Americans, even after a cursory look, are shaking their heads and saying, "Nah."

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