Although reports today suggest John McCain's gamble on Sarah Palin may be working for now, last week L.A. Weekly's Marc Cooper looked at what the Palin nomination says about the GOP's predicament and what it might mean for the Republican ticket:
It might have beenthe waterlogged and vengeful ghost of Katrina, materialized in the form of Gustav, that came wisping into St. Paul, effectively shutting down the first night of the GOP's quadrennial multimillion-dollar propaganda show. But it's an uncontrollable Hurricane Sarah that threatens to blow the McCain campaign right into the deep, dark sea.
A rather shameless media swoon set in immediately after Sarah Palin's surprise appointment to the Republican VP spot last Friday. Reporters and anchors jostled each other aside in a race to celebrate the perky Governor What's-Her-Name's predilection for caribou stew, moose pie and children with screwball names. But the honeymoon was short-lived.
What began as a few breezy rumors on the Web soon congealed into a raging Category 5 storm of controversy. Sarah Palin was — within hours — revealed as a perfectly affable but totally laughable and supremely unqualified religious zealot from a three-stoplight town.
By day one of the truncated Republican National Convention, we learned that the governor had recently been a member of a fringe party seeking secession from the U.S.; that her God-fearing, fundamentalist 17-year-old unmarried daughter was carrying a baby; that far from being a Mrs. Smith–type reformer, she vigorously supported an earmark system she now supposedly opposes; that she supported the so-called Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it; that she has lawyered up to rebuff a state investigation into her ethics; that she served as a top official for a political action committee of Senator Ted Stevens, who was indicted on myriad ethics charges; that with the exception of one political visit to Kuwait, she may never have traveled abroad, and that John McCain had met with her just once or maybe twice before giving her the nod.
By day two, as news broke that McCain's vetting party had arrived in Alaska only a day or so before the choice was made, we learned that in the political futures markets, the odds were quickly rising that Governor Palin would soon be purged, packed off to political Siberia and replaced on the ticket.
The Republican Party — especially its ideologically sodden "base" gathered in red-white-and-blue sequined vests and elephant-ears hats in the St. Paul convention hall — was reacting to this catastrophe the same way the old Communist Party USA reacted to the twists and turns of the Hitler-Stalin pact. History aficionados and graying red-diaper babies will recall that back then, the CPUSA obediently parroted whatever the Kremlin line of the day was — no matter how much it zigged or zagged. One day, it was to oppose the Nazi takeover of Germany. Then it was to support Hitler as an ally against British Imperialism. Then it was to ally with the former Imperialists to crush the Nazi invaders. All you had to do was pick up the morning edition of The Daily Worker to find out what to think. Or believe.
So what, then, if Supreme Leader McCain has changed his mind about the whole "experience" thing? For the last six months, we were supposed to be scared witless by the very thought of a dopey Senator Obama picking up the phone at 3 a.m., a pre-convention Clinton argument that McCain happily picked up on. Now, we're supposed to feel secure when Governor Gidget answers the call, puts on her glasses and wakes her hubby to ask if he knows where this Pakee-stan place is that everyone's so worked up about?
No problem, Comrade. Just as there's no problem with this whole teenage-daughter baby thing. All these family-values types, who want to stigmatize and punish errant sinners, are now all lined up to give a beneficent pass to Bristol Palin, who at age 17 couldn't keep her pants on tight enough. Governor Mom says she's "proud" of her kid's decision to keep the baby and marry the father. As if the daughter had a choice. Her fundamentalist family doesn't believe in choice. Indeed, Governor Palin has publicly advocated the criminalization of abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. In short, the same people who scold us not to politicize young Miss Palin's pregnancy, the same people who tell us it is none of our business, are the very same people who want to make it their business, and that of the state and of the criminal justice system, if — God forbid — someone else's kid gets knocked up and wants to abort.
There's nearly a one in five chance that any sitting U.S. president will die in office. McCain, if somehow elected, will be the oldest candidate ever to serve in the White House. He's also had four bouts of cancer. McCain's choice of Palin, then, demonstrates not only a ragged recklessness but is an affront to the entire electorate. Mister Serious, as McCain likes to portray himself, turns out to be a clownish and incompetent fool who thinks the American people are stupid enough to buy the gimmick he's come up with.
I seriously doubt it. Indeed, I think it's time to buy right into that futures betting market, because I can't imagine Palin surviving into and through the scheduled October 2 debate with Joe Biden.
As for the GOP, they'd best take a few hours off from their partying to bone up on the history of the CPUSA. Blind obedience to ideology and unswerving loyalty to leaders turned the CP into little less than a holding tank for geriatrics and Stalinists. And then it quietly, completely unnoticed, disappeared into the darkest recesses of forgotten history.