by Deb Cupples | Tthe blogosphere has been in a frenzy over John McCain's choosing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain made the announcement on his birthday, four days ago -- which was the day after the Democratic National Convention ended. Given the recent media fixation on Palin, it seems that Operation Thunder Theft is a success.
Some people view Palin as McCain's attempt to appeal to former Hillary supporters: specifically, the female ones, whom the media have blanketly decided are iffy about Sen. Obama only because they're bitter feminists (males who haven't yet embraced Obama are labeled racists).
I can't see throngs of feminist-leaning Hillary supporters flocking to an openly anti-abortion candidate like Palin. As Newshoggers' Ron Beasley pointed out, Palin is the "anti-Hillary."
I also have trouble believing that any politically astute Republican strategist would make such a miscalculation -- especially in a way that made the candidate appear moronic enough to think all women are interchangeable.
Admittedly, one never knows.
Yesterday, the media and blogosphere were atwitter over news that Gov. Palin's 17-year-old (unmarried) daughter is five months' pregnant. According to Reuters, Gov. Palin publicly acknowledged the pregnancy in order to "knock down rumors by liberal bloggers that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child."
I wonder where the faked-pregnancy idea came from. Obviously, I haven't been following the Palin stories very closely.
Incidentally, a Time Magazine reporter said that the pregnancy was common knowledge among gossipy townsfolk.
ABC News reported that Palin was, back in the mid-1990s, part of a "fringe" political group -- some of whose members wanted Alaska to be an independent nation.
The Christian Broadcast Network reported that Gov. Palin's husband had been arrested for DUI -- back in 1986, when he was 22.
It's all out-of-this-world mortifying: a twenty-something kid getting behind the wheel after too many brewskies; a thirty-something woman joining a non-mainstream but non-violent group (14 years ago); and a 17-year-old girl having sex out of wedlock -- apparently during a poorly timed contraceptive failure.
It's all as shocking as the gambling that was going on at Rick's in Casablanca.
On top of that, there are allegations that Gov. Palin used her position to harass a state trooper who'd been married to her sister; that Gov. Palin is snuggly in bed with Big Oil; and that she had approved of Sen. Ted Stevens' millions in questionable earmarks for a bridge that essentially went nowhere.
ABC's George Stephanopoulos said that given the (truly shocking) stuff that's come out since Palin was announced as McCain's choice, "there's no way" the GOP had fully vetted her. Stephanopoulos earnestly asked, "What else don't we know about Governor Palin"?
Citing Stephanopoulos, TPM's Josh Marshall said that McCain's campaign has "sent a team of GOP lawyers up to Alaska to do what I guess you'd call a post-vetting of Sarah Palin." Marshall concludes: "John McCain didn't do any serious vetting of Palin before he invited her to join his ticket."
Maybe McCain's staff didn't vet Palin. Maybe his highly paid strategists never did bother to spend a day on the Internets, microfiche, or telephone in search of dirt on Gov. Palin.
Though GOP operatives typically excel at research, I suppose it's possible that they were completely comatose regarding the Palin issue.
Then again, maybe the McCain campaign is playing the public -- like ad execs and politicians have habitually done for years. Maybe McCain had no intention of actually finishing the race with Palin as his partner.
It does seem odd that typically lock-step Republicans began publicly criticizing Gov. Palin the day she was chosen. A former Bush speech writer, for example, wrote that Palin's experience is even less impressive than Obama's (and we know how loyal Republicans feel about Obama's lack of experience).
Perhaps McCain's strategists had just wanted to show that McCain is willing to choose a woman -- while drawing media attention away from the Democrats' convention (again, mission accomplished).
Any GOP researcher worth his salt likely could have intuited -- without doing any research at all -- that Gov. Palin had (at some point) used her political position to punish some personal enemies and cozied up to various industries at the public's expense. That's what most GOP politicians do.
Even a lazy GOP researcher, given that fundamental knowledge of his own party's politicians, could have vetted Gov. Palin pretty quickly. And yet, despite the high stakes in this race, every member of McCain's team failed to spot the nuggets about Palin before the pundits did?
Here's another possible benefit of such a twisted scheme: if Gov. Palin withdraws form the race, McCain's campaign can easily paint opponents as terribly callous, win-at-any-cost sharks who fed upon one of the thousands of teenage American girls who aren't proficient with modern contraceptive technology.
Or maybe McCain wanted a running mate whose family is not Rockwell-perfect. That certainly would make him seem open-minded and understanding: a woman whom chivalrous men and empathetic women would rally round when the opposition attacks began.
There are many maybes. With my mind-reading skills vacationing in Madrid, I don't actually know what happened or what motivated McCain's team.
What I do know is that most politicians are far from above using dramatic political theater to manipulate the media and public.
Update1 : The New York Times' Bob Herbert has a different take:
"Here’s the deal: Palin is the latest G.O.P. distraction. She’s meant to shift attention away from the real issue of this campaign — the awful state of the nation after eight years of Republican rule. The Republicans are brilliant at distractions. Willie Horton was a distraction. The chatter about gays, guns and God has been a long-running distraction. And we all remember the Swift-boat campaign.
"If you want a real issue, forget all of the above and revisit Monday’s front page of The New York Times. Hundreds of families are being forced out of their homes each month in Louisville, Ky., because of mortgage foreclosures. With record numbers of poor and homeless students, the public schools are struggling...."
That doesn't sound left field-ish to me. And what better way to create a distraction than by picking a running mate with a bit of a history.
Remember, Obama's running mate has some red flags in his history, too. And every time Obama supporters go after Palin (assuming she's meant to stay in the race), it'll be that much easier to go after Biden without looking like an instigating mud-slinger.
Update 2: Today's Washington Post reports that Palin was not personally interviewed until the day before McCain selected her as his running mate -- however, she was on the original list of 20 for months (certainly enough time for a background check):
"McCain advisers said they had gathered extensive information about Palin before that meeting, including details of an ongoing investigation in Alaska involving her firing of the state's public safety commissioner. Details of her life and her record as governor that have since emerged in media accounts were discovered during that process, they said...."
"McCain officials said that questionnaire and the personal interview revealed three new facts previously unknown to the team: Palin's daughter's pregnancy, the arrest of her husband two decades ago for driving while intoxicated, and a fine Palin paid for fishing without proper identification.... [Notice how easy to overlook the 20-year-old DUI and the fishing fine are]
"'We made a political determination that the American people would not object to a female candidate with a 17-year-old daughter who was pregnant,' Schmidt said Tuesday. 'We believed that parents all over America would understand that life happens. The team made a recommendation to the senator that these issues were not disqualifying.'"
Yes, that could happen to anyone who has teenage girls. And I can imagine the sentiments that McCains campaign strategists might have sought to evoke.
Things like: how cool that it happened to an actual state governor -- maybe she really is a mere mortal like the rest of us -- and how dare those political operatives try to beat her up over that (or the fishing license, or her husband's 20-year-old DUI).
Of course, we're assuming that McCain's campaign staff was candid with the Washington Post.
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