Like "Pain" But With an "L"

Meet Sarah Palin, McCain’s latest albatross

There’s a lot of murmur and speculation about John McCain’s weird, “out of right field” choice for a vice presidential running mate. I envision an 11th-hour decision scenario something like this: McCain watches the TV broadcast of Barack Obama accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president live in front of 60,000 swing state voters. And suddenly McCain realizes Obama’s talking about him—sometimes unkindly. The crowd cheers. McCain blinks. This is not good. He stays up late to do some of that serious, experienced thinking his handlers talk about.

Sarah Palin

McCain sits around with a few of his best smart guys. Hillary Clinton, they recall, almost took Obama down in the primary. Something about a glass ceiling and the 19th amendment. Women were energized by the notion that finally, finally, there might be a woman in the White House, albeit Hillary Clinton. Then came the disappointment when Obama, damn him, bested Clinton and took the nomination. If we, I surmise McCain surmised, could get one of them, a lady, then perhaps all those woman voters who almost put “Hillary” over the top would vote for us.

And so John McCain made his great decision. “Get me one of those feisty ladies,” he said. Of course, he was more specific. She should be more like his second wife, someone shapely and 20 years his junior, than his first wife, Carol, who got sick of him and lost her swimwear-model good looks. And she should have some good child-bearing hips, like his second wife, Cindy, who bore him four children. And, to give a real challenge, McCain asked that she be a gun-toting, anti-abortion creationist with a penchant for motor sports.

And, oh yeah, we need her name by tomorrow morning.

Sarah Palin offered the whole package. She’s a former beauty queen, having been crowned Miss Wasilla, for Wasilla, Alaska—the 7,000-person town where she went on to glean her vice-presidential-grade political experience as mayor—and later was a runner-up to Miss Alaska. She’s anti-abortion with a capital A, believing that the government should force pregnant woman to conceive even in cases of incestuous rape. She wants public schools to teach creationism and credits God not only with creating the heavens and the earth, but global warming as well, because in Palin’s view, it sure wasn’t us humans who did it. And just to throw some red meat to the Republican core, she’s rabidly anti-gay, not only opposing gay marriage but calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to limit the rights of states to protect the rights of gay people. She’s a new school big government Republican ready to put Big Brother in your bedroom and womb, damn states’ rights.

It’s a weird VP pick, to say the least—more like a Hail Mary pass than a well thought out political decision. Palin’s only real political experience outside of Wasilla is two years as governor of Alaska, a state whose population rivals that of El Paso, Texas. Her foreign experience, I presume, stems from Alaska having an icy, uninhabited border with Russia.

But then, McCain might well have picked a porcupine to run with. In his mind it’s all about him. It’s John McCain’s turn. It’s John McCain’s election. So what if that means putting a novice one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency?

And for icing on the cake, the Republicans used Hurricane Gustav as an excuse to pull both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from the convention lineup, lest the home audience get a chance to compare parasites to populists. And to bolster the lady theme, convention choreographers substituted First Lady Bush for her despised husband, juicing things up with a Cindy McCain plea to become the next First Lady. These are proper Republican women—wives doing the wife thing.

Of course simply putting a “lady” on the ticket isn’t going to garner energized woman voters when that lady opposes so much of what the women’s movement has struggled for. Still, dumb as things seem, McCain got everything he wanted, and he got it by the morning after Obama’s speech was watched by 34 million TV viewers. The only problem is, in his trademark rush to judgment, McCain failed to properly vet his VP pick. It turns out that not only is she an ex-pot head—which, while being no big deal in Alaska, doesn’t play so well in Kansas—but she is currently under criminal investigation in Alaska, after only two years as governor.

The allegation is that she used her newfound power a governor to try to have her sister’s ex-husband fired from his job as an Alaska State Trooper—a move that would disadvantage him in his custody dispute with Palin’s sister. The head of the Alaska Public Safety Department (that is, the state police) says Palin fired him after he repeatedly refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law. A bipartisan Alaskan legislative commission, with support from both Democrats and Republicans, appointed a special prosecutor a few weeks back to investigate Palin for abuse of power.

Oops. Must have slipped her mind when the McCain team called late Sunday night. Luckily the investigation is scheduled to be completed after the election. In the worst case scenario, Palin wouldn’t be the first VP to receive a presidential pardon. Hold on and good luck, it’s going to be a wild ride.

ęCopyright 2008

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