Sarah Palin: John McCain’s Political Hail Mary Pass

By Doug Mataconis | Related entries in McCain, Palin, Republicans

If John McCain’s decision to pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate works out, it’s likely to be seen as a political masterstroke. Here’s a young, attractive, successful Governor, definitely an outsider, and someone who can definitely help bring along those parts of the Republican base that continue to have second thoughts about the idea of John McCain as President. And, as a woman, she’s someone who might be able to tap into some of the same sentiment that Hillary Clinton did during her run for the Democratic nomination.

It’s a daring decision in many respects, but, as with all daring decisions, it comes with risks.

For one thing, she’s a relative unknown who has only held the office of Governor for two years. Before that, she was Mayor of the town of Wasilla from 1996 to 2006 after having served on the City Council there for four years. Wasilla, in case you’ve never heard of it, is a town of less than 6,000 people.

That’s not saying that she’s not qualified, but it is saying that she is an unknown with a relative lack of political experience — both compared to the GOP Nominee for President and the Democratic nominee for Vice-President. The last person that fit that bill was a guy named Dan Quayle.

But Dan Quayle isn’t the only past candidate for Vice-Preisdent that Palin may eventually be compared to. Like the 1984 Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, there may be a potential ethics problem:

Lawmakers will hire someone within a week to investigate whether Governor Sarah Palin abused her power in firing Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. The legislative council approved 100,000 dollars for the investigation that will find out whether Palin was angry at Monegan for not firing an Alaska State Trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin’s sister.

On Monday afternoon, the Joint Legislative Council, filled with Republicans and Democrats, voted 12 to 0 to formally call for an investigation against Governor Palin in a manner—that they are stressing—will be unbiased and done in a timely fashion.

Legislators approved hiring a special investigator to look into the controversial firing of former Public

Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan was fired two weeks ago without explanation and has said he was pressured by the governor and her staff to fire a trooper who was once married to Palin’s sister.

Accusations have risen that Monegan was fired for his refusal to fire trooper Michael Wooten. The council’s intent is to investigate the circumstances and events surrounding the termination of Monegan and potential abuses of power and improper action by the Governor and her administration.

Now, there may be nothing to this story, but you can’t bet that it will come out over the next day or two if Palin is, in fact, the nominee and there may not be enough time between now and Election Day to set the record straight.

Here’s a question that is going to have to be answered by the McCain/Palin ticket, quickly, if this choice is going to work.

Is Sarah Palin ready to be President ?

Because of McCain’s age, it’s an inevitable question. When Ronald Reagan faced it back in 1980, he handled it deftly by picking George H.W. Bush, a man with an incredibly impressive resume whom nobody could tag with the “not ready on day one” criticism. For whatever reason, Bush himself forgot that lesson from the Gipper when he picked Dan Quayle, a move that could have cost him the election if he had been running against a competent opponent.

Has John McCain made Bush’s mistake, or did he learn Regan’s lesson ?

Andrew Sullivan raises some doubt:

The first criterion for a veep – and I’m simply repeating a truism here – is that they are ready to take over at a moment’s notice. That’s especially true when you have a candidate as old as McCain. That’s more than especially true when we are at war, in an era of astonishingly difficult challenges, when the next president could be grappling with war in the Middle East or a catastrophic terror attack at home. Under those circumstances, we could have a former Miss Alaska with two terms under her belt as governor. Now compare McCain’s pick with Obama’s: a man with solid foreign policy experience, six terms in Washington and real relationships with leaders across the globe.

One pick is by a man of judgment; the other is by a man of vanity.

She may be a fine person, but she’s my age, she has zero Washington experience, and no foreign policy expertise whatsoever.

McCain has just told us how seriously he takes the war we are in. Not seriously at all.

Granted, Sully is hardly an unbiased observer in this race. He’s cast his lot with Obama/Biden despite the fact that he readily admits that he pretty much disagrees with every domestic policy position that Obama takes. But that doesn’t mean that the criticism isn’t valid.

Eldrod at The Moderate Voice makes a similar point:

Think about the VP’s job. It’s to step into office on a moment’s notice in case the President pulls a William Henry Harrison and days a month after taking office. This is always a real possibility, but with McCain’s advanced age and prior health issues, the succession issue is even more important this year. It was especially incumbent upon McCain to pick somebody who would be ready to serve in a moment’s notice.

Is that Sarah Palin? She was elected Governor 18 months ago. Before that, she was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. She is 43 years old and has served a fraction of even Barack Obama’s time in non-local political office. Despite her longtime support for ethics reform, she is under state investigation right now for abuse of power in the dismissal of the Commissioner of Public Safety.

The centerpiece to John McCain’s argument against Barack Obama is that he is too inexperienced to lead right now. That he is unprepared for the Presidency of the United States. Agree or disagree, that’s McCain argument.

This VP completely undercuts that argument. If McCain is unable to serve in his first term, a woman with 18 months of experience beyond the Mayoral level (and this ain’t NYC) will have to step in and serve as leader of the free world. She has virtually no public profile outside the state of Alaska and carries no major message or agenda that makes up for her lack of experience.

Just as Obama needed to pick a candidate to help with gaps in his experience, McCain needed to pick someone who he could credibly point to and say “this person is qualified to become President of the United States if something happens to me.”

Has he done that with the Palin pick, or has he picked someone that, like Dan Quayle, the public will come to perceive as a lightweight ?

We don’t know yet, because essentially what McCain has done is close his eyes, throw the football, and hope that Sarah Palin can run it into the end zone.


This entry was posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008 and is filed under McCain, Palin, Republicans. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

23 Responses to “Sarah Palin: John McCain’s Political Hail Mary Pass”

  1. mw Says:

    All good points. Both you and Alan have been invoking Dan Quayle as a cautionary tale for this pick. Fair enough. He was a dolt. But it is also fair to recall that Dan Quayle was nevertheless part of winning ticket.

  2. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    The first criterion for a veep – and I’m simply repeating a truism here – is that they are ready to take over at a moment’s notice. That’s especially true when you have a candidate as old as McCain. That’s more than especially true when we are at war, in an era of astonishingly difficult challenges, when the next president could be grappling with war in the Middle East or a catastrophic terror attack at home. Under those circumstances, we could have a former Miss Alaska with two terms under her belt as governor. Now compare McCain’s pick with Obama’s: a man with solid foreign policy experience, six terms in Washington and real relationships with leaders across the globe.

    What a ridiculous, assinine, retarded, foolish argument to make by this baffoon. He would rather appoint the inexperienced Miss Chicago directly to the President’s office!!! Now if Only Obama would have a heart-attack, the country would be on the right track.

    Why does anyone still take “milky loads” Sullivan seriously?

  3. Ferrin Says:

    Just as hard to take the comments of a homophobe seriously I would imagine.

  4. CaptainUltimate Says:

    We’re dancing around the obvious here. The Palin pick is a complete gimmick play. There is nothing about her resume that would justify being nominated for the vice presidential office, other than McCain needs to grab a headline.

    If McCain wanted to go the “progressive” other gender route, (as if picking an anti-women’s rights woman is some how progressive) why not, at least, Carly Fiorina? Someone serious. John McCain is staking his entire campaign on being the more serious candidate of the two. And he picks someone with only 1.5 years of higher office? As the governor of the 48th most populated state?

    Please.

  5. mw Says:

    @captainultimate
    As point of factual accuracy – 1.5 years of executive experience, is 1.5 years more that Obama, Biden, and McCain combined.

  6. khaki Says:

    You’re pretty hung up on the “executive” thing, dude. Bush had “executive” experience. Lot of good that did us.

  7. CaptainUltimate Says:

    exactly. We can sit here and quibble about numbers spent running an “executive” office versus a “legislative” office. The results are all I really care about. Obama outlines and 16 month withdrawal timetable, and it’s quickly adopted by both the Iraqi AND American governments. He’s got good ideas, and Joe Biden was picked to help him execute them. John McCain continually fails at making sensible policy suggestions (e.g. bomb Iran, kick Russia out of G8, etc.) and then he resorts to a gimmick VP pick.

    The choice is clear here.

  8. mw Says:

    The choice is clear here.

    Indeed. Your government choices in 2009:

    Choice A)
    McCain/Palin (R) + Pelosi leading a 100 vote D majority in the House + Clinton/Reid leading a potential 60/40 filibuster proof D majority in the Senate.

    Two Republican maverick reformers with a reputation for bi-partisanship working with a Democratic Party largest single party congressional majorities in modern history.

    - or -

    Choice B)
    Obama/Biden (D) + Pelosi leading a 100 vote D majority in the House + Clinton/Reid leading a potential 60/40 filibuster proof D majority in the Senate.

    A toe-the-party-line Democratic President with a liberal agenda working with a Democratic Party largest single party congressional majorities in modern history.

    Choose wisely.

  9. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    Or to be stated another way:

    The [insert inexperienced candidate here] pick is a complete gimmick play. There is nothing about her [or his?] resume that would justify being nominated for the [...] presidential office…

  10. kranky kritter Says:

    People keep saying this is risky before they’ve even taken the time to familiarize themselves with Palin. Fact is, unless Palin comes across as a lightweight and an incompetent, like the aforementioned Quayle, then there isn’t any risk, just a good move.

    The fact that she’s well-liked, popular, has 2 years as governor, and is a darling of the GOP faithful suggests that she is going to appear as competent and indeed vibrant. Which the ticket needs. Not to mention she’s an attractive symbol of where the GOP wants to head over the next generation. Which means that there really isn’t much if any risk at all. Just a little well-informed and shrewdly-measured audacity.

    A LOT more folks are going to to be kicking the tires on the ticket now that it’s McCain-Palin. Few new customers were going to run out to kick the tires on a ticket with goofball Pawlenty or the smug insincere Romney. That’s why the Palin pick is so shrewd.

    Regular folks might be a lot of things, but one thing they aren’t is stupid enough to give more credit to the paper record than to their own measure of the person.Palin won’t be regarded as an unprepared lightweight unless she henceforth gives weight to that by her actions or demeanor. We’ve no reason at this point to think that’ll be the case,.

    She’s an unknown quantity to many of us, and that’s why so many of us are saying this is risky. But if she’s more of a known quantity to the folks who pickede her, quite likely they know how much risk there is. Not much. Folks keep mentioning Quayle. Ha-ha, but the lesson everyone learned from Mr Potatoe was “do your homework.” So nowadays, folks do!

  11. CaptainUltimate Says:

    When in doubt deflect, deflect, deflect. The inability to properly defend Palin without just rehashing an Obama smear is telling.

  12. McCain Fails in Choosing VP | David Ortez Says:

    [...] not have much experience in politics it does not stop her from being in a potential ethics problem. Doug Mataconis reports, “Lawmakers will hire someone within a week to investigate whether Governor Sarah Palin [...]

  13. mw Says:

    “…rehashing an Obama smear…” – cap

    Did I miss something? Is there an Obama smear in this thread? Or are you referring to Obama’s lack of experience, which is um… the exact same “smear” you leveled at Palin?

  14. Andres Says:

    Gimmick? Very harsh. You are saying that neither McCain nor Palin are taking this seriously?

    Honestly, if this proves to be the case, then McCain is a fool who does not deserve to be president. However, if Palin proves to be more than just added flavor to spice up the election, this pick will be the deciding factor. This election was Obama’s to lose. McCain could swing things back into his court.

  15. mike mcEachran Says:

    Jimmy- the difference in your little punto-reverso word play is that people who “picked” Obama are 18 million primary voters and caucus goers over the course of more than a year of testing, vetting, debating, and soul-searching. The only person who “picked” Palin is a panic-stricken old white guy who needs something exciting to get headlines. (hyperbole intended for effect)

    Your spin is clever, Jimmy, but usually full of holes.

  16. Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » A Conservative Second Thought On Palin Says:

    [...] It seems to me that these are problems with the Palin nomination that should have been apparent from the beginning so the McCain camp with surely have a response to them rather than just treating the whole thing as one big Hail Mary pass. [...]

  17. SMARTEN UP Says:

    To everyone comparing Obama and Palin’s experience: Does Palin have the endorsements of former Presidents and Vice Presidents such as Bill Clinton and Al Gore? Did Palin win millions of Americans Votes in the Primaries? Americans who believe she is capable of leading this nation? NO, NO, NO
    The only person who believes she is capable of being VP is John McCain, who has spent the majority of his career in the senate voting WITH BUSH and running FAILED PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS!!! PALIN IS AN ACT OF DESPERATION! SIMPLE AND PLAIN

  18. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    people who “picked” Obama are 18 million primary voters and caucus goers over the course of more than a year of testing, vetting, debating, and soul-searching. The only person who “picked” Palin is a panic-stricken old white guy who needs something exciting to get headlines.

    Then by your logic, since you don’t seem to dispute Obama’s lack of experience, it appears that 18 million primary voters and caucus goers have the intellect of a panic-stiriken old white guy and were just looking for something exciting.

    The fact that Obama was vetted and investigated by people over the course of the primary did not change or improve the substance of his political experience.

    Besides, did you hear the reaction from Republicans today? They are ecstatic! Hey, who needs all that vetting; how much is there to probe anyway? And again, she is at the bottom of the ticket – a hugely important factor that seems to have gotten lost in all of this discussion today. She is not running to be the leader of the free world.

  19. Andrew K. Says:

    It’s amusing to see bloggers and pundits call the Palin pick a “risk” or “hail mary pass”. The race is a statistical dead heat. And with Obama losing points all throughout his convention (up until his own speech), it’s anything but a risk. ROMNEY would’ve been a risk at this point in the campaign. Picking Palin is strategic mastery by whoever is behind McCain’s move. It shows he has his own Karl Rove behind the scenes.

    The comments of “grasping” and “hail mary” move are defensive blurbs made from squirming Dems filled with fear of a devastating loss in November. I will say, it is glorious to watch. Keep it comin’!!! :)

    Meanwhile, we’ll look forward to President Palin in 2012. Damn that has a nice ring to it!!!!

  20. Dennis Says:

    I think Palin is a good choice for McCain politically. Based on her first speech, she speaks well, seems more like a down-to-Earth person than most “experienced” politicians, is attractive (which always helps), and is an outside the box pick that will give independents and disgruntled Democrats a reason to give McCain a second look. Even though that may all be true, Obama’s foreign and economic policies are better for the long-term success and security of the United States. So far, the biggest thing that should concern all of us about Palin is her admitted non-interest and ignorance of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, is that what we really need, a person who has little interest or knowledge in foreign affairs? I’m not criticizing her lack of experience; I’m criticizing her lack of interest. To me, that’s far more dangerous. Ironically, this choice demonstrates McCain’s willingness to put politics before country, and further calls into question his lack of good judgment when considering the security of our nation. After eight years of the Bush administration’s incompetence and poor judgment, four years of McCain/Palin would seriously weaken our nation. The Obama/Biden ticket is our best hope for increased prosperity, security, and the rule of law that can reign in the dangerous expansion of presidential power under Bush.

  21. Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » The Biggest Night Of Sarah Palin’s Career Says:

    [...] of that criticism, such that the issues that relate to her qualifications and the question of whether the McCain campaign properly vetted Palin before announcing the [...]

  22. Donklephant » Blog Archive » The Biggest Night Of Sarah Palin’s Career Says:

    [...] of that criticism, such that the issues that relate to her qualifications and the question of whether the McCain campaign properly vetted Palin before announcing the [...]

  23. Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » More Thoughts On Campaign Suspensions Says:

    [...] McCain’s decision but as the hours have passed it seems more and more like the same kind of political Haily Mary pass that his selection of Sarah Palin was last month (by the way, she hasn’t brought the [...]

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