balancing and hypocrisy

I’m kind of new to this “politics” thing, but I think I may risk a comment.

It seems to me that both presidential candidates have done something rather common: each, having staked out a campaign core identity, has now picked a running mate to help him with voters who might be skeptical of that core identity. Obama, whose lack of experience scares some voters, gets Biden to cover that for him. McCain, who is treated with suspicion by many women voters and by Christian conservatives, selects a woman who is also a Christian conservative. This is the old “balancing the ticket” idea, and most presidential candidates — one of the most notable exceptions being Bill Clinton — seem to go for it.

But in this particular race this familiar tactic is creating some interesting dynamics. This our friend Freddie, in response to Noah’s recent post, comments: “I thought that the rank hypocrisy of this nomination would be called out by my favorite Republican bloggers. Every one of Obama’s weaknesses, as identified by conservatives and blasted for over a year, are to be found in Sarah Palin. People who have laughed at, ridiculed and vilified Barack Obama for ages now turn around and apply absolutely none of the same attacks on Palin than they have applied to Obama.”

Well, that’s one way to look at it. But I think if Freddie were to apply the same standard to Obama he’d have to find him wanting as well. A candidate who claims to bring a breath of fresh air, to get beyond Washington’s business as usual, to transcend partisan politics, selects as his running mate a man who is virtually a poster child for partisan politics and Washington business as usual. At least Palin’s stance as a reformer and maverick matches the McCain self-presentation, and in that sense she reinforces one of his key messages. Obama’s choice of Biden strikes me as much more out of step with his campaign rhetoric — though, as we heard last night, not with his substantive policies, which are, as Rod Dreher has shown, pretty much indistinguishable from those of other recent Democratic presidential candidates.

I guess the question is: when does “balancing the ticket” become “rank hypocrisy”? If McCain’s choice is hypocritical, then it seems to me that you’d have to say that Obama’s is too. To me, insofar as there is hypocrisy involved it is the everyday hypocrisy that seems endemic to politics. Each presidential candidate is using the VP selection to make himself more attractive to people who might not otherwise vote for him. Did we really expect them to do anything else?