Wow! I step away from the computer for Labor Day weekend and when I come back the fans are choked with fur. I’m pretty sure nothing on this site has generated the level of interest that the Palin nomination has – not even links to Steve Sailer. So thank-you, John McCain! She may not be the best for the ticket, or the best for America, but she’s been great for traffic!
And now, upon reflection, three serious points.
First, I think Ross’s correspondent has a point. To the extent those of us who are excited about the Palin pick are excited about Palin, there’s a real risk that by bringing her national in this way McCain ruins her. If all one wanted was national exposure for Palin, the keynote spot would have made more sense than VP. If she performs well, and the ticket loses (as I still expect it to), she’s got a future. But if she performs poorly, because she was shoved onstage too soon, she probably doesn’t, and that’ll be a shame.
Second, it is really striking how angry the anti-Palin voices are. I’m not going to link to Andrew Sullivan) because you know where to find him, but if you’re so inclined, check him out. It’s tempting to say the Obama partisans are angry because the pick is politically brilliant, and they are scared. I don’t think that’s most of it, though. I think most of it is refracted Bush hatred. Palin isn’t much like Bush, as far as I can see. (She’s more like Huckabee, another candidate who is manifestly not yet ready to be President but who I thought would make a great VP pick – and if Palin crashes and burns because she’s not ready for prime time, we’ll all have reason to regret McCain not picking Huckabee instead.) But I still think that’s the basis of the fury – she reminds too many people of how (they think) Bush was able to hoodwink a majority into voting against its own interests, and how they (the Democrats) were unable to counter that appeal.
If that’s the case, and if the Democrats want to win, they really, really need to get control of their anger. The strategy of the anti-Palin forces is incredibly and obviously self-destructive, and the Obama campaign, at least, seems to have figured this out within a day of the announcement. I eagerly await the day his fans come to the same conclusion.
Finally, there are other detractors (e.g., Charles Krauthammer) who are strong supporters of McCain who are aghast that McCain is throwing away the experience argument. As all these folks voted for Bush in 2000 (who was somewhat more qualified to be President than Obama is, but not enormously so), they can’t believe that the more experienced candidate always ought to win. Nor can they believe he inevitably does win (1960, 1976, 1980, 1992, 2000). Rather, the argument is that, in these perilous times specifically, we cannot afford a chance that a political novice like Palin ascends to the Presidency. With Palin on the ticket, it’s harder for McCain to say: you can’t risk a neophyte like Obama given the existential threat from Islamofascism.
To my mind, this is a feature of the pick, not a bug. And I don’t mean because the experience argument is overrated (and it is: Roosevelt replaced the much-more-qualified Henry Wallace with the unknown and totally unready Harry Truman in the middle of World War II, and thank God he did). Rather, I don’t want McCain to be able to run an “indispensable man” campaign because I reject both premises: not only are the cemeteries full of indispensable men, but the kinds of threats we face are basically normal, and not some kind of national emergency through which only a certified American hero can lead us.
I said before that I’m still undecided in this election. Foreign policy looms exceptionally large for me this time, and so far while I find Obama disappointing I find McCain genuinely alarming. Whether deep inside him he still harbors the “old McCain” who opposed the Lebanon intervention, supported the Powell Doctrine, and led the way on normalization with Vietnam, as a candidate McCain clearly wants to run on the permanent emergency, with a subtext that only a real American can be trusted to defend America, and real Americans can be identified by their reflex hawkishness in all circumstances. A campaign of that character would have to be defeated, for the good of the country. And, as noted, Palin makes it somewhat harder to run such a campaign. He can still say that you can only trust 100% real American Americans in a time of peril, a pitch aimed right at the gut that I expect him to keep making, and Obama just has to deal with it ‘cause politics ain’t beanbag. But he would have done that no matter who he picked. If the plausibility of the “existential peril” pitch is lower with Palin at his side than with any other choice, that’s a good thing in my book.
Especially given that, as I understand it, McCain really wanted to pick Joe Lieberman as his running mate, and began looking at second choices only when he was persuaded that he’d have a revolt on his hands if he did so. A Lieberman pick would have been politically disastrous for the GOP because it would signal that there are no Republicans running in this election, and a lot of the base would have revolted over the fact that Lieberman is pro-choice. That wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker for me, as I’m in the mushy middle on abortion, and don’t vote on it one way or the other. But I would have revolted because Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman as the GOP’s #2 could only be comprehensible at all in a national emergency context. And we just are not in a national emergency. So if the choice was Palin or Lieberman, my preference is clear.
UPDATE: You know, I wrote this post, and made my little points, and then I started working back through some of the comments (not on my posts, actually – I haven’t gotten back that far, and I’m not sure I will). People are seriously losing their minds here, in a way that I’ve never seen before on this site. And not just people who have obviously wandered over here for the first time: regular readers are going off their rockers. I’m really not sure what we all ought to do about this. I wrote a little sermonette but I just deleted it because I can’t imagine anyone who’s gone off their rocker reading it and doing anything but getting angrier. I’m open to suggestions on what to do. Myself, I swear my next post will about Canadian theater.