Palin has been my nightmare scenario for the longest. That’s not to say she doesn’t have significant, exploitable weaknesses. It’s just that she also has what the basketball scouts call “tremendous upside potential,” mainly in the PR department. With a wholesome family, nice looks and a folksy, heartland-ish style, she could be a killer. It won’t take much for the loquacious Biden to overplay his hand and look like he’s hitting a girl, while the right-brigades get to work setting expectations unconscionably low.
Besides, it’s not like the Republicans had a great backbench to pick from. Huckabee would’ve been a strong choice, but was apparently never even vetted. Bobby Jindal, fatty Limbaugh’s Reagan 2.0, could be top-ticket material in 2012 or 2016 so he wasn’t going anywhere yet. Ridge is pro-choice and mainly known for duct tape, while Lieberman can’t pull in Jews any more and Pawlenty is a non-entity like Rob Portman. Field Marshal Turkmenromney looks like a used car salesman, even if daddy’s carcass would’ve delivered Michigan.
I will say, seeing the immediate response has somewhat alleviated my worry about the impact of the Palin pick. Still though, she’s far and away the best of ’em tactically. Here’s a list of some variables to consider with Alaska’s Next Top Model:
–The womyn thing. Peeling off a couple percent of the Clintonista dead-enders could be crucial in a close election. On the other hand, Palin’s total lack of experience, name-recognition or past relationship with McCain suggests pretty blatantly that this is a private-parts-pander. Hopefully, this is just demeaning enough to turn off at least as many people as it sways. The Governor is hard-right on abortion and NARAL is already rolling out the big guns. (Mireille will bring us a little more feminist analysis on Palin coming up soon.)
–All in the family. They call her husband the “first dude” of Alaska. She has a son in Iraq and one with Down’s Syndrome. The Palins are straight from heartland central casting, with five kids named “Bristol,” “Piper,” “Track,” “Trig” and “Willow.” Governor Palin is a plainspoken hockey mom, which makes her light years better for public consumption than another wrinkly old white man.
–Reaffirming the narrative. Someone on CNN just used the term “bit of a maverick.” Well fuck. me. This, more than anything, is why I’m afraid of the Palin pick. The press loves McCain. The shine is coming off a bit, but there’s only eight weeks left to undo eight years of unfiltered adulation. In Governor Palin’s first speech Friday, she claimed to have stood up to lobbyists, “challenged the status quo,” and appointed Democrats to her administration, as well as trashing the “bridge to nowhere.” In terms of messaging, Palin is the best the GOP could have done to both counter Obama with their own hope/change/ponies while re-enforcing the maverick myth.
–But is Palin into bondage? That should score this site some cheap hits. Really though, it’s just a reacharound to the Quayle question. (Yes, that link is both explanatory and safe for work.) Some of the regulars on Daily Kos today drew the comparison, which belies a dangerous underappreciation of the gullibility of Americans. See, people tend to forget that Quayle won. George Bush the Elder’s choice of Thunder Dan was both a sop to both the right-wing base and an effort to make the ticket less geriatric. But despite the debate thrashing, and all the late-night humor, Bush and Quayle never relinquished their convention bounce. Just because someone is inexperienced, ineloquent and a world-historical risk on the heartbeat test doesn’t mean they won’t carry forty states. Underestimate at your own risk.
So those are the things that scare me. In terms of her liabilities, Palin had literally met the candidate one time before today; “hasn’t really focused much” on the war in Iraq; and basically doesn’t have a position on it. Barack Obama may have less foreign policy experience than his Veep, but he’s been in the Senate for four years and sits on both the Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committees. Also, the simple fact that he’s been running for President for eighteen months (!) means briefings briefings briefings in addition to his Senate portfolio. Compared with this, Palin spent two terms as a City Councilwoman and then six years more as Mayor of a town of 6,000 people. This is not a credible running mate for a man who, as Mireille likes to put it, “is older than the zip code.” At best, they get on stage together and he looks like her father; at worst, “I’m Chris Hansen and I’m with Dateline NBC.” (PS someone forward her a job description plz.)
If you want more reasons to laugh at this pick, Andrew Sullivan appears / to / be / collecting / them. In short, it’s a double or nothing pick. Palin strengthens McCain’s mavericky home-spun bullshitter image and fits neatly into his “Country First” campaign slogan. On the other hand, she really wasn’t vetted well and one Republican strategist colorfully compared the pick to “playing poker blind.”
So then, to answer the Lenin question. Attacking Palin is extremely risky. She’s folksy and attractive, so going right at her even on policy matters is a losing proposition. Best to respond by kindly and carefully ignoring her. Palin adds zero substance to the ticket, and John McCain is looking like a larger target after both the housing gaffe and the truly pitch-perfect Democratic convention. Pound the hell out of McCain, let Palin shake some hands, pray on a very long-shot that she gets impeached back home, and keep on keepin’ on.