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McCain's Hail Mary Pass | The Nation

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The Notion

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McCain's Hail Mary Pass

The news was so stunning I refused to believe it until I saw John McCainon the TV screen announcing his pick for Vice President. There's no needto disparage Sarah Palin. She's seems like a smart, serious person. Butwhat the choice reveals about McCain is devastating with a capital D forDesperation.

Within forty-eight hours, all America will be talking about her. What people willsay is, "You mean, if John McCain croaks, she becomes our president?"Gasp, yes. That is what McCain has decided. So much for "experience" andwise judgment as a campaign issue.

The Senator was widely thought to be on the fifty-yard line, nose to nosewith Barack Obama. But this selection reveals the Republican campaignstrategists knew better. Picking the obscure and under-experiencedgovernor from Alaska for veep means McCain and his people recognize theyare in a very weak position for the fall campaign. So weak they decidedto throw a forty-year Hail Mary pass and hope audaciously for a luckycatch.

It won't succeed. In fact, I expect this gambit is going to drive farmore voters to Obama's column than it does for McCain.

Choosing Palin kills the "experience" argument. Republicans must haverecognized from their own market research that it wasn't working forthem. For two months or more, McCain and his handlers have smeared andslandered Obama, mocked his star quality talents, belittled his lack oftenure in Washington back rooms and accused him of unpatriotic egotism.Clearly, their internal polling told them this line of character attackwasn't grabbing the public. Playing the wise old man was not going to beenough to overcome McCain's other significant handicaps, his somewhatdoddering style and memory lapses, his deadly embrace of right-wing cantand G.W. Bush.

So, what the hell, let's take a wild shot and see what happens. Theother veep possibilities are dull guys in good suits. Let's go with theyoung gal from Alaska. She's not only a woman--she's a mother! You wanthistory-making? We Republicans can do history-making.

Their internal logic was obvious, it was also pathetic. Putting a womanon the ticket is supposed to draw away those discontented Clinton votersin the Democratic party. Not going to happen, I think. First, that grouphas dwindled considerably in the last few days--thanks to HillaryClinton's straight-shooting endorsement of Obama and especially to BillClinton's brilliant blessing. The former President went the full mile indefending Obama as ready to be President by reminding everyone that hetoo had been dogged for a youthful lack of experience. Any remainingbitterness among Clinton voters will not be salved by supporting ahardcore right-winger on feminist issues.

The early returns I am hearing from people suggest that McCain's gambitmay prove to be a home run (mixing my sports metaphors) for Obama. Oneyoung friend first heard the news from his mother who called to say,okay, she was switching to Obama. For months, she had rooted for Hillaryand insisted Obama was too wet behind the ears. "You can stop arguing withyour mother," she said.

Palin's previous political experience was as mayor in a town of 6,000.Did they mention this to John McCain? Or did he perhaps forget? Senator McCain says he has seasoned judgment, but he may have been over-cooked.

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