John McCain’s choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as running mate shows how desperate he is to distract attention from the fact that he is a cranky old man with nothing to offer but more of the same. Palin is a blatant pander for the women’s vote. He must think we have the collective IQ of a Tampax.

Sure, Palin is cool — she’s pretty and vivacious and athletic, a former beauty queen who runs marathons, hunts , fishes and eats mooseburgers, plus she’s got five kids with unusual names like Willow and Track, including a newborn with Down’s syndrome. I feel tired just thinking of what her daily life must be like, and if she were my neighbor I would probably like her a lot. It shows how deeply feminism has penetrated American culture that even anti-choice, right-wing-Christian women are breaking out of the old sugary-submissive pastel-suited stereotype. And if life were a Lifetime movie, Palin would do just fine running the country should McCain keel over. Girls can do anything! and look great doing it!

But seriously. Vice President? After a stint as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a town of less than 8000, and barely two years as governor of a state with more grizzly bears than people? She makes Obama’s resume look as thick as Winston Churchill’s.

Here’s the reality: Palin is a rightwing-Christian anti-choice extremist who opposes abortion for any reason whatsoever, except to save the life of the girl or woman. No exception even for rape, incest, or the health of the woman. No exception for a ten-year-old, a woman carrying a fetus with no chance of life, a woman on the edge of suicide– let alone the woman who is not ready to be a parent, who is escaping domestic violence, who is already stretched to the limit as a single mother. She wants to force over one million women and girls a year to give birth against their will and judgment. She wants to use the magnificent freedom the women’s movement has won for her at tremendous cost and struggle–the movement that won her the right to run those marathons and run Alaska — to take away the freedom of every other woman in the country.

Her selection does not tell us McCain is a “maverick” who is just stringing the Christian right along, wink-wink. It tells us that he has thrown in his lot with James Dobson, the Family Research Council, the Catholic hierarchy and others for whom criminalizing abortion is the number-one issue. His record of votes against abortion and birth control–125 votes out of 130 in his Congressional and Senate career– apparently wasn’t quite enough for them. By choosing Palin, he wins their enthusiastic support.

McCain is gambling that women will vote their gender, and not their interests.

I expect pro-choice women will see through this gambit pretty fast. If not, we really are as dumb as he thinks we are.