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Nice try with Palin, John McCain

John McCain waited until after Barack Obama’s speech to make a superbly-timed announcement of his vice-presidential pick.

Unfortunately for him, he undermined what were his best arguments against Obama with that choice.

Sarah Palin is the first-term governor of Alaska, a large, oil-rich state with a small population, and she’s even younger than Obama. Her only political experience before beating the previous Republican governor, Frank Murkowski, in a primary in 2006 was being mayor of Walsilla.

Palin is a mother of five, including one son who’s off to Iraq and another, just born, with Down syndrome. She is staunchly pro-life and considered a Christian conservative, but, rather obviously, is a high-profile working mother.

She campaigned on ethics reform and is considered (much like McCain) a party maverick. She is also seen as a break from ethically-challenged Alaska Republicans like Senator Ted Stevens. However, Palin is under investigation herself for possibly having abused her office to get her former brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, fired from his job as a state trooper, according to the Wall Street Journal. She supports drilling as energy policy, and her husband is a longtime BP employee, but he’s a blue-collar type. Palin has also threatened to evict ExxonMobil and its partners from their drilling rights to publicly held oilfields.

This woman is quite a contradiction, seen at once as a sop to the religious right who have not quite come around to McCain and as outreach to disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters who value biological sex over a record on the issues.

Since the Clintons are being lauded for their support for Obama during the Democratic convention, perhaps the McCain camp decided that only the most blatant pandering would do. “Find me a minority!” – A friend of mine joked on McCain’s strategy.

When she spoke yesterday, Palin echoed Clinton’s words about “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.” I did feel a tiny spark of cheer just then. Even if McCain gets into office, he will bring a woman along into the second-highest office in the land.

But just any woman isn’t good enough for this Obama supporter through the primaries, and it certainly shouldn’t be enough now.

Palin has high approval ratings in Alaska, but no foreign policy experience (though Steve Doocy made the ridiculous comment that she does have experience since Alaska is next to Russia, ha ha) and only two years in office, thereby negating McCain’s favorite argument that Barack Obama is “not ready” to be president. By choosing Palin, McCain’s saying that she in fact is ready to be president. He’s also leaving open the (extremely sexist, but you know someone’s going to go there) route of the celebrity jibes, since Palin was once a beauty queen.

Guess there go the ads that compare Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Even though the attempts to at once feminize him and paint him as a shallow dilettante are offensive already, there’s no need to tempt some of the less scrupulous PACs on the Democratic side to turn those arguments around on Palin, though it could send even more of the PUMA-types running into McCain’s camp anyway. But does anybody really need the PUMA-types on their side?

So, suddenly, experience doesn’t matter. What arguments does McCain have left? Even Bush and the Iraqi government have suddenly embraced Obama’s 16-month timetable for leaving Iraq. McCain has to hope that the bump he gets from having a woman on the ticket will counteract his sudden inability to criticize Obama’s age and experience and strategy.

There is the idea that nominating Palin reaches out to the conservative religious types—but are arch-conservative Christians going to like having a woman in power?

And how is Rush Limbaugh going to deal with a vice-presidential pick who identifies as a feminist, even if she is a “Feminist for Life”?

Now, the most offensive thing I’ve heard on Palin so far was the comment on NPR today that perhaps Joe Biden will have to take it easy on Palin in the vice-presidential debates because she’s a woman and he might be seen as bullying. Not terribly feminist, if you ask me—if I’m tough enough to run for office, I’m tough enough to argue with the men, and this applies to all women. Hillary Clinton sure didn’t need anyone to take it easy on her—she roughed her opponents up right and left.

Palin is a mixed bag, for sure, a combination of good and bad for all concerned. She is a young, smart, successful woman, but one whose beliefs lead her to support policies that are not in the least pro-woman.

It has been pointed out before that many real people will be hurt and killed by policies that McCain has proposed. Is it worth four more years of war and possibly more pro-life justices on the Supreme Court to have a person with two X chromosomes on the ballot? How many women will suffer if we vote only to put a middle-class anti-choice white woman in a position of power?

Nice try, McCain. But this feminist isn’t biting.

6 thoughts on “Nice try with Palin, John McCain

  1. Pingback: Dreaming of Butterflies » Blog Archive » Damn, Damn and double Damn.
  2. At the risk of being tedious, I’d like to repeat the point I made in my second comment to G. Woollacott’s 08/29 GC column on Sarah Palin, and my point is that McCain’s claim that he chose Palin for her gender is mostly a smokescreen to provide covert white racist voters an ostensibly non-racist excuse not to vote for Obama.

    This would be consistent with GOP strategy since 1968. Republicans like Rush Limbaugh have continuously made Obama’s race an issue in the election and Limbaugh is one of the few non-religious Republicans who have been explosively enthusiastic about Palin as VP (contrary to your expectation noted above). McCain spokesmen also use code language to refer to white racist voting patterns when the McCain staff claim that Palin’s nomination is meant to reach out to voters who “aren’t certain about Obama” (read: Obama isn’t white enough). An article in Slate.com, I think by Jacob Weisberg (which I can no longer locate), argues that Republicans could defeat Obama only by appealing to white racial anxiety, and I think that’s true.

    I’m a conservative Republican myself and I can’t think of any reason to vote GOP this year except out of racism (if I vote at all, I’ll vote for Obama). Quite a few prominent Republicans or former Republicans have publicly endorsed Obama: Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, was a lifelong Republican when she publicly endorsed Obama at the start of 2008 (she officially declared as an independent on 08/21/2008 in Invesco Stadium). Wikipedia has a list of other prominent Republicans who have publicly endorsed Obama, under the heading “Obama Republicans.”

    Aside from Rovian party hacks like Limbaugh, the only other well-known Republicans who have been explosively enthusiastic about Palin as VP have been white Evangelicals (again contrary to your expectation noted above).

    Surprisingly, the staff at National Review Online (conservative journal) have united in rejecting Palin’s nomination on the ground that she’s too radically unqualified to step in as Commander-in-Chief, given the risk that McCain might die in office.

    Given the GOP’s history of playing the race card and the fact that only party hacks and white Evangelicals have shown enthusiasm for Palin, I’m surprised that Obama supporters, as exemplified in the threads at “Feministe,” seem to accept at face value McCain’s claim that he’s playing gender politics in choosing Palin as VP. When, on “Feministe,” I posted my above-stated point about racism, no one took up the issue except the commenter “William” in a later Feministe thread where he stated that Palin’s nomination reflected at least in part an appeal to prejudice — but even he called the Palin nomination a “genius” choice for achieving the goals of GOP strategists!

    Regardless of what McCain and his staff publicly claim about their choice for VP, McCain & Co. must certainly have been aware that someone like Palin is not going to draw in Hillary supporters or any other women who are not already ultraconservatives.

    So the only motive I can think of, besides galvanizing the GOP’s Evangelical base, is to provide a cover under which covert white racist voters can try to prevent a black (actually biracial) candidate from becoming President.

    Also, to add to your critique of Palin herself, one additional incentive for choosing her as VP is that she is the only GOP woman in high office (state governor) that I know of who is not known to be tied to the Bush-Cheney mafia. This helps McCain distance himself from Bush. Congresswomen like Kay Hutchison, Olympia Snowe, etc., and even former EPA Chief Christine Todd Whitman are compromised by either working with Bush in Congress or being temporarily part of the Bush administration.

    I apologize for this long post which repeats my former posts, but I really would like to know how Obama supporters see the racial angle that might lie behind Palin’s nomination. It really surprises me that Democrats and the press seem to unquestionally accept McCain’s claim of playing gender politics, without considering an appeal to racism in choosing Palin, in light of the fact that she might not ever be qualified to replace McCain as Commander-in-Chief.

  3. So the only motive I can think of, besides galvanizing the GOP’s Evangelical base, is to provide a cover under which covert white racist voters can try to prevent a black (actually biracial) candidate from becoming President.

    N5P7Q: Your’s is as good an explanation as any I’ve heard, although of course there can be more than one rationale for McCain’s pick. I’ve been trying to break down the VP selections into broad categories. (1) People McCain might have preferred as his running mate but couldn’t have, eg, Joe Liebermann and Lindsey Graham; (2) people McCain should have preferred as his running mate but didn’t, eg, Mitt Romney; (3) people McCain might have preferred as his running mate but they themselves didn’t want the job, eg, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson; (4) people McCain wouldn’t even consider having as a running mate but they themselves would have loved the job, eg, Sam Brownback.

    I think the freakiness of the Palin choice shows that a good number of nationally known Republicans with solid resumes passed on the job offer.

  4. I think N5 just about nailed it. I’m an Obama supporter, and I think I see what McCain is doing here. It’s a race issue, but subtle.

  5. RE: My initial comment on this thread, 6th paragraph, final 2 lines, which read ” … [commenter William on “Feministe”] called the Palin nomination a ‘genius’ choice for achieving the goals of GOP strategists!”

    To avoid misunderstanding William’s comment, it should be understood that William is speaking ironically here and does NOT support McCain/Palin.

    Also, William actually said “brilliant” choice (or move), not “genius” choice. The full context of William’s cited comment can be found on the “Feministe” blog in comment #40 (dated 08/30/2008 at 10:23 a.m.) in the thread to the post entitled “John McCain Thinks Women Are Stupid.”

    The phrase “genius choice” was instead used by commenter “J. Dagger Lee” in comment #45 (dated 08/29/2008 at 4:35 p.m.) in the thread to the “Feministe” post entitled “Crap” (regarding the Palin nomination). JDL’s comment, like William’s, is meant to be understood ironically and NOT as support for McCain/Palin.

    I apologize for not clarifying William’s comment in my initial post and also for carelessly misquoting him.

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