The Darwin Awards are given to people who kill themselves in spectacularly stupid ways. While Sen. Clinton committed a beautifully orchestrated ritualized political suicide a few nights ago, McCain shoots himself in the head with a nail gun.
No, doing yourself in with a nail gun is way too quick and clean. Choosing Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate is stupid on so many levels that it goes well beyond Kerry’s “before it before I was against it” or even Senator George Allen’s “macaca moment“. It is more akin to Noel Murphy’s “Murphy and the Bricks“.
When McCain “untied the rope” and announced his VP pick, a whole cascade of unfortunate events occurred.
First off, it completely negates McCain’s and the Republican’s arguments that experience, especially foreign experience, matters. Being 72 years old and a multiple cancer survivor makes his VP pick all the more important. She will need to be able to step in immediately to tackle international incidents and domestic catastrophes if the need should arise. But her political resume is extremely threadbare. Politico talked with presidential scholars who say “she appears to be the least experienced, least credentialed person to join a major-party ticket in the modern era.”
Second, it reeks of cynical political pandering. Choosing a socially conservative woman with very thin credentials as a running mate suggests that McCain is more interesting in “balancing the ticket” and winning the election than choosing someone competent and capable enough to handle the Oval Office. As the ultra-conservative National Review put it “Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?”
One of the reasons that she was chosen was that she shares McCain’s maverick image. She outed a Republican colleague in the oil and gas commission for skimming off the top and used this to propel herself into the governor’s mansion. But while campaigning she went against McCain’s drive against pork barrel spending, especially the iconic “bridge to nowhere”, by running on a “build-the-bridge” platform.
But when we look beyond her public life, we get into soap opera territory. An investigation is looking at her alleged abuse of power by firing a public safety commissioner because of his refusal to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in-law. Granted, her sister’s ex is a piece of work. He was reprimanded for tasering his step-son (Palin’s nephew) along with “violating nearly a dozen laws and departmental policies since December 2001.”
Want to go all the way down the rabbit hole? Social conservatives hail Palin’s decision to deliver her fifth baby after learning he had Down’s Syndrome. But the delivery keeps the muckraker’s heads scratching. While seven months pregnant and knowing that her child has Down’s Syndrome, she started leaking amniotic fluid. She was in Texas at the time and about to deliver a speech. Instead of going to a hospital then and there, she decided to deliver the speech, travel to the airport and fly all the way back to Alaska and then travel 50 minutes to a regional hospital before delivering the baby.
At this point liberal blogs started jumping on the story, claiming that the baby was actually Palin’s daughter’s. International outlets started to cover this angle and speculation built up so quickly that Palin just announced that her 17 year old daughter Bristol is now five months pregnant. Bristol is now planning on a shotgun wedding with the unnamed father to be.
The golden rule of choosing a running mate is “First, do no harm”. Choose someone that the American people can feel confident that they can take the helm if they need to, but otherwise should remain conspicuously boring. Instead, McCain will have to spend the next couple of months answering teen pregnancy, “bridge to nowhere” and ex-brother-in-law firing questions.
But after all of these sideshows have run their course, all of the spotlights will turn to McCain’s judgment. Failing on one of the biggest political decisions of his career does not bode well for how he will act on future decisions. And that will be in the front of voter’s minds come this November.