I was brushing my teeth Friday when I heard that my neighbor John McCain had chosen Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his running mate. My first reaction was “Has he lost it?” My second reaction was a mirror-smudging spit-take upon hearing a TV reporter say, “Her favorite food is moose stew.”
In a single stroke, McCain gave up his best issue against Barack Obama -- experience -- and showed that he is just another cynical politician whose slogan, “Country First,” is meaningful only when it is convenient for him. In the process, he has insulted the intelligence of the American people and cast his own judgment in doubt, looking more like a desperate opportunist than the statesman he purports to be. In contrast, Obama’s pick of a solid and experienced running mate in Joe Biden makes him look like Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson rolled into one.
Readers of this blog know that I have had reservations about Obama and his lack of experience. I ended up voting for Hillary Clinton in the primary. I have always liked McCain, more or less, though I disagree with him on a great many important issues. For the first time in my life, I have been questioning whether to vote Democratic. (Marilyn, furious about the sexism she saw during the campaign, plans on writing in “Hillary Clinton” this fall.)
Now, thanks to the Palin pick, John McCain has pretty much convinced me that voting for him would be an unacceptable risk. For there is no way on God’s green earth that someone who has served 20 months as governor of a state with fewer people than Austin, TX, and whose prior experience was as mayor of a town of 5,469, is ready to assume the presidency of the United States and the leadership of the free world. As today's editorial in the Fairbanks News-Miner puts it, "Most people would acknowledge that, regardless of her charm and good intentions, Palin is not ready for the top job. McCain seems to have put his political interests ahead of the nation’s when he created the possibility that she might fill it."
If something happens to the 72-year-old, melanoma-prone McCain, I shudder to think of Sarah Palin negotiating with Vladimir Putin, or finessing Kim Jong Il, or dealing with a sudden nuclear crisis in Iran. And I have to wonder, too, whether a President McCain might not do something as rash and impulsive and nonsensical as he did in picking Palin. John McCain has thus cast doubt on his own fitness to serve.
I really do have to wonder about his temperament -- which Obama mentioned in his speech Thursday night -- and which has been the subject of some not-so-quiet concern by McCain’s own GOP colleagues. "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), told the Boston Globe. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."
Consider me worried, too.
And we may be hearing the word "Eagleton" pretty soon if this "Troopergate" investigation shows Palin to have been playing petty politics in the governor's office.
The Palin pick has been just another episode in what has been a bizarre political year. As Marilyn said the other day, “Doesn’t this whole campaign have an air of unreality about it?”
There is something about the GOP ticket that smacks of a bad sitcom (I nominate Tim Conway and Tina Fay for the leading roles) -- the story of a crusty, doddering war hero married to a beer heiress who runs for office with a gun-toting, moose-eating, hockey mom who also happens to be governor of the 49th state, where she and her snowmobiling-champion husband are raising their kids Track, Trig, and Willow (Paper, Scissors and Rock evidently having been taken, as someone pointed out). Oh, and between the McCains and the Palins, they have ten homes, so there’s always another venue for a hilarious misadventure.
Except, let's hope, the White House.
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