Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm sorry, who for Veep??

I vacationed in Alaska two years ago, right around this time of year. I went to Juneau, walked past the governor's mansion (which is nice but hardly ornate)...and Sarah Palin had not won the right to live there yet.

A few days earlier, completing the train trip from Fairbanks to Anchorage, we traveled through a small town called Wasilla. At that time, Sarah Palin was four years removed from a six-year stint as mayor of this town of about 7,000 people.

Usually it's pretty easy to figure out what a presidential nominee is thinking when he makes his pick for running mate. Even in the case of Dan Quayle, the attraction was clear, if misplaced. He was young, but had some experience, and he came out on the right side of many of the social issues. At the time, he was considered something of a comer, though he obviously had not yet enjoyed the scrutiny that exposed him as a hopeless lightweight.

But Sarah Palin is known, if at all, largely for being the best-looking governor in the nation (this opinion, of course, held by male commentators). Alaska is quite an unusual state, and certainly does present some unique challenges among the fifty. One might say that anyone who could master those challenges would be nimble enough to handle a larger stage. Palin, however, hasn't been governor long enough to prove that at all.

Whatever one might think of Joe Biden, and he is a polarizing figure to many, we can agree that he fills the bill as potential president in terms of background and experience. You may be vehemently against him, but it would be hard to argue that he would not be ready to inhabit the office should a tragedy make that necessary.

Palin hasn't demonstrated that at all. It appears to be a cynical pick, one in which she passed the McCain tests of youth and ideology and, most importantly, a supposed attraction to the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, the Hillary supporters who will now flock to the McCain-Palin ticket. This assumes, of course, that those women are able to overlook the ardent pro-life stance that Palin has made a major part of her persona (one of the enduring mysteries of this campaign is the way that, so far, women have projected their pro-choice feelings on McCain, despite his clarity on the subject).

The byzantine part of my personality makes me wonder if this isn't a setup in some way, if we won't be turning on our radio or looking at the Internet the next couple of days and see Sarah Palin gratefully decline this wonderful opportunity ("upon further reflection, and consultation with my family, I have decided that this is not the time to embark on a national position, but to stay here and serve the people of Alaska"). Then McCain turns to Joe Lieberman, the nation breathes a sigh of relief, and we all hop on board with Grandpa John and his little friend, realizing that this really is a strong pair after all.

I'm probably wrong. John McCain probably just likes the image of having a running mate who was three years old when he was taken into captivity by the North Vietnamese. Why will be talked about for decades to come.

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