by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
September 7, 2008
PALIN: FROM QUAYLE TO EAGLETON TO AGNEW
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's been nearly a week since he announced it, and I still cannot believe that John McCain would choose someone who is arguably the most unqualified and inexperienced vice presidential nominee in recent memory.
On the surface, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin seemed like a daring choice - the first woman selected by the Republicans to run for vice president. But once you get past that, you can quickly see what a blunder it was to choose her.
At 44, she is a first-term governor with less than two years under her belt. Prior to that, she was the part-time mayor and a councilwoman in Wasilla, Alaska, a village about 30 miles north of Anchorage of barely 7,000 people. Now, she could be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.
So, why would the 72-year-old McCain pick someone with so little experience? He didn't have any choice.
Reportedly, McCain wanted either Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and was willing to settle for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. McCain was apparently overruled by higher-ups in the party.
If McCain wanted to put a conservative woman on the ticket, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson certainly has more experience. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, currently one of McCain's economic advisors, might have been another plausible choice. Or perhaps Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe or even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. There is certainly no lack of competent, experienced Republican women.
Instead, McCain chose someone with no expertise in economic or foreign policy. She is a rookie governor of the 47th largest state (by population), where the biggest issue she has to face is how to divvy up the oil royalty checks that are handed out to every Alaskan every year.
It's not even worth wasting time talking about the myriad of scandals that have popped up over the past few days. Nor is it worth dwelling on Bristol Palin, the 17-year-old daughter who got knocked up by a high school hockey player. Where she stands on the issues is what matters, and she is clearly 180 degrees away from, say, Hillary Clinton.
She is a strongly anti-abortion mother of five who also opposes contraception and sex education. She doesn't think much of Charles Darwin and thinks creationism should be given equal weight to Darwin's theory of evolution. She opposes same-sex marriage, opposes universal health care and stem cell research and thinks global warming is a myth. Her energy policy is similar to McCain's - drill, drill, drill. And she was a Pat Buchanan supporter in 2000.
Despite her lack of experience and her reactionary views, many conservative commentators are lavishing praise on Palin as exactly the energy boost the McCain campaign needs. It is truly amazing to watch these folks twist themselves in knots trying to justify this decision.
Unfortunately, the people who haven't drunk the conservative Kool-Aid see this is a choice that smacks of desperation. Do the Republicans really think that putting a woman on ticket - albeit an anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-environment, creationist hockey mom - will attract the disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters? If they do, they are dreaming.
The Democrats left Denver last week more unified and more energized than they've been in decades. In Obama, they have a candidate who has been surefooted and steady. He has taken the worst that the Republicans have thrown at him over the past two months, and came through mostly unscathed.
In Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the Democrats have an experienced vice presidential candidate who is able to take on the tough issues facing the country. He wasn't the boldest choice that Obama could make, but no one is questioning Biden's competence.
Palin's presence on the GOP ticket raises more questions than it answers. Was McCain forced to take Palin as a sop to the fundamentalists to keep them from sitting out this election? Are they still fighting the last primary war, thinking that Palin can woo the jilted Hillary loyalists? Did every other plausible candidate, save for Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, turn McCain down, sensing that the GOP may face an electoral blowout in November?
When Palin was first picked, it was only a matter of hours before she was compared to Dan Quayle and Harriet Miers. Now, she's being compared to Tom Eagleton, George McGovern's running mate in 1972, who got dumped in a matter of days after word got out about his mental health issues.
Don't be surprised if the Republicans throw Palin under the bus. They are now seeing what a mistake McCain has made, and it will be just a matter of time before an alibi is crafted to justify booting Palin off the ticket.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for nearly 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.