When I heard that John McCain had picked a glamorous, gun-toting, motorcycle-riding, crusading woman to be his running mate (named Sara[h] P., no less), I have to admit I got chills–not altogether unpleasant ones. This is an archetype that powerfully appeals to men and, it seems, women.
Now, though, count me among the bemused. Partly it’s that Governor Palin’s executive record isn’t as great as touted. She left her hometown in a fiscal mess which (given the scale of the budgets involved) rivals the nightmare-in-red-ink that Bush-Cheney have inflicted on the federal level. (See the details of one example of mismanagement here.) She has been lying, persistently, flagrantly, and apparently consciencelessly, about her alleged opposition to the “Bridge to Nowhere” and other (more successful) attempts to corral Federal earmark money for the benefit of Alaska. (“Earmarks” is the term used when the money is for Us, the Good People of This Fair State. “Pork-barrel” is when it’s for Them, the Bad People in Some Other State.) I will leave others to sort out the thorny issues of her foreign policy experience (her state was one thin border away from the ravening hordes of Canada, etc.) and the extent to which one can be the “commander in chief” of a military unit which has another actual commander-in-chief. (See some relevant detail here, but it’s only Wikipedia, so apply salt as needed, directly to the wound if it seems advisable.) Suffice it to say that I don’t think these claims are strong.
The real source of my bemusement, though, comes from Palin’s alleged media appeal. She is easier on the eyes than McCain is, or many a politician of the left, right or center. (McCain himself has been visible moved by her.) But, for me, the spell breaks when she opens her mouth. Irrespective of what she says, her delivery is smug, supercilious, irritated, and nasal. Of all the politicians on either side, I’d say the one whose speaking style most resembles hers is Giuliani. If other voters, particularly in the center, see her (or hear her) this way, I don’t know that she will really help McCain to reach outside his base.
He could have done worse (i.e., by picking almost anyone who ran against him in the primary, with the possible exception of Huckabee). But I think that just illustrates how thin the bench is on the Republican side, when you’re talking about politicians who can operate credibly on the national level. (The Democrats are not much better off, and pretty much lucked out with Obama. I know this will probably get me more lectures about how Obama is not the Messiah–a true fact which is utterly irrelevant–but so be it.)