Thursday, September 4, 2008

Who cares?

There was a jaw-dropping moment this morning on MSNBC when Time's Jay Carney noted that Palin gave a great speech but that the real test will be when she is asked questions about health care and foreign policy. McCain spokesperson Nicolle Wallace answered that Palin doesn't have to answer to the press.  She said, "Who cares if she can talk to Time magazine, she can talk to the American people." Check it out: 

So there you have it. There's the strategy. The McCain campaign has 60 days to try and pull this off. For 60 days, Palin has to be the approachable small-town mother of five who can stick it to the big guys. The hope is that for that amount of time, she can memorize enough talking points that it won't matter that she hasn't traveled outside the country more than once. She will be the Avon lady for two months. She will impress during her debate with Biden. And how dare anyone question her. The McCain campaign will play the victim card for 60 days. Who cares that she doesn't know anything about fixing the problems in America, she's driven her kids to hockey practice.

It's infuriating to think such a strategy could work. Consider what Michael Scherer at Swampland wrote about the appeal of Palin. He wrote that Palin is not on the ticket to appeal to Hillary voters. He then quoted a pollster who said, "Hillary got about 10 million women's votes. There are going to be about 62 million wimen voters in November." He then added, "The Palin stuff is not aimed at the Hillary 10, it's at the other 52."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Define "off limits"

In the wake of news that Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant, both McCain and Obama said families were "off limits." Shortly after reporting the story as "breaking news" the cable networks sent out their talking heads to decry the stories. They were disgusted that such a thing would be discussed during a presidential race.

I don't actually disagree. It is a fact, and I don't have a problem with it being reported, but it should not decide how people vote. But I was furious at the people who said this delving into a candidate's personal background was unprecedented. My first thought was all the people who made jokes about Chelsea Clinton. In 1992, Chelsea was 12 years old. Her appearance (perm, braces, ugly dresses) was fodder for the late night talk shows. There was no MSNBC or Fox News at the time, but it's not hard to imagine the kind of off-hand remarks that would have been made about her.

Then I was reminded of an incident in 1998. At a Senate fund-raiser that year, John McCain said the following:

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."

Families should be off limits. 12-year-old girls should be off limits. Pregnant teenagers should be off limits. But, as he has done throughout this campaign, McCain is pretending to play by rules that he doesn't actually follow.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Palin

I thought I would be able to take Labor Day Weekend and come back and write about what it was like being at Invesco Field for Obama's speech Thursday night. But the announcement that Sarah Palin is McCain's choice for VP and the deluge of news stories introducing her to the country has led me to write about her instead. Since the announcement the race has flipped upside down. No one exactly know what impact McCain's selection will have, but I would like to offer my thoughts.

At first glance, it's a joke. Hell, at second and third glance, it's at best worth scratching your head over. It is so clearly pandering to Hillary voters that it's easy to laugh. She's a beauty queen winner for crying out loud. She has no experience that any of the talking heads would consider worthy of being president. And every few hours, a new story trickles out proclaiming to sink her -- pregnant daughter, troopergate, Ted Stevens, the secessionists. Everyone I've talked to sees right through it.

But the reaction -- albeit a predictable reaction -- from the McCain campaign to the attacks on Palin game me second thought. McCain hack Carly Fiorina came out swinging, saying the talk about Palin as inexperienced was sexist. CNN quoted Fiorina saying the following:

“I am appalled by the Obama campaign's attempts to belittle Governor Sarah Palin’s experience,” said Fiorina. “The facts are that Sarah Palin has made more executive decisions as a Mayor and Governor than Barack Obama has made in his life.

“Because of Hillary Clinton's historic run for the Presidency and the treatment she received, American women are more highly tuned than ever to recognize and decry sexism in all its forms. They will not tolerate sexist treatment of Governor Palin.”

It was bound to happen eventually, but I didn't realize they would resort to that line so quickly. And while the argument is as transparent as the selection itself, it will work. It might not work on the East Coast, but that's not what they are after. It might not work with the feminists, but they were never going to win them anyway. The group it could work with are the people in the west and in the south. The people who have felt slighted by McCain for not being religious enough or conservative enough will hear the selection of Palin as a call to arms. And the victimization of her will only solidify that feeling.

Obama must be careful. He and Biden (who unthinkably described Palin as "good looking") need to think long and hard before they come out swinging. The media and the left are enjoying the apparent absurdity of this pick. They are licking their chops. But she will give the speech of her life tomorrow. She will say her daughter is off limits and the crowd will go nuts. She will introduce herself to middle America and those voters will be impressed. The pundits will go crazy for her. And when that speech is done, Steve Schmidt, Charlie Black and John McCain will have played everyone like a fiddle.