Recently I was gigantic. Or so it seemed because I was attending a school open house and sitting in a tiny chair designed either for a small child or an elf with one buttock. Context is everything.

I was thinking about context as I observed with fascination McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The immediate response from my lefty friends was that McCain was insane to pick a running mate with such a thin resume. That's one possibility. The other explanation is more interesting.

My first response to McCain's decision was to assume that Republicans did not suddenly forget how to win elections. If selecting Palin was a brilliant strategy in disguise, how exactly was it supposed to work?


McCain had a context problem. He was an old (too old) white guy from the failed establishment running against a younger and more exotic agent of change. It was a losing context. His choice of Palin changed the context.

Since selecting Palin, the discussion in the media and in kitchens across America has shifted from "Can you be too old to be President?" to "Can you be too young and inexperienced?" McCain has cleverly put his critics in the position of arguing that experience is a good thing. And McCain has more of it than Obama. If you believe that people only vote for presidents, not vice presidents, this was a clever move.

The Democrats' other big argument against McCain was that he's a phony maverick who won't really change anything. It's hard to make that case while at the same time criticizing him for making such a surprising pick for Vice President. You can argue with Palin's credentials, but you can no longer argue with McCain's willingness to buck conventional wisdom. That book is closed.

On the more obvious side of things, picking a young woman insulates McCain from being the charter member of the Old Boy's Club. It's politically correct to say voters are smart. But clearly there are millions of exceptions. Some voters prefer candidates who look like them, end of story. Palin will increase McCain's support from female votes and hardcore conservatives.

Palin also has the benefit of making McCain look more presidential by comparison. Call it the Dan Quayle effect. By way of contrast, Obama is in the position of having a running mate who is clearly more experienced than him, just as smart, and lacks only charisma. That exacerbates Obama's problem of looking like a celebrity and not a leader.

If Palin survives all the scandals and rumors, the argument against her comes down to experience. But how important is experience for a president? Quick, name a presidential mistake that was caused by inexperience as opposed to stupidity, laziness, bad luck, or any of a dozen other reasons. I'm no historian, but I can't think of any presidential mistakes attributed to inexperience.

Palin would have been the wrong choice for just about any other presidential candidate. But in the context of McCain's campaign against Obama, it might have been a brilliant campaign strategy. Is this another example of McCain being underestimated, or was it simply a brain misfire of an old man who ran out of time?

Frankly, I can't tell.
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Sep 16, 2008
There are two levels here - level one is elections, level two is running the country. Similar to passing your graduation exams and having a career. One leads to the other, but if your focus is only on the first and not on the second then you're in trouble.

I think the choice of Palin was brilliant from the point of view of level one i.e. winning the elections / passing the exam. I'm not saying this guarantees victory, but it certainly brings them from way back in the race to serious contender. However, I think she's a bad choice from the point of view of level two i.e. running the country.

In short - a good move, till it proves to be a bad one!
Sep 15, 2008
I really enjoyed, Mr. Adams, and I believe it to be spot on. My favorite line was, "It's politically correct to say voters are smart. But clearly there are millions of exceptions."... Nice! Evidence for the veracity of your statement can be seen here in the comments!

From one side of Jell's mouth comes his expanded critique of McCain's foreign policy while his other side says he's no expert on foreign policy and is not basing his decision on foreign policy. Huh?

Then there's Muppet who believes things like Patriotism, support the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution and Welfare Reform, among others, are indications of hate. You're right Muppet, Welfare Reform is obviously an attack on the poor. We all should instead support a system that perpetuates the very condition it is intended to dispel. Makes sense to me! While we're at it, let's provide free cigarettes to lung cancer sufferers. At least they'll feel better, right?

Glad I was linked to this blog, I think I'll enjoy it. To all those who have a well thought out reason for their vote, I applaud and thank you. To all others, please stay home on November 4, 2008.
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Sep 14, 2008
'Some voters prefer candidates who look like them, end of story.'
very funny
i've noticed the display only my comments button, that's also funny
i wish i could read all the comments just scrolling down as it was before in the old blog, not folded up as it is now
Sep 12, 2008
I think the point you are missing, and the one I hope that American voters don't miss, is that if anything happens to McCain, Palin will become President. Surely she does not have enough experience to run the country, but as the founding fathers said, anyone can become president. I think the only reason Bush wasn't assassinated long ago was that no one wanted Cheney to become President, although the shock of becoming President probably would have did him in. As for Palin, I just have a problem with the fact that she is a religious nut, and a hypocrite to boot. I mean, we all expect our politicians to lie to us, but I guess we are still shocked when they do it so blatently.
Sep 11, 2008
The first thought in my head when I saw McCain had picked Palin for VP was exactly: BRILLIANT.

I am a registered Independant vegetarian whose favorite book is Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto. But even I can see sheer brilliance when it occurs, even if orchestrated by the Republicans.

In my opinion, you are forgetting one very important marketing truth, and that is that beautiful women can get away with anything. Human physical beauty is one of the most powerful forces of nature in the world. You can't stop people from being drawn to physical beauty at the most basic, even genetic, levels.

Throw in the surprise element, the POW war veteran element, and the way humans just love nastiness, you have basically the Houdini of campaign strategy. And frankly, I am scared. I think they actually might win now.

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2008
The Republican slogan that irks me most is "Country First", as if the interests of the USA are somehow less than foremost in the minds and plans of the Democrats. (Or did they really want to write "My country right or wrong" but couldn't fit that many letters onto the signs?)
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Sep 11, 2008
Treetrunk123 wrote: "People align themselves with the Republican party for various reasons, but the top three are usually taxation, national security and wanting more limited government. If the Democratic Candidate has recently adopted the Republican view on these issues, I stand corrected."

Interesting. If the Republicans truly stand for limited government and national security, they haven't done a very good job of it for the past 7.5 years. The taxes to pay for the Iraq war alone -- a war of choice, not necessity -- belie any Republican claim to fiscal responsibility, and what do we have to show for it"?

McCain supports the war in Iraq, and that alone will keep me from voting Republican. One could claim that attacking Iraq focussed the anger of the Islamists on a target -- our troops -- far away from the continental USA. One could just as plausibly claim that it's made us _less_ safe by inciting antipathy to the USA. The images of torture at Abu Ghraib must be a great recruiting tool.

But, you may be thinking, that's all in the past, and this election's about the future. True! What are the foreign policy challenges for the next president? Nukes in Iran, N. Korea, Pakistan and probably Elbonia, too. Ongoing insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan; unfortunately, the Taliban are making a comeback. Oh, yeah, almost forgot: Russia (gulp). What would Obama do to further American interests abroad? I don't know, but then I don't claim to be an expert in geopolitics. Fortunately, the Dems have a deep bench of potential nominees for Sec. of State and Defense, so I'm confident he'll at least be getting good advice and could hardly botch things worse than George W. Bush has. I suspect a McCain presidency would also be a vast improvement over the Bush years, so I'm not really basing my vote on foreign policy. (It's the economy, Einstein.)
Sep 10, 2008
Davey West, I want to respond to your claim that "While I typically align myself Republican, I'm leaning towards Obama right now for one reason: No scandals."

Did you forget about William Ayers and his affiliation with this unrepentant terrorist for twenty years? I guess it is not as important as what McCain had done in his youth. His current marriage had been under strain, and he had the opportunity to leave, but he did not. This is proof that McCain has matured.

I am the reluctant pro-choicer, but did you know that Sen. Barak Obama opposed legislation to protect viable babies who survived abortions? Of course that is not a scandal, because he proudly opposed it.

I guess the closest thing to a secret scandal is the exposure of Rev. Jeremiah Wrong and his "G-D America speech". That was a secret that this candidate claimed to not even know about.

People align themselves with the Republican party for various reasons, but the top three are usually taxation, national security and wanting more limited government. If the Democratic Candidate has recently adopted the Republican view on these issues, I stand corrected.

Sep 10, 2008
Where do you really get the experience to be a great president? Ronald Regan was an actor who knew how to handle the media.

John McCain is a veteran, but hardly a war hero like Washington, Grant or Roosevelt.

While I typically align myself Republican, I'm leaning towards Obama right now for one reason: No scandals.

McCain got back from Vietnam and started fooling around on his crippled wife. I don't think anyone would have blamed him for being forthright and saying, "We've both changed." But he let his pecker do his thinking for him.

A hot chick one heartbeat from moving into the White House might keep me more interested in politics (and visiting my brother who is actually a uniformed SS guard), but there are too many stories about back-stabbing, lying, undue influence and manipulation for someone with such a short public service record.

Maybe Obama hasn't been in politics long enough, but no one has found a mistress -- not that there aren't hundreds of willing applicants. Biden is the poster boy for family values in the face of tragedy.

Arguably, the economy is the biggest issue facing most Americans, but no one can really say which plan or policy will "fix" things. It's too complex. We know what can break the economy (inflation, speculation, fraud), but we really don't know how to fix it.

Right now, Obama/Biden are the better choice for me because they have a morally better record.
Sep 10, 2008
In a few months, when we're talking about "where the Senator lost the election", I think two of the most popular opinions will be "when he picked his VP".

Sep 10, 2008
Oh, sure you can. Tell, I mean. You're such a kidder.

It's somewhat amusing to me how your lefty friends can talk about a woman who has been in government for thirteen years and has been governor of her state (thus making her the only candidate of either party to have had executive experience) and call her "inexperienced." Then, they turn around to Obama, who was a community organizer, a state senator for a short time, and then a US Senator running for president from the day he hit office, and call him somehow experienced.

So to the left, it's OK to be inexperienced if you're a charismatic and well-spoken presidential candidate, but if you are a charismatic and well-spoken woman running for vice-president with more experience than the other party's presidential candidate, it's somehow bad.

Let's face it: it was a great pick. It solidified and energized the Republican base. Donations are way up to the party; white women have had a twenty-point shift in their support, from eight percent in favor of Obama before the pick, to twelve percent for McCain after the pick. The left is panicked, and they're bringing out every slur they can make up, with the willing help of the mainstream media. I have already received three unsolicited e-mails from people I don't know telling me what a horrible person Sarah Palin is. Our lefty buddies, who support women in office (as long as they're liberal), are scared stiff. And they should be.

Their attacks on governor Palin are transparent, and they're having the opposite effect than what they intended. The news that the Obama campaign sent a team of thirty lawyers and campaign people to Alaska to dig up dirt on Palin shows how desperate they are, and it's beginning to piss independents off and make them move to McCain. The independents feel, quite rightly, that if the Obama campaign has to resort to this kind of tactic (which Obama said he would never do), then they are doing it because they will lose the debate on the issues big time.

And why did Obama pick Joe Biden? Talk about "Old Washington" and status quo, not to mention the little matter of plagarism. Everyone on the right knows he did it because he couldn't pick a woman unless he picked senator Clinton, and if he did that he'd have to hire a food taster.

Obama's past associations are coming back to roost, with apologies to his good friend the Reverend Wright. Bill Ayres, Father Pfleger, Tony Rezko, et. al. Compare all that to a mother of five who also is governor of her state. Open the door, Dems, and your chickens will poop all over your head. You support women in high positions, as long as they're liberal - Biden said it would be a step back for women if Palin got elected to Vice President. Sure, Joe. You tell 'em.

Ought to be a lot of fun to watch - but in any case, the Palin pick was a stroke of genius.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 10, 2008
Good OP Scott.
As has been said, there are some mistakes like bay of pigs that are due to lac of experience.

I think the way to spin this is that Obama picked the most qualified running mate who can offer him experienced based advice to consider when making decisions, whereas McCain picked someone to who looks good and will help win an election but who he will ignore once he is in office.

McCain's views are so different from Palin's no one should believe Palin will be doing much in office besides looking hot until McCain passes away.
Sep 10, 2008

I couldn't wait till you would say something about Palin. well done, good analysis.

I agree with yours but think it is a LOT cleverer than that.

The GOP knew that the Dems (or if not them, then liberal media, bloggers who are perceived to represent them) would come out tearing her apart. They knew that actually the result of this would be to make her seem like a poor, victimised, abused (beautiful) woman who's just trying to keep it all together. Rather like most "folks", in fact, except a little more attractive.

Even Obama recognised this, albit a little late, and begged his people to lay off her. But the damge was done, and anyway, he can't control every liberal journo and blogger.

The best strategy for the Dems (if they had real clever people running their campaigns, like the ppl who managed to get BUSH ELECTED - TWICE!!) WOULD have been a little counterintuitive - to all come out praising GOP, McCain, the Reps for picking a woman, for picking somone from a remote state, for being progressive, etc. Of course the praise should be a little patronising, and "damn her with faint praise". but not a single word of criticism - not of her inexperience, views, problems, record - NOTHING but (mild) praise.

This would have made Dems seem magnanimous, and would have subtly communicated 2 things - first, that Palin is so rubbish the other side can be nice about her, second, that well done the GOP for picking a woman - EVEN MORE well done the Dems for picking someone black!

That would have worke for them, but Rove et al gambled, correctly as it turned out, that the Dems / liberals would find the gambit irresistible and got sucked into the trap.

I feel that most of the Dem strategists are idealists - bread and butter for the Rep realists.

One of the funny things is that i guess the Reps anonymously tipped off the liberals all the Palin scandals - just in case they wouldn't find them on their own! All part of the plan - and quite a brilliant plan, too. Working so far.

As things stood, as Scott points out, McCain was probably losing. Now the election, as well as being what Scott mentioned, is going to be a referendum on Sarah Palin - do we give her the thumbs up or the thumbs down? If you decide thumbs-up, THE ONLY WAY OF DOING THAT is by voting her ticket! It's the same phenomenon that drives ppl to phone premium-rate phone numbers on American Idol etc.

My last point is i think McCain also reasoned as followed; if i pick a regular VP, then th whole election is a referendum on Barack. If he can convince everyone he's American enough, patriotic enough, "white" enough, etc then he wins, if he can't convince everyone then he loses. What would that make McCain, even if he won? The white guy who just happened to be running against the black guy who lost because of the racists.

This way, if McCain wins or loses, it's on his own terms, he can say, it was my brilliant, unpredictable decisons that won it or lost it.

Thats how i read it



+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 10, 2008
Inexperienced? Like the Governor of a Podunk state such as Arkansas? Before Slick Willie's gig grinding that state into the lower echelons of every category a state can lay claim to, his only other political resume item was running the McGovern campaign in Texas. Don't remember any Dems saying anything about inexperience back when he was the nominee
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 10, 2008
If Dick Cheney can make it through his 8 years (fingers crossed), health condition should not be a factor in presidential campaign anymore !
Palin is of course a super hot entry, context or not. She looks like someone who would be working on Tony Soprano's pschotherapy sessions. If McCain wins this one, I can imagine how jealous Bill Clinton would get. He would be thinking " I got Hillary for wife, Al for VP so I had to settle for Monica. This old bastad, has Cindy for wife, Palin for running mate. Next what, he will take in Angelina Jolie for his intern?"
In mind, McCain is already a winner!
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 10, 2008
Picking Palin seems a solid political move (especially in context). She fits the bill and can do all the things McCain doesn't appeals to the religious conservatives, and to boot she's a woman which is rather a boost with Hillary out.

As a European it scares me though. I was rather relieved when a man with a POLITICAL message- not a religious one was elected to the Republicans ballot. I had rather hoped not to have a potential US president who calls science a lie, considers the EU a sign of the impending apocalypse, want to ban literature, AND last but not least considers all atheist to be immoral (that'd be me). I find any nations willingness to put a religious nutter in absolute power to be disturbing- more so when its a nation that actually HAS power.
Sep 10, 2008
So this year the GOP has the edge in sex appeal - go figure. There's former Miss Alaska contestant Palin, of course. But let's not forget CIndy McCain who was on ESPN E:60 because she likes drifting - sliding sports cars around a track. No kidding - she went to Japan to learn. Talk about hot. The Republicans are going to get people who vote for American Idol but not in general elections.
Sep 9, 2008
_Both_ parties took obvious VP choices.

Statistically speaking, they both had to go towards the centre, and counteract extreme opinions of them or their policies. It's just more popular - that's more or less what 'centre' means. So Obama had to go for an old white guy, and McCain had to go for a young woman or black guy.

From a distance, the Republicans' best chance in this election is throw up incredibly strong claims whether there's any substance to them or not, and to keep people confused. Their demographic supports shows of strength independent of the topic. The Democrats need to not get sidetracked by that process. Looking at previous elections, I suspect it's going to be very close indeed.
Sep 9, 2008
I think the reason for choosing Palin is plainly obvious. The easiest way for an old fossil to show he is still virile is to pair up with a younger minx.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
Doofus Cartoonus wrote:
"Quick, name a presidential mistake that was caused by inexperience as opposed to stupidity, laziness, bad luck, or any of a dozen other reasons. I'm no historian, but I can't think of any presidential mistakes attributed to inexperience."

Oh, that's easy: Bay of Pigs
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