Bold action usually produces extreme results. Thus over the next couple of months we’ll learn together whether John McCain was a genius or an idiot with his sucker-punch choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The only short list on which she could have been included prior to today was "most improbable candidates."
In the short term it was a brilliant move for three reasons:
1. The media will be scrambling for days telling us who she is and what she’s done, effectively neutralizing some of the bounce Obama hoped to gain from his acceptance speech. Not that we’re going to need a lot of help forgetting everything he said. The spectacle far outweighed the message. Except for when he channeled MLK towards the end he mainly stood there and recited the ingredients from “Grandma’s Liberal Stew,” a recipe we’re so familiar with we don’t even need the cookbook anymore. This is the “change” we’ve been waiting for?
2. Without sounding too clichéd, picking a woman gives disaffected Hillary supporters another choice. Joe Biden was an underwhelming pick for the Democrats. He already ran for President in 1988, and does anyone even remember that he ran again in this very election? I think the only people who voted for him were his family and folks that owed him money. His campaign was over quicker than a visit to the Chicken Ranch brothel. Now he’s potentially one step away from the office he’s craved for the past 20 years. Sorry, Joe—we’ve already told you “no”---twice.
3. Such a dramatic move reinforces McCain’s "maverick" image. As a Republican myself I want to express my frustration that John McCain is our candidate to start with. Major league baseball teams have a farm system to develop new talent. This guy’s been around so long it seems like he was a POW in the Civil War instead of Viet Nam. I actually agree with Barack Obama that these challenging times require new ideas and extraordinary leadership, and I have little faith that McCain is the answer. On the other hand I’m old enough to remember when that last “change” candidate, Jimmy Carter, presided over 18% prime interest rates, long gas lines, and total gridlock in Washington.
So now we have campaigns that both include the old and the new, with the positions flip-flopped (oops, bad choice of words in politics!) on their respective tickets. John McCain just did something either really smart or really dumb. How all this plays out is anybody’s guess and hinges on one question: Is Sarah Palin any good? A riveting, intriguing and historical presidential race just got more so. Stay tuned---------