Home
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?

Context.

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.
 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +15
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:

Comments

Sort By:
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
One of my favorite intellectuals once said "A brilliant idea looks exactly like a stupid idea, right up until the moment that it works."
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
...for the record, I don't exactly agree with Obama either. Primarily regarding taxes.

Taxes will increase dramatically for people making just $30k a year under his proposal. Obama's proposed tax increases take more away from the poor than they would get back through government programs, unless they lose their job, then they could get more than when they were working.

I'm all about helping the little guy, but unless I did the math wrong Obama seems to hurt more than he helps.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
I've got to say I have some respect for McCain - I may not agree with him and I still don't know what to think of Palin, but I do give the guy some credit for making such an unpredictable choice for his VP.

Add his war record and the guy has some cahones.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
I disagree with the comment that "people are idiots". We are not idiots, we are just stupid (at least 80% of us are).
I smelled a pure political move with the Palin choice, but she sure is easier to look at then McCain. I think he's going to pull this off even if it's just due to the "hot factor". Also, if she shoots you in the face, I'd bet she ment to do it.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
One of your best recent posts.

RE: inexperience example. I dare say most of us can barely identify a mistake much less the reason for the mistake. My best guess, bay of pigs.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
Palin is perfect for McCain.

What I don't get is why Obama picked someone who reminds me of McCain. Then later, McCain picks someone who kind of reminds me of Obama. I wonder what would have happened if Obama could have picked Palin. And Obama could still pick McCain for his cabinet if experience is required. I guess McCain can have Obama in his cabinet if there is a Department of Fundraising. It isn't a tax if people volunteer the money, is it?
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 9, 2008
<<the argument against her comes down to experience>>

...which is the only argument against Obama, too, right?
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
Palin has definitely distracted the media away from Obama, perhaps permanently. She has so many things about her to discuss
-former beauty queen
-pro NRA
-proLife
-pro-Abstinance education
-pregnant daughter
-prior child was daughter's?
-sop to the right - if they vote for McCain now, they get president Palin in 8 years (or sooner!)
-a voice for republican working woman. If you're female, work and not liberal, she's your candidate
-soccer mom
-supported bridge to nowhere, before she didn't
-tried to get her brother-in-law fired for messing with her sister - you go girl! (?)
-She's so unabashedly right wing, nowhere near the center.

Meanwhile - Obama is yesterday's celebrity (how fleeting it is), and, oh yeah, he has an old rambling white guy running with him. What's interesting about that?

Usually the winner is the one closest to the center (moderate) - Kerry, Dukakis, Hillary were all too liberal. (in 2000 both candidates targeted the center). This year - hey - we do love our celebrities...

McCain made an awesome choice for him - all his other choices would have made him the "2 older white guys" ticket...

but is it the best choice for the rest of us?

I want to see Mccain debate Biden on the issues, and Palin debate Obama on the ideas, - though the former debate would have to be earlier in the evening. 8-}


 
 
Sep 9, 2008
McCain's choice of Palin did everything that McCain needed for his campaign whereas Obama's pick of Biden didn't help nearly as much. Both Palin and Biden filled in voids in the respective campaigns (McCain needed conservative cred and Obama needed experience), but it's what else the picks brought to the table that changed the game. Obama's entire campaign thus far has been based on "change" or horribly vague term but the essence of it was that Obama wanted to change Washington politics, yet he picks a Washington insider as his running mate. It didn't make much sense as it went against everything that Obama has been campaigning about for the past 18 months. Whereas McCain picking Palin shows that he is willing to go outside of Washington and maybe he is really that "agent of change" that the people seem to crave.

Personally I don't like either candidate and I am going to vote for a third party, but I have to admit that Palin was probably the final nail in Obama's coffin for this election cycle. In an election year that the Democrats should be running away with all of the sudden the Republicans are major contenders (at least for President) and I doubt the Dems can pull out a victory in this case.
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog