Saturday, August 30, 2008

John McCain's Hail Sarah Pass


Generally speaking, one doesn't throw a Hail Mary pass in the opening minutes of the third quarter. And yet this seems to be precisely what John McCain has done.

Immediately before the Democratic Convention, the race was very close, indeed almost tied. The Democratic convention gave Obama a predictable bounce; McCain would soon receive his after his own convention. There was no particular reason to panic or take extraordinary risks at this point. Indeed, the recent weeks of negative advertising directed against Obama seemed to be hitting their mark.

McCain, however, wanted to shake up the race, and confirm his maverick tendencies. But in doing so, he may have confirmed another set of stereotypes: that he shoots from the hip, doesn't think through his choices carefully, does not have the patience to prepare, is aggressive and lacks sound judgment.

McCain probably figured that there would be a round of media vetting about Palin's past, including the dust up over allegations that she pushed for the firing of a state trooper engaged in a messy child custody dispute with her sister. McCain must have predicted that after a few days, these allegations would lead no where. But at the same time, the danger is that they will continue to attract media attention and overwhelm his message.

He also figured that there would be an extended debate on Palin's preparedness to be President, given that McCain is 72 years old and has had numerous health problems, in addition to being generally debilitated from his imprisonment years before. Again, he must have assumed that this would either blow over or be turned against Obama. But again, the danger is that these debates will swamp his message-- that the media coverage will be about Palin's (purported) deficiencies, and not about him.

McCain wants to send the message that he is a maverick who puts country first. The Palin pick might confirm that message. Or it might send a conflicting message: that he is a calculating politician who would do anything to win; in order to shore up his base and make a cynical appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters, he put an untested and inexperienced person a heartbeat from the presidency when the presidential candidate may not make it through his first term.

The point of a hail Mary pass is that neither you nor the defense knows what is likely to happen. You just throw the ball as far as you can and hope that your team catches it. McCain's Hail Sarah pass is very similar: he doesn't have any way of knowing what the meaning of the pick will be in two month's time. All he can do is throw his choice out into the playing field of the American mass media and hope for the best.

McCain's critics will say that this risky behavior is precisely what we do not want in a chief Executive following the Texas-gambler style of George W. Bush, who staked his Presidency on the War in Iraq and blundered badly in the execution. Perhaps, however, McCain knows something that most people don't about the fundamentals of the race. Perhaps he has reason to believe that, despite surface appearances, he is way behind and needs to shake things up badly if he has any chance to win. In that case, the Palin pick is not merely risky: it is a necessity.

We will know more in a few months' time.


"McCain knows something that most people don't about the fundamentals of the race. Perhaps he has reason to believe that, despite surface appearances, he is way behind and needs to shake things up badly if he has any chance to win. In that case, the Palin pick is not merely risky: it is a necessity."

Here we see the biggest problem with American politics, and the Republican party in particular: Politics is seen as a game in which the winner gets power and it's all about winning, and the ability to actually govern isn't particularly relevant. In a sane world, nominating a completely unqualified person to be vice president because it gives you the best chance to win the presidency would be too high a price to pay. If the Palin pick is a hail mary--and I think it is--then it indicates not merely that McCain is putting self before country but rather that McCain isn't considering country at all. McCain wants to win for the sake of winning alone, country be damned.

Wow! Democrats have given up all interest in truth. It has become smear Sarah Palin no matter what. Reason: she is far more qualified than Barack Obama. See:

Maybe I'm blinded by ideology, but I can't imagine after Obama's speech the other night that McCain seriously thinks he can win this election. If that happens to be the case, then the selection of Palin serves another purpose, and the Bush Administration's move toward passing an updated AUMF bill raises a big flag here for me.

If the Republicans have more or less given up on winning, then their actions over next six months will have a very different purpose than if Bush were preparing the WH for another Republican tenant. Palin provides plenty of noise to distract from Bush and Cheney's strategy as lame duck executives in a lame duck party.

Perhaps a bit conspiratorial, and who knows how Palin's biography will publicly shake out (y'know, pollwise), but this AUMF thing this morning really caught my attention.

This pick is obviously mccain putting self before country and is a long term strategic loss.

I agree it is a hail mary, which shows shockingly selfish interests, but consider how often those hail mary's fail. for them to throw it so soon smacks of desperation. [most likely, john shot from the hip in a childish pique after being told he couldn't have his Lieberman]

all obama has to do is ignore her and focus this as proof that mccain lacks the executive ability we need.

A Christian Prophet:

Wow! Democrats have given up all interest in truth....

If so, they're decades behind the Rethuglicans. Just Iraq was responsible for more lies ... and more deaths ... than anything any Democrat has ever said.

... It has become smear Sarah Palin no matter what....

You mean how she's not actually opposed to earmarks, and wanted that "Nowhere bridge" (or at the least, the money)?

Or how about her abuse of power?

... Reason: she is far more qualified than Barack Obama.

... to be a Republican. You know, like champion "creationism" in the schools and deny global warming....

Another "Know-Nothing". The last thing we need....


My, oh my, ‘christian prophecy’ just isn’t what it used to be; it contradicts the faith I received from my father, when it reads like a proclamation from The Ministry of Truth.
Still, to display shamelessly vivid absurdities as divinely inspired, perhaps with help from willful blindness, seems outrageous.
Calling one’s claims “prophecy”, plainly fabricated as they are, plainly ‘false witness’, is the action of someone the Bible calls a ‘false prophet’. It is one who calculates to deceive, to the intended detriment of spiritual health.
IIRC they are singled out for their very own eternal punishments.
I would fail in my Christian duty if I didn’t warn him he is playing with deeply dangerous fire.

The current electoral climate (and the underlying desperation of the Palin pick) can be attributed to a lot of things. I would not discount, however, way that W raised the stakes by adopting the model of a constitutional dictatorship. No president should have the power that he attempted to aggregate to himself and, but for one vote, he would have had it.

What that means from an electoral strategy standpoint, is that the reward for gaining the presidency is almost "winner take all." It was never designed to be that way.

Hate to hijack, but I must ask:

Christian Prophet, why does your website approvingly quote Thomas Paine and Ayn Rand, when both of them explicitly denied the divinity of Jesus?

(sorry, everyone else)

SGEM, his site -- his handle notwitstanding -- concerns "abolishing socialism," which probably explains the Rand.

Paine has been used by libertarians though his support of social welfare legislation might be a problem. He also honored God, but not the Bible, as Age of Reason underlines. But, selectively quoting him might work.

The lead post over there notes "Barack Obama has never governed," which is of the "how I define things" variety, since being a state and federal legislator tends by most people to mean "governing."

This is shown by this quote:

"He is a socialist community organizer who has zero understanding of economics, by definition."

Being an organizer on the streets clearly is not the way to learn economics! Obama also should be deemed special for a "Christian" given he has written that early on religion didn't mean too much to him, later he in effect found the power of Jesus and ran with it. But, not the right Jesus, so to speak.

More pushing "values" selectively. My values great, your values, defined away. The media eats this up, labeling "values" elections to mean "conservative values" as if left leaning church going activists don't have any.

BTW, the "experience" thing wasn't raised by Barack Obama supporters but by his critics. They have the cry of hypocrisy to answer. Still, fwiw, his life experiences and career still trumps Sarah Palin, though her views don't help.

"No One Can be the Slave of Two Masters"

have you picked yours?

btw the original post was a pretty good analysis, its fairly temperate tone only helping things; still Robert has a point.

Palin is just another Harriet Miers. The McCain folks obviously think they are in very deep trouble.

Professor Balkin:

If choosing a nominee with 7 years of small time executive experience is a "hail mary," what is nominating a presidential candidate with none?

As usual, Canadian Mark Steyn has a interesting view of American politics:

Governor Palin is not merely, as Jay describes her, "all-American", but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I'm not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.

Second, it can't be in Senator Obama's interest for the punditocracy to spends its time arguing about whether the Republicans' vice-presidential pick is "even more" inexperienced than the Democrats' presidential one.

Third, real people don't define "experience" as appearing on unwatched Sunday-morning talk shows every week for 35 years and having been around long enough to have got both the War on Terror and the Cold War wrong. (On the first point, at the Gun Owners of New Hampshire dinner in the 2000 campaign, I remember Orrin Hatch telling me sadly that he was stunned to discover how few Granite State voters knew who he was.) Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain't run nothin' but his mouth. She's done the stuff he's merely a poseur about. Post-partisan? She took on her own party's corrupt political culture directly while Obama was sucking up to Wright and Ayers and being just another get-along Chicago machine pol (see his campaign's thuggish attempt to throttle Stanley Kurtz and Milt Rosenberg on WGN the other night).

You may want to do a youtube search of Governor Palin and review some of her interviews and speeches. The woman is no clueless neophyte, rather she is closer to the label some Alaskan wags have adopted from her H.S. hoops days: "Sarah Barracuda."

I'm sure the praise of such luminaries as Mark Steyn will impress the people who have any respect at all for him. Hands? You can raise both hands, Bart, but it only counts once.

I've heard her speak, and read some of her writing, and she's neither an impressive intellect nor a compelling speaker. Worse, she lacks the ability to evaluate scientific findings (as evidenced by her creationism) -- so she's simply not qualified for high office. So what makes her more compelling than, say Huckabee or Pawlenty?

I've asked other conservatives this question, and the answer is basically silence.

So what makes her more compelling than, say Huckabee or Pawlenty?

Palin is a true reform conservative in the Gingrich class of 1994 mold who thrills the GOP base and can get them out to vote while also appealing to independents.

Pawlenty is a reform governor, but more of a moderate.

Huckabee might as well be a Dem.

Energizing the GOP base is far more important than the 1-2% of the female vote Palin may be able to add to the McCain column. Obama is already underperforming here compared to previous Dems and McCain has probably picked up most of the swing female vote he is going to get. I doubt the staunch pro life Palin will be able to mine much further into the Dem feminist base.

"Huckabee might as well be a Dem."

No, sorry. We don't allow Dominionist nutjobs into our nice little semi-secular party.

I guess Palin has more "executive experience" than McCain then also. Shouldn't the ticket be flipped? If you really want to argue that Sarah Palin is more qualified to be President than McCain, go ahead.

Anyway, how different can the Wassila, Alaska, city council be from the USA? I'm sure that the executive experience she garnered as mayor of a town of 5,000 people directly transfers to the office of Vice President of the world's most powerful nation. If any bowling alley in DC has a zoning issue, she will be ALL over it. Kids karate-chopping the fences near the hardware store? She will OWN their asses. Grandpa McCain won't even have to go out on the lawn to yell at those damn kids.

Also, racist jingo Mark Steyn did actually sum up the only reason she was picked: she appeals to the "Jesus rode a dinosaur" crowd. I guess McCain really is a clone of Bush. Dangerous incompetence is no obstacle to high office as long as the evangelical base can identify with your Moose stew, your shotguns, and your creationism.

And, of course, Palin is already under investigation for abuse of power! That is just icing on the beauty queen cake.

If McCain is trying to prove to the country that he is an older, crankier Bush, he is succeeding brilliantly.

"I can’t believe a guy that handsome wouldn’t have some impact." --John McCain, commenting on Bush 41's pick of Dan Quayle as a running mate.

It's really quite simple: McCain looked the woman in the eye and thereby got a sense of her soul. As readers here well know, this is a tried and true vetting procedure.


"Reform" isn't specific. Neither is "conservative".

When you say "Palin is a true reform conservative in the Gingrich class of 1994 mold ..."

Do you mean by "reform", "not corrupt like the Republican she replaced?" If you mean "sees waste everywhere and cuts it ruthlessly", how do you make such a determination after one go-around with the Alaska budget?

When you say "conservative" do you mean "AGW denier", "creationism supporter", or "willing to trash the environment if it means some jobs"?

When you say "thrills the GOP base and can get them out to vote while also appealing to independents..."

Do you mean "represents a blank slate upon which the GOP base can imagine they see anything they want to see, and about whom there isn't enough information upon which to base a negative impression in the remaining 60 days"?

I don't see the appeal to "independents" -- I think you are deluding yourself there. Time will tell.

c2h50h said...

Bart, "Reform" isn't specific. Neither is "conservative".

If you require a rehash of how the GOP took Congress in 1994 on the platform of reform, Gingrich and his merry band of reformers took on a thoroughly corrupt Dem leadership, forcing the Speaker to resign, and the complicit "get along" GOP leadership. Palin even more impressively took on and rather ruthlessly cleaned out the thoroughly corrupt old boy network of her own party.

Palin is also clearly in the mold of the Reagan conservative coalition - a free market, socially conservative hawk with the personal history of a Reagan Dem.

In addition to the certainty that McCain will fight the war and the probability that he will complete a conservative supermajority on the Court, Palin is the only thing that excites this and other conservatives who cut their teeth on the Reagan Revolution about the prospect of a "bipartisan" McCain presidency.

One can only hope that McCain will listen to Palin's counsel on energy and better yet give her a portfolio on this area as VP if they are elected.

The Gallup tracking poll of registered voters and the more finely tuned Rasmussen tracking poll of likely voters indicate that the Clinton speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday provided Obama an average DNC bounce, but that Obama's widely viewed Thursday acceptance speech flopped and/or the McCain announcement of Palin for VP stepped all over the Obama speech as the Obama lead plateaued and is now dropping.


It's a bit too soon for any thoughtful person to have a considered opinion on this, so I wouldn't trust a tracking poll at this point.

I think you are projecting your hopes (or fears) on Governor Palin's meager record, and doing so without the benefit of a full introduction.

I suggest waiting until after Gustav has dropped to a tropical depression ravaging Arkansas to see what the polls say.


Palin even more impressively took on and rather ruthlessly cleaned out the thoroughly corrupt old boy network of her own party.

Thus her highly motivated stands against the corruption of Senator Stevens, Representative Young, and her consistent work against the "Bridge to Nowhere."

"Bart" DePalma:

You may want to do a youtube search of Governor Palin and review some of her interviews and speeches. The woman is no clueless neophyte...

No, of course not. She disagrees with anthropogenic global warming, she wants creationism taught in schools, and she's against all embryonic stem cell research. Michelle Bachmann, of course, is out hyping her "virtues"....


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