Palin Drone

Syracuse New Times | September 17, 2008
Sarah Palin is a history-making choice. And here is the history I hope she will make: Years from now her selection by a failed presidential candidate named John McCain will be known as the moment that sounded the death knell of the Republican Party's pandering to the religious right. Decades down the road people will attribute McCain's defeat to his deference to the theocrats who have stolen the party of Lincoln and pushed the country in a ruinous direction for nearly a generation.

If the maverick title were ever applicable to McCain, it can now be retired. McCain, by all reports, wanted to run with his ideological soulmate Joe Lieberman, but the party would not accept someone whose version of family did not match that prescribed by their religion. He turned, at the 11th hour, to the fresh-faced Alaska governor.

The selection of Palin, with her agenda of tax cuts (except in her town, where she raised them), limited government definition (except in matters of our sexual lives), and a strange, exuberant, over-the-top enthusiasm for drilling for oil, lit a fire under a party that seemed all but ready to stay home and let Barack Obama coast into the White House. Now the GOP leaves its national convention in St. Paul, Minn., eager to wage jihad against the Democrats (and the media, which seems determined to Drill, Baby, Drill into Palin's record).

When John McCain stepped up, just after the Democrats left Denver, to name Gov. Palin as his running mate, what he gave was not a nominating speech but a concession speech. After years of trying to preserve the image of independence from the Christian Taliban wing of the Republican party, McCain threw in the towel. It was a remarkable concession coming so early in the campaign.

It was a desperation call from the Karl Rove playbook. Clearly Palin's main attributes are her ability to draw out the Christian conservative vote in key areas like southern Ohio, and the NRA vote in the new swing state of Colorado. The choice has very little to do with governing, and everything to do with hoping to draw in the fringe of the party.

Palin, with her Tina Fey looks and matching experience in national government, is red meat for the right wing of the party. She showed in Minnesota that she has Ronald Reagan's gift of telling a story so well that she actually appears to believe it's true. (Her proud recitation of how she said "thanks, but no thanks" to federal funds for the Bridge to Nowhere was eerie -- since she knows full well that she took the money.) The triumphal jubilation of the party faithful in St. Paul underscored the point that the social conservatives have been making all along: It's our party, and you can't win without us.

Apparently John the Maverick has bought into the argument that only the old Republican guard, the heirs of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, can get him the 270 electoral votes he needs. Anyone who thought that he represented something different in Republican politics can forget it. The notion that he can run to the middle and pick up the independent vote is history. It's red states vs. blue states, find and exploit the wedge issues all over again.

Had Connecticut Sen. Lieberman been the running mate, we might have had a serious debate on the war in Iraq. If Mitt Romney had won the silver medal, the state of the economy could have been discussed and the two party's divergent views on how to deal with it addressed. Instead we have Sarah Palin, and a campaign that even McCain advisers acknowledge will turn on personal stories.

The early stories out of Alaska, unfortunately, focused mostly on her family, on her divorced sister’s ex and her high school daughter's pregnancy. Amid all the noise that greeted the news about the latest addition to the Palin family, there was actually one moment that offered a ray of hope.

When asked to comment on the pending Palin grandbaby, Obama got it just right: He let it be known that the issue of 17-year-old Bristol Palin having a baby was a purely personal, family matter. In other words, politics should have nothing to do with it. Neither Palin nor McCain acknowledged this gracious remark. Instead they acted as if the Democrats and the press were hounding her unfairly by asking questions about her record and his judgment.

To acknowledge the wisdom in Obama's remark would have opened a can of worms for the nominees. Family matters are private, and should be. What's good for her daughter and her family is good for my daughter and my family, and yours as well. Leave politics out of it. This girl made a choice. Let her live with it.

If only Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain could acknowledge that this should remain the law of the land. Now that would be a new day.

Syracuse New Times

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