When I learned of McCain’s choice for a VP candidate, and the little that was known about her, I was stunned by McCain’s seeming ineptitude.
I first wrote about Palin and her leadership of a town called Wasilla, a town not much larger than Woodstock, on September 3rd 2008 (see article for source). The turnout that elected Palin to her second election as Mayor was about half of Woodstock’s turnout in 1999 and before her three terms as Mayor she was an activist on the P.T.A. Our towns are similar in this way also as we have an active PTO that is willing to step forward to defend our school system.
Palin won the mayorship of Wasilla using an anti-abortion platform which is almost unheard of in small town politics (perhaps Ms. Wholean should try this in plotting her campaign this fall). She won the mayorship by a majority but alienated many with “polarizing single-mindedness”. She ran a town that had an operating budget of $6 million in 2001-02 (I believe that the State of Alaska pays for all education). She had the practice both as mayor and as governor of firing government employees that had supported her opposition. I’m sure Alan Walker would never consider doing this (if he knew who they were), but Ms. Wholean made it clear that she would attack any who were not on her side (remember her edict in the Town Hall that required her approval of any out-going emails?). In Palin’s case she instituted an edict that no employee could talk to the media without her approval. She finished as a mayor in 2002.
To bring her career timeline up to date, Palin unsuccessfully ran for Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor in 2002 and she was elected Governor in 2006 and inaugurated on Dec. 6th, the youngest governor ever elected by a state at the age of 42. When McCain selected Palin as his Vice Presidential candidate, she had served less than two years (21 months) as Governor of Alaska. She had just had her 5th child in the spring of 2008, and her high school-age daughter was pregnant out of wedlock.
Before he picked Palin as his running mate, other possible choices were Joe Lieberman (longtime Senator from CT, but a Democrat), Mitt Romney (former Governor of MA, 2008 Presidential candidate), Charlie Frist (Gov. of Florida, 2002 to the present), Rudy Giuliani (former Mayor of NY, 2008 presidential candidate), and several others with strong political track records.
If McCain felt committed to naming a female as his running mate it would have been hard to find one among the ranks of Republican females currently in high office. Among the women Governors there were only 3 besides Palin in Jodi Rell, Brewer (AR), and Lingle (HI). Of the 16 women who are Senators, only 5 were Republicans, perhaps most notably Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), but these also included Olympia Snow (ME) who has sided with Democrats on key votes, Elizabeth Dole who was on the way out, and relatively unknown Senators, Collins (Maine) and Murkowshi (Alaska). Among the 79 women Congressmen only 20 are Republican and all were relatively unknown with the possible exception of Ann Coulter-like Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. So Republican’s by not promoting election of women gave McCain few options among women.
This article is not about Palin’s gaffes and inexperience. Read today’s NYTimes article on her self generated problems since November to understand her inadequacies. I believe she did the right thing by resigning for the sake of her family and to make some money. I don’t hold this against her one bit.
I think what McCain’s choice of Palin shows is his ineptitude in making important decisions – in this case the most important decision of his campaign; his foolish choice of Palin whose high point in the campaign was when she barked out the hockeymom joke. If this is the best the Republican VP could do, the national Republican party has sunk to a new low. Who knows, if Palin had turned him down then McCain may have chosen South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, who was also under consideration and accelerated his downfall.
Put yourself in the minds of Lieberman, Romney, Frist, and Guiliani and any of the other VP prospects mentioned above. In their private thoughts I’m sure they were dismayed and perplexed by the choice of Palin over them. But as far as I can tell, they never let this be known. They probably felt inner guilt for even having those thoughts. Likewise most Democrats were careful not to express their inner thoughts as well which were probably the same as Lieberman, Romney, Frist, and Guiliani. For once leading Democrats and Republicans shared the same disbelief.
What McCain did in making the choice of Palin is to undermine his candidacy irrevocably - with just one frivolous decision. Just think about it. What would the public perception of McCain have been in the waning weeks of October and early November had he chosen Romney or Frist? I think the voters did not consider McCain to be responsible for the economic crash that was in progress, but by choosing Palin it was evident to the swing voters and leading Republicans like Colin Powell that McCain deserved a no confidence non-vote. By contrast, soon to be President Obama made all the right moves in the last two months.