I was unsure how the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s daughter would affect social conservatives’ view of the governor’s nomination for VP, but they seem to be taking it in their stride. If anything they are seeing it as a positive—more proof that Mrs Palin is a good and supportive mother. At any rate, they say, it is nobody’s business but the family’s.
The other good news for the McCain campaign is that many Democrats are mishandling the issue as badly as they mishandled the nomination in the first place. There is a tone of exultation over the Palin family’s difficulties that will strike many centrists, and decent people regardless of ideology, as repellent. Again, to his enormous credit, Obama himself was the exception. What a class act he is. He reminded reporters that he is the son of an unmarried mother, said the families of candidates and especially their children should be off-limits, and told the press to drop the story. It won’t of course: it will mine it for all it is worth. But Obama said the right thing and gave every sign of meaning it.
While I am complaining about the odious instincts of my profession, let me mention in passing the bid that Campbell Brown is making to supplant Lou Dobbs as the most objectionable broadcast bloviator, thereby securing the top two slots for CNN’s “best political team on television”. On Sunday I watched amazed as her supposed interview of a McCain spokesman on the Palin pick degenerated into a laughing, contemptuous harangue. Her evident disgust at the choice was not to be appeased. Then on Monday she demanded of another McCain surrogate to know whether Palin could be a good mother since she had knowingly thrust her daughter into the spotlight. But who, for heaven’s sake, is directing that spotlight? This is like the mugger who tells his victim he regrets what’s happening, “but why were you so stupid as to walk up this dark alley?” Others might be entitled to make that point, but it is nauseating to hear it from the regretful self-righteous mugger herself.
I think part of the outrage one sees in much of the press and TV coverage of the Palin nomination is disappointed amour propre. We had not been talking about Palin; Palin had not occurred to us; therefore, by definition, Palin was not a worthy contender. Of course, it may turn out that she is not: knowing so little about her, we are not yet in a position to say. But it would do the press a world of good if she proves us wrong.
At the very least, despite the Republican instinct to rally round, and the Democratic instinct to pile on, the news takes the shine off the Palin nomination. And there are dangers ahead as the digging proceeds. My first thought was to wonder if McCain had known about the pregnancy when he announced his choice. He says yes—as he had to. If it should somehow turn out that he didn’t know, then he would be guilty both of lying about that and of the too-hasty judgment in nominating Palin he is accused of. If on the other hand he did know, his choice was surely all the more risky and all the more remarkable.
Barring more surprises, it still comes down to how Palin fares in speeches and interviews from now on—and above all in the debate with Biden on October 2nd. If Biden makes her look a fool, McCain’s gamble will have failed, and I don’t see how he can recover. If she impresses, McCain will likely be in a much stronger position than if he had chosen a safer VP. Whether he knows it or not, McCain has staked everything on this choice. Meanwhile, if the Democrats had any sense, they would follow their leader’s dignified and expedient example, shut up, and wait and see. Luckily for the Republicans, they apparently don’t.
Out of all the recent coverage, I liked this piece (on the political calculation of the Palin pick) by Jay Cost for Real Clear Politics, and this one (a report from the Palins’ home town) by Nathan Thornburgh for Time. I was also struck by this email from a reader, representative of many others I have received:
My wife was on the fence in this election, and is pro-choice. She does not like McCain, and is lukewarm about Obama and Biden.
The Palin pick energized her to call me from work, email me, and–are you ready?–send in $$ to the McCain camp. I was floored (she voted Kerry last election.) She says the story of Palin (which she spent two hours on line researching) has touched her heart, inspired her, and that is enough. She and her friends are meeting Wednesday for dinner (six to nine women) “to talk about Sarah . . . and Hillary.”
Not Governor Palin. “Sarah.”
My college daughter is reacting the same way and sent McCain $15.00.
I think there is something happening that I don’t fully understand, but there it is.
Time will tell.