Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Shooting Star

Ambition alone does not make a candidate worthy of this nation's second highest office, but it can sure get you far, especially when a campaign is desperate. However, Governor Sarah Palin would be well advised not to try to turn on her running mate, Senator John McCain.

This election Governor Palin employed smart tactics to get herself invited to the dance. Retaining a smart public relations adviser paid off for the Governor. Her name began appearing in just the right places, and she cultivated the right people within the Republican Party. She worked all the angles and, as a result, got the chance of a lifetime.

As revealed in the New York Times magazine this week, the process of selecting Palin short-circuited the normally rigorous scrutiny one would expect for such an important decision. Prior to her selection, senior McCain advisers spent two hours with her asking "questions based on vetting material." They had reviewed a tape of her appearance on "The Charlie Rose Show," where even they conceded she seemed out of her depth on some issues. She overwhelmed them with her consistency and confidence. She so impressed them that alarm bells didn't even go off when they asked her about the "Troopergate" matter and her daughter's pregnancy. In the end, they overlooked her lack of experience on national and international issues because she wowed them.

Senator McCain spent one hour with Palin on his ranch beside a sycamore tree and a local creek. What was he thinking? What was he asking her? Then, after a short meeting with McCain's wife Cindy, the Senator soon was going over the pros and cons with his top advisers. McCain, who prides himself on doing what his gut tells him, said "I'm going to offer it to her."

For the next few days she dazzled America with her presence, swagger and self-confidence. Conservative supporters were excited and engaged and the Republican convention was electrified. McCain/Palin seemed like a powerful antidote for a dispirited party. But soon it became clear that the Governor was limited, and not even $150,000 in designer clothes could hide her shortcomings. She couldn't answer questions on many important issues, reverting instead to talking points like reform and maverick. She became live bait for comedians and programs like Saturday Night Live. Many Americans gave her the benefit of a doubt, but the doubts were growing.

Palin has now gone from a big asset for the campaign to a major negative. Leading Republicans have publicly criticized her selection. All efforts by the McCain campaign to divert attention from her, including attacking the "main stream media," have not worked. Even a series of interviews with Republican commentator Sean Hannity, who tossed her softballs, confirmed her to be lacking in depth. If it looks too good, well, you know.

Now there is reason to believe Palin is turning on her benefactors. She is eager to consolidate the right and deflect blame for her predicament. No, Governor, don't do that! You are the architect of this mess. If you truly want to be admired, do something admirable. Be a good soldier and fight this battle to the end. Retain what good will remains in the hearts of your supporters. Then, after the election, work hard to prepare yourself for whatever national office you may aspire to. Otherwise, you are certain to be just another shooting star lighting the skies over Alaska.

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