Sarah Palin—McCain's Ham-Handed Tribal Gamble and Continuing Arrogance

He tosses the "experience" issue aside in a clumsy attempt to woo the Hillary Clinton voters.

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Sarah Palin (or Susan Palin, as a Fox News reporter kept calling her this morning in a sign of how truly out of left field—deep, deep north-left field, beyond the Canadian border—this pick was) represents a gamble by John McCain that the Hillary factor is more important than the "experience" issue. It also shows (I hope) how little he understands the women's movement, and displays the arrogance that has marked his campaign so far.

I drove to Denver Airport with two of my coworkers this morning. One asked the other two of us whether Palin is really the most qualified person to be president. The two of us—he an R, I a D—just started laughing. The Palin selection is a ham-handed play for disaffected Hillary Clinton voters. And it's an insulting one: It treats female voters as a single-issue (it's a woman!) special interest to be bought off. The assumption is that women will go tribal, voting for a sister in spite of what she espouses. It's rather insulting really—the kind of assumption that only an aged sexist would make (if I can borrow a smart formulation from a Democrat I communicated with today).

I wondered how the various women's advocacy groups would handle the nomination and got a first answer on my BlackBerry when EMILY's List sent out a press release blasting the Alaska governor. "How ironic that, on his 72nd birthday, McCain has raised the question of whether his running mate is prepared to be Commander in Chief and lead the country," the statement said. (Nice double play there: He's really old, and she's too young.)

John McCain has been running for president for eight years; Joe Biden for 20; Barack Obama has been running for 18 months. These three have thought through the big national questions. It will be interesting to see how Palin handles her crash course in "I'm ready to be president." (To be clear: I like Obama because of his judgment; nothing I've heard about Palin indicates to me that hers qualifies her for the big office.)

Maybe the McCain thinking is to paint as sexist anyone who questions her qualifications, generating a sisterly backlash.

Certainly the McCain team must understand that questions about Obama's experience are now moot.

Finally, this displays the preening arrogance characteristic of McCain's campaign. The same people who were surprised to learn that a campaign run by lobbyists might have trouble maintaining a maverick, outsider image now produce a vice presidential candidate who is under ethical investigation by the state legislature.