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Sarah Palin fails as veep choice for McCain run

Posted: October 25, 2008 8:48 p.m.
Updated: December 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Many have long surmised that Ronald Reagan's choice of George H.W. Bush as his running mate in 1980 was unadorned political posturing as the purported war-hungry, right-wing extremist sought to annul that perception by picking the more conciliatory, moderate Bush as his No. 2.

Partisan allegations aside, one cannot deny that whatever else then-ambassador Bush brought to the table, an impressive political resume was foremost.

From serving two terms in the House, as ambassador to the United Nations, as chief envoy to China, and as director of CIA there was no want of relevant competence nor of overall fitness in ambassador Bush's vice presidential candidacy.

More importantly, Bush's broad capabilities were a keen eye to the judgment at the top of the ticket.
Yet even as John McCain has forcibly and pragmatically usurped the Reagan legacy on the one hand, he has simultaneously broken with his "hero" on the other hand with a vice presidential pick that betrays no trace of the Reagan wisdom.

Disappointing at best
Let's cut to the chase: With regard to substantive, straightforward answers to consequential national policy questions, Sarah Palin's candidacy has been, at best, disappointing.

With regard to even the appearance of substantive involvement in those debates, her candidacy has been - again at best - disappointing.

Despite the venue, the result is unchanged: her appearance is that of a mayor with heretofore shallow exposure to, and scant understanding of, our present impasse with a pugnacious Russia, of little more than reciting the accepted administration dispatch respecting Iraq, the economic fundamentals that Sen. McCain has already confessed ignorance of, and so on.

Still more troubling is the McCain camp's unconcealed resignation toward her hollow candidacy.

Sequestering her from the classic Jeffersonian check and balance of interface with a free press and preserving her from authentic interaction with an electorate whose fears she boasts to understand is all but a verbal admission that the McCain candidacy is subject to harm by a leash-loosened Sarah Palin.

Quite green
This caged candidacy signifies the fact that camp McCain's cosmetic vetting of Sarah Palin revealed enough for them to be concerned, yet the naked political purposes of securing and revitalizing a dwindling base, of overtly soliciting female votes, and blunting Sen. Obama's transformational persona coaxed the senator into unveiling the choice of a quite green Sarah Palin.

A choice that gives a wide-lens view into McCain's judgment.

Moved by a bare and comfortable yen for victory, a wantonly pragmatic John McCain bypassed a genuinely transformational and skilled conservative (big "C") in Bobby Jindal, Mitt Romney, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Olympia Snowe) for a cosmetic preference with seemingly no real political gravitas.

Though service and putting America first are on his tongue, he quietly deemed victory and the flash that might get him there over readiness and the substance thereof in the most critical judgment call of his political life.

This matter of vice presidential judgment assumes its real importance when we take even a brief historical perspective on the vice presidency.

Since 1945, Americans have witnessed two presidential deaths (FDR and JFK); assassination attempts on presidents Reagan (nearly fatal) and Ford; one impeachment (Clinton); one resignation (Nixon); and a sitting president suffering a heart attack and a stroke (Eisenhower).

Mingle that history with the reality of a 72-year-old with a history of malignant melanoma possibly assuming the presidency on Jan. 21, and the Palin choice becomes all the more alarming.

The top of the ticket is what Americans vote for, but Harry Truman, LBJ and Gerald Ford prove that the bottom of the ticket carries a neglected importance that only time and contingency understand best.

Unfortunately for John McCain, the Palin factor has ill-equipped a McCain administration for peak response to the dictates of time and contingency.

Andre Hollings is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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