08.31.08 Dan Quayle in a Dress

Thanks to my readers for making this the most popular topic since the launch of Left-Hand View in early July.  Much of the feedback I have gotten is in the form of comments left on Friday’s post.  Take a look!

Geraldine Quayle?

Of course, Dan Quayle was much more qualified to be vice president than Sarah Palin: he had served 12 years in Congress before he became the infamous deer-in-headlights who couldn’t spell potato.  And, as I pointed out on Friday, even Ferraro (who was one of the most irresponsible picks for VP in history — before this week) was more qualified, having served five years in Congress before Mondale showed his weakness and desperation by picking her.

The comparison that holds most true is one that I haven’t seen any jokes about: Clarence Thomas.  This is so because of the “cleverness” of Bush I’s move to use race in a way to elevate extremist ideology and preserve the seat for the hard right for 40 years (since Thomas was so young), while preventing any real conversation about lack of experience and qualifications (’cause that would have been racist!).  John McCain is just as clever, eh?

In one fell swoop, McCain has energized his religious base, while (he hopes) dusting off his now-tarnished maverick image, while (he hopes) drawing in all of those disgruntled Hillary voters.  (Speaking of which, the  certifiable racist and nut-job Ferraro said today that she is not sure whom she’ll vote for.)

It ain’t gonna work.  Because, ultimately, this pick isn’t about Sarah Palin.  It’s about John McCain.  And it’s not just because of the fact that McCain can no longer go after Obama for inexperience.  It’s because McCain has undermined the entire essence of his political identity: integrity and seriousness of purpose.

As Jim Vandehei & John F. Harris of Politico put it: “Most people know the staff at the local Starbucks better than McCain knows Palin. They met for the first time last February at a National Governors Association meeting in Washington. Then, they spoke again — by phone — on Sunday while she was at the Alaska state fair and he was at home in Arizona.”

The frivolity with which McCain made this selection is truly breathtaking.

Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic adds to the point: “What [the pick] says about McCain is that he is more interested in politics than policy, more interested in campaigning than governing, tactical when he should be strategic, and reckless when he should be considered.”

(By the way, none of the above commentators is exactly a screaming liberal.)

Michael Kinsley of Slate gets to the core of the problem for McCain and the GOP, pointing out the shear hyprocrisy of the nonstop attacks on Obama and the pick of Palin.  Summing up, he says: “It’s not even about the proper role of experience as an issue. In fact, it’s not about experience at all. It’s about honesty. The question should be whether McCain—and all the other Republicans who have been going on for months about Obama’s dangerous lack of foreign policy experience—ever meant a word of it. And the answer is apparently not.”

Now, we’re used to self-serving hyprocrisy from both parties (and from Obama, for that matter).  But the speed and carelessness with which John McCain has destroyed his own brand is stunning.

Here’s another point: McCain has insulted American women with his blatant attempt to manipulate them.  Sure, there will be complete morons like Ferraro who are drawing the wrong conclusions from every aspect of this year’s campaign.  But the backlash among moderate to liberal women will be overwhelming, as the contempt McCain has shown them sinks in.

(How do you think women will react when they find out that Palin has called Hillary a whiner and giggled on a right-wing talk show as the host called an opposing politician (who has cancer) a “bitch” and a “cancer”)?

Sure, VP picks have historically made no difference in the outcome of presidential elections, but at this moment, it is hard to see how McCain is going to survive this nearly unprecedented sell-out of all he has claimed to be.


Trap for the Dems?

So, what are happy Dems to do with this gift from their cynical and desperate opponents?  Very, very little!

Here’s a rule in life: never interfere when your opponent is in the process of hanging himself.  The biggest mistake the Dems could make at this point would be to pile on and overreach, allowing charges of sexism to undermine the real story here.  Let surrogates continue to attack McCain for his policies and (perhaps) for his hyprocisy.  But leave Palin alone!

Obama, Biden, and Hillary Clinton have struck precisely the right tone so far, praising Palin as a gifted and captivating person who can add a fresh voice to the national dialogue.  Biden will have to be restrained and respectful when he debates her in October.

As I’ve often said, the American people are pretty stupid (though, not through any fault of their own — topic for another post).  But this time, they will be able to make their own judgments about whether a small-town mayor and governor-by-accident is the proper no. 2 for the oldest president in American history.

And, as terrified as the media are of offending the right wing, their lust for scandal will keep Troopergate and other aspects of Palin’s less-than-stellar record in the news from now ’til November and keep McCain wishing that he actually had vetted his new political partner.

©2008 Keith Berner

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5 Comments on “08.31.08 Dan Quayle in a Dress”

  1. kenf Says:

    I knew Dan Quayle, Dan was my friend, and Sarah Palin is no Dan Quayle! So stop insulting poor Dan, damnit!


  2. KMP Says:

    And let’s not forget Dan Quayle’s comment, delivered to a NAACP convention: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”


  3. Keith Berner Says:

    Actually, that’s was Quayle was *trying* to say. What he actually said was: “It’s a terrible waste not to have a mind.”


  4. Seth Berner Says:

    Clarence Thomas was different in two major respects. It was Thomas himself who was to be chosen or not. The Senate was not concerned about passing judgment on Bush, but obviously was concerned about appearing to judge a book by its cover. And a public vote, such as the Senate faced, is a much different vote than that cast by Americans with prejudices in a private booth. I don’t see how McCain can get a Thomas-boost from this pick, because ultimately it is McCain’s judgment that will be at issue, and if the scrutiny does pass to Palin those categorically opposed to a woman in the White House will have no reluctance about voting so.


  5. Keith Berner Says:

    Response to Seth: You’re right, of course, that Palin and Thomas are not precise historical analogies. The similarity of the two cases is the “cleverness”: using identity politics to forestall serious discussion of serious issues.


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