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The Collective
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

The selection of one’s running mate is often noted as the first major executive decision that a candidate makes in public. McCain’s selection of Palin clearly was a gamble aimed mostly at energizing the base and to win the post-DNC news cycle. Initially, those missions appear to have been accomplished. Now, however, the news is generating questions about the vetting process, and therefore about McCain’s judgment.

For no matter what one thinks about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy (and opinions range from the idea that it shows the Palin’s living out their values to questions about Palin’s parenting to indictments about Alaska’s “abstinence only” sex ed policy, which Palin supports) the fact of the matter is, that the Palins had to issue an unplanned press release about it two days after the announcement of Sarah’s inclusion on McCain’s ticket raises questions about how well thought out the situation was.1 It raises questions such as whether McCain adequately assessed how something like this might play with the public and also raises the question of why Palin would be willing to make her daughter’s situation an international news story

Along these lines, today’s NYT notes Disclosures on Palin Raise Questions on Vetting Process. The disclosures in question are:

On Monday morning, Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, issued a statement saying that their 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant and that she intended to marry the father.

Among other less attention-grabbing news of the day: it was learned that Ms. Palin now has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state’s public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede; and that Mr. Palin was arrested 22 years ago on a drunken-driving charge.

Going in reverse order: a DUI 22 years ago by Palin’s husband strikes me as wholly irrelevant.

The membership in the Alaska Independence Party is probably not a big deal, but it is the kind of thing that will allow opponents to paint her as “kooky” or odd in some way. That is relevant because if there is any hope that the Palin pick will help McCain appeal to moderates or disaffected Hillary votes, then this kind of thing doesn’t help. and indeed is probably damaging.

Jake Tapper at ABC’s Political Punch notes the following about the AIP:

“We are a state’s rights party,” says Clark, a self-employed goldminer. The AIP has “a plank that challenges the legality of the Alaskan statehood vote as illegal and in violation of United Nations charter and international law.”

She says it’s not accurate to describe the party as secessionist — they just want a vote, she says, adding that the members of the AIP hold different opinions on what Alaska should be.

“My own separate opinion as an individual is that we should be an independent nation,” Clark says. Others in the AIP “believe that being a commonwealth would be a good avenue to follow.” Some advocate statehood — but a fuller statehood than exists now.

[...]

The AIP platform states that the purpose of the party is to “seek the complete repatriation of the public lands, held by the federal government, to the state and people of Alaska in conformance with Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17, of the federal constitution … To prohibit all bureaucratic regulations and judicial rulings purporting to have the effect of law, except that which shall be approved by the elected legislature … To support the privatization of government services …”

This isn’t exactly mainstream stuff (although there are segments of the GOP coalition that do share these basic ideas-see, e.g., Alan Keyes, at least terms of how Article I, Section 8 should be interpreted). Now, granted, she was a member over a decade ago, but it isn’t illegitimate to ask her about why she was a member in the first place and what it may, or may not, mean about the nature of federalism in the 21st century and how that would figure in her thinking should she ever become president of the United States. Further, according to Tapper’s post, she sent a video message to the AIP’s annual convention, so it isn’t as if all association with the AIP ended in the 90s.

Back the items from the NYT piece.

The “troopergate” business could go either way, as best as I can tell, but if it goes badly it will wreck the whole “Palin is an anti-corruption crusader” storyline. Really, the fact that this situation exists makes me wonder, again, if the pick was well thought out, as it could really blow up in McCain’s face.

The daughter thing I have already discussed above and here.

All of this does raise questions about how well considered the pick was and therefore raises questions about McCain’s judgment. If the following is true, then it doesn’t speak well of it:

“They didn’t seriously consider her until four or five days from the time she was picked, before she was asked, maybe the Thursday or Friday before,” said a Republican close to the campaign. “This was really kind of rushed at the end, because John didn’t get what he wanted. He wanted to do Joe or Ridge.”

Considering that picking a running mate is picking a potential president, it is alarming to think that this was a rush job because McCain couldn’t have the guys he really wanted. This is doubly true since McCain would be the oldest man ever to take the oath of office should he win in November.

And, I would note, he is now paying a political price for the lack of deeper deliberation: the news coverage and commentary has shifted in three days from how surprising and interesting a pick Palin was to questions of whether the pick was well thought-out or not.

Sphere: Related Content

  1. In other words, if the situation had been better thought out, there would have been no need for a rushed press release. []
Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |

23 Comments »

  1. I see your point, but the real scandal to me regards all these bank failures. Not to mention neither the dems or GOP talk about deflation or all these bank failures, had another one today in GA, Dang, That’s makes 10. Yep Paulin will back fire for McCain, but my pocket is more important

    Comment by rawdawgbuffalo — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 8:42 am

  2. I notice that you quote (through the NYT) an anonymous “Republican close to the campaign,” yet you don’t mention that the McCain campaign has (quite believably, IMO) rebutted that claim and have shown that they’ve been pursuing her vetting for about six months.

    Sure, the McCain campaign have a vested interest in getting folks to believe their claim, but everyone knows that and can take it into consideration. On the other hand, the anonymous “Republican close to the campaign” may be a big supporter of Ridge, Romney or some other potential running mate that didn’t get selected. But since they’re hiding in anonymity, we can’t evaluate whether they’re telling the truth or lying.

    And lastly, how do you know the press release regarding Bristol’s pregnancy was “unplanned?” How do you know they didn’t prepare it in advance, waiting for the appropriate time to release it? Granted, I don’t know that they did just that, but you similarly have no clue that your claim is true.

    Further, when would have been a better time to tell the world that Governor Palin’s daughter was pregnant? Friday during her speech in Ohio? Saturday? For cryin’ out loud, they announced it less than 72 hours after the Governor was named as running mate.

    I don’t want to come of sounding like a Palin apologist (although I suppose I am), but it sure does seem that you’re cherry-picking your “facts” to support your pre-existing opinion that choosing her was a bad decision. I think you want to consider yourself to be an objective observer, but what you’re posting makes you look to me like you’re not nearly as objective as you think you are.

    Comment by Boyd — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 9:11 am

  3. Boyd,

    My basic argument is that picking someone like Palin runs the risk of exactly what is happening: a bunch of stories that are outside the control of the campaign and that can do harm. That is what is happening. How pointing this out demonstrates my lack of objectivity is unclear to me and you are going to have to explain that assertion in greater detail.

    I understand that anonymous sources are not as useful as named ones, but you cannot simply dismiss them just because they are anonymous. You will note that when I quoted the anon source, I qualified it with “If the following is true” and more importantly, my argument is hardly predicated on that quote. Indeed, I could edit it out and rewrite part of one sentence and have the same post with the same basic argument.

    I used the quote because I think that it is likely an accurate reflection of the situation and comports with other press accounts and with the way reality is unfolding before our eyes.

    And in re: the “unplanned” press release-it is clear that the press release was issued in response to the internet rumors (bizarre ones at that) that Trig was Bristol’s child and that Sarah faked her pregnancy. There was not other benefit to releasing the information at that time, so it was clearly not what was planned. Indeed, other press accounts indicate that the hope was to keep the matter private (which was a foolish hope, I would argue).

    Again, I am not sure where my objectively is in question here. we have shifted from excitement and glowing discussions about the Palin pick to a series of questions about her candidacy. This is what one expects when one picks an unknown person and was why I predicted what I predicted.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 9:26 am

  4. I am pretty sure that Palin stated that the announcement of her daughter’s pregnancy was in response to the internet rumors, not a planned speech that was simply a matter of timing.

    Comment by Sheri — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 9:51 am

  5. Ah, I think I see your point, Dr Taylor. If I may rephrase to see if I understand it, since your position is that Governor Palin was a poor choice because of all the negative stories that will occur, then it only makes sense to cover those stories. Is that fairly close?

    And Sheri, your comment is the first time I’ve seen or heard a claim that Governor Palin said that the announcement was due to rumors. It’s not in the press release itself. Could you point to a source where Palin makes the statement you referenced?

    Comment by Boyd — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 10:44 am

  6. she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party

    Oh, this just gets better all the time.

    The McCain-Palin ticket: can they be trusted to keep the States United?

    Comment by MSS — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  7. Sheri, I ran across a report that McCain staffers initiated the press release regarding Bristol’s pregnancy in response to the rumors, so I found that information I was looking for.

    Comment by Boyd — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

  8. On top of everything else, Palin’s credentials as anti-corruption will be harder to sell with the revelation that she was a co-director of Ted Stevens’ 527 group. This is one of those situations where her supporters can argue point by point that these are insignificant or irrelevant, but if you step back, you have to wonder how well McCain and his staff really knew Sarah Palin. Surely McCain didn’t want a running mate with ties to Stevens, association with an Alaskan independence group, allegations of misuse of power, and rumors of mysterious pregnancies. How many distractions did he want to deal with while trying to get his fall campaign off the ground?

    Comment by Harry — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

  9. I disagree with the assumption that her affiliation with the Alaska Independence Party is not a big deal.

    Its not like she was a Democrat or Libertarian-these people actually want to secede from the US! It doesn’t get any more anti-American than that!

    Comment by Ratoe — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  10. That’s been proven a vicious lie, Ratoe. They’ve compiled all of her voting registrations since she was 18. She has always registered as a Republican.

    Comment by Boyd — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  11. Boyd,

    I am not sure that “vicious lie” is the way to characterize it. You are correct, news reports have confirmed that she was never registered with the AIP, but her husband was and she did attend (it would seem) an AIP meeting and there is the aforementioned video. So, the question becomes the degree of the “affiliation” between Palin and the AIP.

    In other words, there was some interaction between Palin and the AIP. Now, the extend and significance remains to be seen. I will stand by my statement above that it will probably not end being a big deal.

    I will, however, state that the fact that issue exists at all is further evidence of my belief that the pick wasn’t a good one and will do more harm than good for McCain over the long haul. It also continues to reinforce the vetting issue that you were taking me to task over earlier in the thread.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

  12. I think I have it figured out. After the convention Palin is going to back out of the race with the reason that she needs to take care of her family.
    This is why it really was not necessary for McCain to:
    * have fully vetted
    * to have met with her more than one time before choosing her as his running mate

    In my theory Palin already knows she is going to back out - it was a deal she made with hte party. That is why she is not more concerned about the effect all of this international coverage is having on her 17yo daughter (frankly my heart cries for this little girl - she looks so very afraid and overwhelmed.)

    But what this does is get them through the convention so big portions of the party will not boycott the convention. McCain can then also say, hey, I wanted a far right candidate, pro-life veep but she did the honorable thing and backed out to care for her family. So, I had to take my second choice - Lieberman!

    What do you think?

    Comment by Lori Bergherr — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

  13. Lori,

    I just can’t imagine what that would accomplish. At a minimum it would deflate and enrage the base.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  14. Firstly, McCain’s first major decision is a bust. It truly doesn’t make sense that he would pick a running mate who possess lots of “baggage”. Everyone has to agree. We all know that “baggage” pulls us down, slows process and progress, and creates too many issues. Issues we don’t want to come to light.

    Secondly, I want to know what Palin’s current stance is on abstinence, teen pregnancy, unwed mothers, and teen marraige. I know what it was before, but what is it now??? Obviously she hasn’t firmly taught members of her household how they should behave, thus we can see that she doesn’t practice what she preaches. If her firm stance is abstinence, don’t you think she would have made sure her daughter wasn’t running around sleeping with this guy. Shouldn’t she have been at every school assembly preaching her stance (that’s right…she didn’t talk about it, because if you talk about it, it’s a form of sex-ed).

    Palin, don’t be a hypocrite.
    McCain, you could have done better. Palin is not a good choice. You could have thought this one out better, as there were more qualified candidates with less “baggage”.

    Comment by Lisa — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

  15. Some people are questioning Palins experience, my question is “Just what has she done to her own daughter by putting her in the national spotlight?”

    Answer: It is horrifying to Dem and Rep mothers alike. It goes against the very primal instincts of motherhood, which is to protect your young.

    In conclusion her political aspirations appear to be stronger than those of motherhood, which opens a pandoras box on morals.

    There is something very problematic about putting a 17 year old girl in what is an emotionally fragile situation and sacrificing them to public scrutiny.

    McCains judgement?

    Comment by Mary — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 9:12 pm

  16. Intresting, so since a teenager didn’t listen to parental advice, the parent must be wrong.

    That since internet hacks, followed close after by media hacks, focused attention on a woman’s family, rather than the woman herself, the woman is to blame. (As a rapist might say: “She asked for it”.)

    Everything I have read thus far, makes me think she is the ideal choice. I really like how Obama’s experience compares less that favorably with hers.

    Comment by John — Tuesday, September 2, 2008 @ 11:03 pm

  17. For Mary you are so right how any mother would do this to their child is beyond comprehension. She has so damaged her child’s life yes a child she is even with adult reproductive organs. This is so wrong. She gets more Mommy Dearest with every announcement about Bristol that is made.

    For John what advice actually was Bristol given? The woman is never around to busy with her career, and her husband though hot looking is cold on every other aspect including a set of balls to say no you will not sacrifice our daughter for your political aspiration.

    It seems ok to all these concerned family valued GOP’s to let Bristol be humiliated, called horrid names and shot gunned after the fact to save some political clown face in front of the whole world so Sarah can wear her VP crown.
    Politics as usual for Sarah Palin yes, humanity no…being a mother vacant and horrible.
    One last thought anyone wonder what is like for Bristol behind closed doors? How many times do you think Sarah has screamed how could you do this to ME, ME, ME????

    Comment by velvet — Wednesday, September 3, 2008 @ 12:39 am

  18. I agree with Lori. It’s a bait and switch! Choosing Palin provides them with the outrageous headlines (think: Selling US Ports to Dubai!) to get Obama’s success off the radar. Not sure abt Leiberman though. I’m thinking Bobby Jindal, Gov. of Louisiana, previously considered too young and unknown — then Hurricanes Palin and Gustav blew into town! (wink wink)

    Comment by Liz — Wednesday, September 3, 2008 @ 1:23 am

  19. John,
    So that proves Palin is out of touch with the reality of teens. She doesn’t have a clue that these types of things happen to teenagers (peer-pressure, sex out of wedlock) and the way to avoid these types of situaton is to TEACH with education. WHICH is why this situation is biting her in the butt. You can teach abstinence, but also teach if you are going to have sex, what is the most safest way to do so.

    Really, what you are saying is that this is acceptable for Palin’s daughter, but no one else even though Palin is a die-hard firmly stanced abstinence preacher. Now does she realize she’s going to have to change her stance. Flip-Floping Rebuplicans. Double standard Republicans.

    Comment by Anonymous — Wednesday, September 3, 2008 @ 3:17 am

  20. Has anyone seen the video of Sarah Palin addressing her church in Wasila? Here is a link…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG1vPYbRB7k

    So, on the face of it, it seems that Sarah Palin wants people to pray for God to get a pipeline built, and that the troops in Iraq were sent there by the national leaders in Washington on a “mission from God”.

    I believe in God, I’m a Christian, I’ve been baptized. I think religion is a good thing, and I try to live a moral life. However, I also firmly believe in the seperation of church and state…..apparently, Sarah Palin does not.

    Comment by Jay M. — Wednesday, September 3, 2008 @ 7:12 am

  21. I would also like to point out that while I understand that the VP choice will always be a political choice, no matter which party does the choosing, it is in fact a serious choice. In choosing Sarah Palin, McCain has highlighted his own advanced age, and brought into sharp focus that if elected, he will be the oldest presedent elected to their first term. Additionally, it shows that clearly his political needs outwieghed the potential needs of the country in his selection. Palin has certainly energized the conservative base, and she is amiable and accomplished. But, as has been stated numerous times accross multiple outlets, it cannot be reasonably argued that she is the most qualified for the job, even if you are determined to only review potential women candidates. This speaks to the questions concerning his temprament, judgement, and puts a dent in the “America First” slogan of their convention. Apparently, it’s John McCain first…then we’ll get to the rest of that other stuff like doing the right thing for the country.

    Comment by Jay M. — Wednesday, September 3, 2008 @ 7:19 am

  22. Right now, somewhere in the world, John Edwards is reading the front page of the New York Times thanking his lucky stars he chose to be a Democrat.

    Comment by Richard Scott Nokes — Wednesday, September 3, 2008 @ 9:08 am

  23. Obviously, MCcain made the wrong move with Palin. Huckabee could have been a far better choice if Ridge and Libermann idea fell thru. Bold? yes. Couragious? yes. Wise? no. To err is human but in running a country you can’t afford to make rash and stupid decisions. MCcain had at least three months to pick a running mate and he ends up with a woman that puts politics first before family. She has a five month old baby with down syndrome for God’s sake. Sanctity of life is not only when one is carrying the baby but also after the baby is born. A down syndrome child needs her presence and care. Its as if being a governor is not enough. As a christian I believe that ones biggest job is to raise your children before pursuing one’s selfish goals. I wonder if Palin’s mother abandoned her early in life to pursue her ‘dreams’, she would have turned out as she did. This choice will definitely blow up in Mccains face.

    Comment by Simbuc — Wednesday, September 3, 2008 @ 9:13 am

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