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Palin a risky choice for the McCain ticket

Fri, Sep 5th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

"It was a reckless decision."

"It looks like a hail-Mary pass."

"It's a weird choice."

"It does nothing for the ticket."

These are a few comments I have heard about John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate. No one has said to me, "Wow, I really like his choice," a comment I heard often when Joe Biden was chosen as Barack Obama's running mate. Many believe Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty would have been a safer and better choice than governor Palin.

Well, John McCain is a gambler. And he tried to hit the Trifecta with his selection of Palin, the governor of Alaska. He was hoping for a win, win, win.

Firstly, McCain wanted someone who would please the conservative base of the Republican party. Palin is a conservative Christian who is pro-life and a member of the National Rifle Association who hunts moose and caribou.

When she ran for Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska in 1996, Palin reportedly ran on a pro-life campaign. Such are her religious right bonafides.

While this may thrill conservative Republicans, it does nothing to inspire independents and voters at large, who think that Palin's selection was made to placate the extreme right of the party. It was said that McCain could've expected a floor fight at the Republican convention in St. Paul had he named a pro-choice candidate like Senator Joe Lieberman.

The second win McCain was hoping for in a running mate was someone who was seen as a reformer - a maverick like himself.

McCain wants to sell the American public on the idea that a McCain-Palin victory would lead to reform of Washington.

At first blush, Palin appears to fit the hype. She ran for governor of Alaska as an anti-corruption candidate unseating those in her own party along the way. She has spoken out against federal earmarks.

But it appears that in the past Palin worked hard to get federal handouts when she was mayor of the town of Wasilla, going so far as to hire a lobbyist with links to indicted Republican senator Ted Stevens. From 2000 to 2003, the town of 7,000 people received $11.9 million in earmarks as well as $15 million in federal funds for regional transportation.

It is also true that when she was initially elected governor, Palin supported the controversial $223 million "Bridge to Nowhere," linking Ketchikan to an island with an airport and 50 residents.

Controversy is also surrounding Palin regarding ethical questions over her firing of the Alaska public safety commissioner who, it is claimed, refused to fire Palin's former brother-in-law, a state trooper who was allegedly harassing her sister and Palin's family. Palin says the commissioner was fired over budget issues. An investigation ensues.

Since being chosen by McCain, the media has been pouring over Palin's record as mayor and governor. And the McCain campaign has had to go out of its way to counter challenges to Palin's "reformer" mystique. Palin may prove not to be the crusader McCain would like us to believe she is.

The third element in McCain's Trifecta involved Palin's selection as a woman who could crack the glass ceiling of Executive Office - the notion that Hillary's disaffected supporters would rally around a woman candidate for vice-president.

Palin's conservative credentials make this most unlikely. While most people applaud Palin's decision to give birth to a Down Syndrome baby, Hillary Democrats and independents would say that that was the choice Palin made. They would argue that they in turn would want to have the choice not to carry the baby to full term, something they have fought Republicans on for years. They see in a McCain-Palin ticket a real threat to a woman's right to choose and women's rights in general.

Palin was able to energize the partisan crowd at the RNC in St. Paul, Wednesday night, a speech that showed her to be a fiesty competitor that will "pit bull" her way forward.

But for all the positives the McCain camp spins about Palin's so-called experience as an executive and her compelling life story, she is a risky choice for the ticket. McCain is 72 and one can't help but envision Palin having to step into the breach as president and lead our nation.

Some are saying our country deserved better from John McCain and the Republican party.

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