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Sep 10 2008

The Palin choice-6: McCain and women

(For previous posts in this series, see here.)

The reason that is bandied about the most for the Palin choice is that it was aimed at attracting women voters to the Republican cause, especially those Democrats who are allegedly so furious that Hillary Clinton did not get their party’s nomination that they were looking for reasons to vote for McCain.

The good thing about McCain’s choice of a woman as a running mate is that it reveals that he does not harbor any absurd beliefs that women are not capable of running the country. Thanks to his choice, whichever ticket wins in November will result in either a black president or a female vice-president and this, other things being equal, is a good thing.

On the other hand, the fact that Palin was a hometown beauty queen (Ms. Wasilla, pop: 7,000) and Miss Alaska runner-up (1984) does raise some disturbing questions, though about McCain and not her. There is nothing wrong in being physically attractive and looks and governing abilities are not mutually exclusive.

The problem is that McCain’s first wife was a swimsuit model, whom he divorced after she was disfigured in a car accident to marry his present wife Cindy, an extremely wealthy heiress seventeen years younger than him and a Junior Rodeo Queen of Arizona in 1968. The fact that he now picks an attractive woman 28 years younger than him and whom he hardly knew to be his running mate seems to reveal an uncomfortable pattern of McCain as being a man who is more influenced by shallow considerations like looks than is perhaps desirable in someone seeking such a responsible office.

The fact that he has called Palin his ‘partner and soul mate’ is a little inappropriate for a man with his history. The Jed Report has picked up on some odd behavior by McCain when he first presented her as his running mate that will provide plenty of fodder for body-language aficionados. Watch.

It seems likely that the McCain’s advisors became a little concerned about this and have said something to him because McCain has now started to talk about his wife more.

If, as has been widely suggested, McCain specifically wanted a woman to woo over the disaffected supporters of Hillary Clinton, there were other options. As Steve Benen points out:

I’d just add how striking it is that McCain had more capable women to choose from, but picked one who wasn’t even a governor when he started his presidential campaign. Senators such as Hutchison, Dole, Snowe, Collins, and Murkowski were skipped over, as were more experienced governors like Lingle and Rell, as were “mavericks” like Todd-Whitman, as were cabinet secretaries like Rice, Spellings, and Chao, as were business leaders like Fiorina and Whitman.

McCain skipped over more capable women for a younger, less experienced woman he barely knows. This is supposed to impress women voters? Seriously?

This all comes back to the question: Why did he pick Palin? Although Obama and Clinton and McCain all occupy the narrow ideological spectrum demanded by the one-party/two-faction state that currently exists in the US, there is no question that Obama and Clinton are far closer to each other in their views than either is to McCain or Palin. Given the difference that exists between Clinton’s and Palin’s views on issues, thinking that the selection of Palin would appeal to Clinton’s supporters is like thinking that Alan Keyes appeals to black voters.

Clinton supporters had already been moving to Obama. I have no idea about how women as a whole will react to what seems to me like blatant pandering by McCain. But a young woman whose views I respect told me some time ago that she was voting for Obama on the issues but really respected McCain as a person of integrity and principle. She stuck to this position despite my presenting arguments and facts that I thought clearly showed McCain to be a phony who was shamelessly using his war experiences to deflect attention from his policies and serious flaws as a candidate. But she is now absolutely livid about the selection of Palin, saying it revealed McCain to be a ‘slimy and shallow manipulator’.

Although this is a sample of one and should not be given much weight, early polls seem to indicate that the selection of Palin, while firing up the conservative and religious base, is not having the intended effect. Andrew Sullivan says that the early results are not encouraging for McCain: “From this first snap-shot (and unsettled) impression, Palin has helped McCain among Republicans, left Democrats unfazed, but moved the undecideds against him quite sharply. I totally understand why.” Joe Klein seems to find a similar result. But other polls suggest that white women have indeed moved towards McCain.

But events are still fluid and moving fast. We will have to wait until a few weeks have passed and the conventions fade into memories to see what the true situation is.

POST SCRIPT:A little Googling is a dangerous thing

On the day that Barack Obama clinched the number of delegates he needed to win the nomination, John McCain gave a speech that was widely ridiculed for its poor delivery. In addition, they made him stand in front of a green background that gave him a pasty look and the impression of his head being like a lump of dough bobbing around in a bowl of lime Jello. Since green (and blue) screen backgrounds are used in filming to project backdrops, there has been an explosion of video clips online that have taken his speech and changed the backdrop for humorous effect.

I was startled therefore when shortly into his acceptance speech last week, McCain was once again in front of a bright green background for about five minutes, suggesting another goof-up. But when the camera switched to a wide view, I realized that the green was the lawn in front of a mansion.

But why show a mansion as a backdrop? And whose mansion? For a wild moment, I thought that they might have decided to deliberately flaunt McCain’s wealth by showing a picture of one of McCain’s many homes but quickly dismissed the idea as absurd.

Josh Marshall was also puzzled by this and investigated and discovered that the mansion was that of Walter Reed Middle School in California. His hypothesis is that someone was asked to provide a backdrop of the Walter Reed Medical Center, googled just the name, came up with this image and used it without checking further. That explanation is consistent with the general sloppiness of the campaign.

Many news organizations have asked the McCain organization about the house but they refused to answer questions, reinforcing the impression that this was an embarrassing mistake. The middle school principal has also complained about her school being used for political purposes without her permission. (Josh Marshall has an update.)

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