Life As We Know It: February 24, 2014
A NEW President of the United States will be elected in two and a half years. Between now and then political campaign managers will live in dread of the unknown, the unforeseen, the embarrassing disclosure, an indiscretion from the past – anything with the potential to bring down their candidate. It even has a name: the October surprise.
Sometimes the surprises are a little overblown. Consider 2008. The surprises arrived early for the Republican ticket not long after presidential candidate John McCain announced his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.
-- Her teenaged daughter conceived a child out of wedlock.
-- Her husband had a drunk-driving conviction on his record.
-- He belonged to a group that thinks Alaska might be better off if it seceded from the union.
-- She was not above pursuing pork-barrel projects.
Oh, the horror of it all.
The news media jumped all over these tidbits of news as though they had stumbled across gold nuggets at the base of Mt. McKinley. They did that because that is what they – we – do. It is all part of the vetting process that helps Americans decide whom they are more comfortable with as their president and vice president.
And in defense of the media, I’d say my news brethren did a better job of vetting Ms. Palin than the McCain campaign did.
But collectively, what do these revelations really tell us? I found much to dislike about Governor Palin’s politics, but it didn’t matter to me in the least that her daughter was going to have a baby. Bristol Palin was an adolescent, and adolescents make mistakes in judgment, just like grownups.
Nor did I care that her husband was once pulled over for his bad judgment in drinking and then driving. He was 22 years old at the time and unmarried. It was a dumb move on his part, but he was not running for vice president, and it certainly did not speak to the character of the woman who was.
George W. Bush had his own problems with alcohol, and that bothered me more than what Todd Palin did 25 years ago.
What about that secession thing? A group called the Alaskan Independence Party did advocate the return of all federal lands in Alaska to the state, and some members of the organization have gone so far as to suggest Alaska just secede and go its own way. That would be troublesome to me if the group had some serious traction – especially if Mr. Palin had been actively pushing the idea.
Apparently he was not, and neither was his wife.
Finally, the whole pork-barrel business seemed overblown. Isn’t that what mayors of small towns far removed from the state capital, and governors who feel isolated from Washington, do?
On the latter point, Governor Palin was vulnerable. She had represented herself as a political maverick out of the same mold as Senator McCain and someone who has fought what she calls “the old politics as usual.” Evidently the old politics suited her when the need arose.
But the family stuff should have had no bearing on her qualifications to serve the nation as its vice president. Life happens, even to politicians.
John McCain saw an opportunity for a little shock and awe on the gender issue and took it.
It was a bumpy but history making ride. That should have been enough to keep us all occupied. We should have left Bristol Palin alone.