Wednesday, September 10, 2008

McCain: Good instincts, bad form, no cigar


If you're shaking your head in disbelief at the McCain campaign's feigned outrage over the Obama "lipstick on a pig" remark, I don't blame you. It's at least as desperate as it sounds, but not quite as stupid. Here's why:

Until right before the GOP convention, it was obvious that the only way John McCain could win this election was to relentlessly slag Barack Obama and hope like hell nobody looked too closely at John McCain.

Which, all in all, makes for a bummer of a campaign and a presidency that's busted from the beginning because it is -- much as I hate the word -- "polarizing." The new president comes into office with a large plurality, maybe even a majority, of Americans not just having voted for the other guy, but hating the new president's guts.

Whatever else you believe, believe this: McCain wants to be President of the United States, not President of the Republican Party Faithful. Like him or not -- like it or not (and sometimes it's an ugly marriage of the worst of both "major" parties) -- he actually does have a record of "reaching across the aisle." He actually does want to bring the country together. And he wants to continue that record as president instead of spending four or eight years burning in a George W. Bush style hell.

Obama was running the table, though. He had already pegged a McCain presidency as "eight more years of George W. Bush" and was pressing the theme effectively. The race, which had been leaning hard Democrat anyway, was quickly developing into a Reagan-Mondale 1984 scenario in partisan reverse.

So, time for Plan B. Sarah Palin was supposed to be a "game changer" for McCain. She was supposed to provide a point of positive focus so that McCain's campaign could safely, and at least partially, be about something, anything other than just slagging Barack Obama. She was supposed to bring the GOP's social conservative bloc and forlorn "libertarian" [sic] fringe into the circle of McCain's moderate happy dance.1 And women ... she was supposed to be a candidate for whom Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker could both swoon. And she was supposed to be able to get away with kicking Barack Obama in the nuts, because you don't slap a woman across the room even for that, at least not if you want to get elected president.

Unfortunately, Palin degenerated into a hot mess in record time. Her schtick was fun for about five minutes, and then pesky irrelevancies like her actual record started horning in and crushing the buzz. At this point, the only beneficiaries of her nomination are Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Dan Quayle, who finally gets to hand off the "Stupidest Republican VP Idea Ever" tiara and retire.

Hint: The reason she's refusing interviews is that every interview she doesn't refuse will shave half a percentage point off of McCain's November 4th total.

So, McCain's back to Plan A: Slag Barack. And in the process, consign Palin to the role of pretty lil' thing tied to the railroad tracks ... and gagged, so she doesn't have any lines to blow.

Obviously a desperation move, and one that just ain't gonna work. By November, I'll be surprised if dragging out Dorothy Parker's old zinger2 on Palin even raises an eyebrow.

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NOTES

1. Not that either faction needed to be dragged in. They've been looking for excuses to support McCain since he wrapped up the GOP nomination, and they'd have found those excuses before November without the Palin pick.

2. Sigh ... if you must know and are too lazy to Google it ... Querent: "Construct a sentence using the word 'horticulture.'" Parker: "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."

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