The Eagleton Factor: Will Picking Palin Kill John McCain?

(Hope I don’t have to eat my words on this one…. Update: Nope.)

On the second night of the Republican Convention, let me depart from our normal programming here to predict that the Palin pick will be an absolute disaster for John McCain. My evidence? Watching the sheer awkwardness of intelligent Republicans attempting to portray a two-year Alaska governor with five kids (one with Downs and another pregnant) as the best of all possible choices to stand as Vice President behind a 72-year-old man who endured years of brutal captivity in war and has been treated for cancer, repeatedly.

I’m not talking about robots like the gentleman spewing drivel in the video a few paragraphs below, but instead people like Tom Ridge and Carly Fiorina — folks I might disagree with but whose abilities I respect. Tuesday-night cross-cable comparison: Mike Rowe looked happier shoveling pigshit on Dirty Jobs than Tom Ridge did talking up Palin to Chris Matthews on MSNBC.

Michael Kinsley’s logic is inescapable, since it’s simply impossible to attack Obama for inexperience one week and nominate Palin the next while still remaining intellectually honest. Seriously, I know this is politics, but how can the Republican surrogates on TV news listen to their own words and not shudder in physical agony at what they hear? (Of course, you can only point out dishonesty in someone posessing a soul, which lets an awful lot of political robots off the hook.)

Just as bad, choosing Palin plays perfectly into a narrative the McCain campaign had managed to escape of late, which is that he’s too hot-headed and impulsive to be trusted. Here we get to see the first serious decision McCain makes in public and — I believe Olberman said it — he put in less face-time with Palin than you would when you’re hiring a manager for a convenience store. All while knowingly hurling a 17-year-old pregnant-out-of-wedlock girl into public for whole country to gawk at. It’s outright and honestly cruel, besides giving evidence of being either incredibly cynical or not having been terribly well thought through. Hey Obama ad people, when the phone rings at 3 a.m., do we want this guy in charge? (cue daisy petals and a mushroom cloud…).

The analogy that keeps playing through my mind is George McGovern’s choice of Tom Eagleton to be vice president in 1972, which ultimately broke the back of the Democratic presidential campaign. Against Nixon, McGovern was probably doomed anyway, but The Eagleton Affair completely destroyed any serious hope, at least according to the the Good Doktor Thompson: when it surfaced that the Missouri senator had been through electro-convulsive therapy for depression, McGovern first stood bravely by him in public (quite literally and in fantastic 1972 polyester, if I remember right). And then of course he dropped him like a bad habit a few days later, which was apparently not so good for the straight-shooter image of a candidate who’d flown bombers in WW2.

In the modern version of the story, Vietnam pilot and hero John McCain first touts the value of “experience” for months on end, and then he goes and chooses someone who two years ago was mayor of a town of 9000. Hmmmmmmmmm. If this is the kind of good decision-making that experience brings, I suspect that quite a few people will take their chances with the other guy.


The emails are flying! Anne Applebaum noted that news about Palin is blasting around the internet faster than that Obama-is-a-Muslim message from Grandma. I mean, we’re talking celebrity-scandal speed, though still two parsecs-an-hour short of a Hilton. Two favorites from the e.politics inbox today: first, a HuffPost piece sent along by my brother Mike detailing the views of Palin’s pastor (Reverend Wright, you have real competition!).

Next, my old roommate Brad Terrell found a most amazing piece of video today, in which a reporter interruputed a scripted political parrot and asked real questions. See the results below; apparently, the McCain campaign promptly retaliated against such journalistic impertinence. Hey, why don’t the rest of you TV people get fed up and start cutting through the bullshit, too? We give you the airwaves — quit talking about yourselves and start using them for something useful.


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Colin Delany
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