Bob Franken

Who Knew Number Two?

September 2, 2008
Who Knew No. 2? (Bob Franken)
@ 12:09 pm

We still don’t know if the Palins’ journey from Alaska to the vice president’s mansion would be more like Mrs. Smith’s family coming to Washington or the Clampetts. In other words, we really have no idea what John McCain’s running mate is about.

The problem is there are strong indications he doesn’t either. His aides are spinning like whirling dervishes right now, desperately putting out the word that Gov. Palin was thoroughly vetted.

What do we make, then, of her daughter’s pregnancy? If we take the McCain campaign’s word that they were aware of it, wouldn’t it have been more honest simply to make it known when she was named to the No. 2 spot on the ticket?

Were the candidate and his operatives so naive they thought that would NOT be of interest? Or was it a case of waiting to announce it when the nation was distracted by a potentially disastrous hurricane, using the subterfuge that Internet rumors had forced their hand?

That would certainly be cynical, now wouldn’t it? But would it be more cynical than ignoring so many certifiably qualified women with a roll-of-the-dice choice of one about whom so little is known, other than her possible appeal to female voters, who might otherwise vote Democratic?

That would not only be cynical gender-pandering , but it would also demonstrate a belief that a significant number of women were so gullible and simple-minded that their “You go, girl!” passions would consume any other judgments as they made a Helen Reddy switch to the GOP.

Even as someone who has written about life in the Male Chauvinist Pidgom, I can see where that approach might just be a teensy-weensy bit sexist.

Call me crazy, but it also might raise, again, questions about whether McCain sometimes has a tendency to “Act First, Think Later.” He speaks a lot about the value of his experience compared to Barack Obama’s, but a fair question in this election might also be about temperament. Which of the candidates is the more impetuous, which more deliberative?

In the vice presidential choice, a fundamental consideration is which one is best equipped to produce changes. And of course, best equipped to take over.

In the case of all four, we need to choose between their policies — social, economic and international, along with their ability to really make the huge reforms this country will need to thrive, or even survive.

Frankly, the fact Sarah Palin’s unmarried daughter is pregnant should mean almost nothing, except maybe to the strong conservatives who are flocking to Gov. Palin. Perhaps they need to ponder some more how effective unyielding morality is as public policy.

In fairness, we can only reserve judgment on Palin as vice presidential material. Maybe those who have questions about her suitability will be surprised. But is John McCain one of them?

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