Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Wise Decision

Much to his credit, John McCain avoided one final humiliation. According to Raw Story

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has reportedly not been invited to attend the memorial for her one-time running mate, the late John McCain.

MSNBC booking director Jesse Rodriguez tweeted Wednesday that NBC White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell learned that Palin was not invited to McCain’s memorial.

Senator McCain, who had spent twenty-one years in the Armed Forces, selected Governor Palin as his running mate because of her reputation as a "maverick." On the second day of the convention, four days after she was tapped, we read in The New York Times 

“She is an aggressive reformer who isn’t afraid to break glass, to bring change to Wasilla and later to the state of Alaska,” said Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, who declined to address specific aspects of Ms. Palin’s tenure as mayor. “Washington needs some of that.”

Palin was not only a maverick, but one who sympathized with the Alaskan secession movement. On the last day of the convention, a skeptical Rosa Brooks wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times in which she maintained "It's untrue that Palin has no foreign policy experience, anyway. In fact, she appears to have seriously flirted with the idea of trying to turn Alaska into a foreign country. How many vice presidential candidates can put that on their resumes?"

Not only can no other vice presidential candidate put that on his or her resume, very few can be said to have been instrumental, inadvertently or otherwise, in redirecting the theme of a presidential campaign.  She changed the direction and thus perception of the McCain campaign. If you're like most people, you don't remember

You will notice the "McCain" signs held aloft, the message "paid for by John McCain 2008," and most obviously, the tagline "John McCain, The American President Americans Have Been Waiting For."

The commercial was shown prior to the Senator's actual nomination and selection of a running mate. At that approximate time, the commercial disappeared, and Senator Obama probably breathed a sigh of relief.

Palin was from outside the continental United States, as was at birth the presidential candidate of the opposing party, which contributed to the perception that the latter was not born in the USA. John McCain, who had spent five+ years in captivity- a portion of it after he was given the opportunity to be released- decided to downplay his military service. To do so otherwise might have struck a discordant note in a McCain-Palin ticket.

Early last year, The Washington Post's Philip Bump reported

According to a 2010 study from researchers at Stanford University, noted by Brendan Nyhan, Palin's presence on the 2008 Republican presidential ticket cost John McCain 1.6 percentage points. In an election in which 131 million people voted, that's 2.1 million votes that McCain should have gotten but didn't.

There is no way to determine whether the Republican candidate would have been elected President if he had bypassed Palin, for, say, Joe Lieberman (his personal favorite) or former Pennsylvania governor and Vietnam veteran Tom Ridge.  The Stanford study argued "Since Obama actually won 53% of the popular vote, it suggests that Palin’s campaign performance did not necessarily change the election outcome, but was certainly large enough to be substantively meaningful."

However, that analysis is strikingly imperfect, given that a presidential election is determined not by popular vote but by electoral vote, as we learned in 2000- and were disturbingly reminded in 2016. We don't know where Palin cost McCain the votes but it's likely it was predominantly among "wavering Republicans, independents, and moderate Republicans," according to a Newsweek column cited by Bump.

Although it's very unlikely that Palin herself cost the GOP the presidential election, it's not at all unlikely that McCain would have won had he gone a different direction, which he probably would have with a different running mate. Instead of campaigning as a maverick trying to block the route to the  Oval Office of the first black nominee of a major political party, he might have run as "the American President Americans have been waiting for." 

Eight years later,  who unlike John McCain had no claim on patriotism, military service or service to the nation, the driving force behind the birther movement was elected President of the USA. 

It''s vitally important for one's health to pick parents well. And it's critical in politics to pick your opponents well. For Barack Obama- who wisely changed his image by having Joe Biden run with him- it was McCain and Palin. 

John McCain was not prone to making excuses, but choosing not to invite his 2008 running mate to his future funeral may have been subtle acknowledgement that she played a major role in depriving him of the biggest prize of them all.

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