Saturday, September 27, 2008

Palin's Got Next...Maybe

But there's trouble beyond the usual lower the expectations game. Her interview with Katie Couric, which finished last night but which was excerpted for days, has apparently inspired a new round of derision.

Yesterday I referenced the stunning dismissal by a conservative woman columnist. Also yesterday, withering evaluations from CNN's Jack Cafferty, who said that if Palin being a heartbeat from the presidency "doesn't scare the hell out of you, it should." Today, Palin's candidacy is dissed twice more.

In the New York Times. The "Domestic Disturbances" columnist Judith Warner, concludes: "Frankly, I’ve come to think, post-Kissinger, post-Katie-Couric, that Palin’s nomination isn’t just an insult to the women (and men) of America. It’s an act of cruelty toward her as well."

In Newsweek, world affairs columnist Fareed Zakaria begins: "Will someone please put Sarah Palin out of her agony? Is it too much to ask that she come to realize that she wants, in that wonderful phrase in American politics, "to spend more time with her family"? He concludes: "Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president...In these times, for John McCain to have chosen this person to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible. McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, it is simply not true."

Others set the pattern a bit earlier: On Thursday Carl Bernstein wrote in Huffpost:it is time to confront an awkward but profound question: whether in picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has committed -- by his own professed standards of duty and honor -- a singularly unpatriotic act.

On Friday, another columnist in the NY Times, Bob Herbert wrote: "But Ms. Palin has given no indication yet that she is capable of handling the monumental responsibilities of the presidency if she were called upon to do so.
In fact, the opposite is the case.... The press has an obligation to hammer away at Ms. Palin’s qualifications. If it turns out that she has just had a few bad interviews because she was nervous or whatever, additional scrutiny will serve her well. If, on the other hand, it becomes clear that her performance, so far, is an accurate reflection of her qualifications, it would behoove John McCain and the Republican Party to put the country first — as Mr. McCain loves to say — and find a replacement for Ms. Palin on the ticket."

There's another tidbit making the rounds today, from TV talk show host Ed Shultz: Capitol Hill sources are telling me that senior McCain people are more than concerned about Palin. The campaign has held a mock debate and a mock press conference; both are being described as “disastrous.” One senior McCain aide was quoted as saying, “What are we going to do?” The McCain people want to move this first debate to some later, undetermined date, possibly never. People on the inside are saying the Alaska Governor is “clueless.”

Whether or not this is true (and the Obama campaign seems serious about taking Palin's debating skills seriously), Palin was conspicuous by her absense from the post-debate spin last night, whereas Joe Biden was everywhere. Palin reportedly watched the debate in a Philadelphia bar--with 300 chanting Obama supporters gathered outside.

Here's my current take: I don't think McCain will dump Palin before the debate, although with McCain you never know. He surely knows he needs something dramatic to change the momentum because Obama very likely got a big boost of it last night, and the daily tracking polls were already trending his way. He might make the big gamble with his base and dump her for Joe Leiberman. But I doubt it.

The more likely (if not most likely) scenario is that the McCain campaign will simply cancel the v.p. debate, saying that the media is so mean that Palin won't get a fair hearing.

Assuming the debate does happen however, I've changed my mind about something else. I was of the school that said the expectations for Palin are so low, she almost certainly will come out of her debate looking okay, if not declared the winner. I don't think that anymore. If Joe Biden simply talks the Obama-Biden line about the future, if he refers to her seldom but only as Governor Palin, and simply links her "views" to continuation of Bush policies, he'll be the clear winner.

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