Friday, August 29, 2008

Palintology

Wow, did John McCain really just pick Tina Fey as his running mate?

Oh wait, that spunky, bespectacled woman with the upswept hair is actually Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. The people at Saturday Night Live must be doing cartwheels right about now.

McCain dropped a big fat news bomb right on top of Barack Obama's post-convention bounce this morning. Talk about a buzz kill. We all knew his vice presidential pick was coming today, but everyone expected Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, with Tom Ridge and Joe Lieberman as the dark horses.

But there was a filly most pundits forgot about. We did blog about Palin back in May (check the archives), but I took her off my list later as too young and inexperienced, and tainted by an abuse of power investigation, which is still ongoing. My colleague Marc Sandalow, formerly of the San Francisco Chronicle, is the only one I know who still thought she had a shot at the veep spot. She was so little-known that McCain's press secretary, Tucker Bounds, still can't pronounce her name. He keeps calling her PAL-lin, but it's PAY-lin, like Michael Palin from Monty Python's Flying Circus.

So here's what I know about Sarah Palin: she's 44, married to a fisherman/oil field worker (very Alaska), and has five kids. They have the unlikely names of Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig. I have no idea what's going on there. She's a pistol-packin' hockey mom (soccer moms die of frostbite in Alaska; they have hockey moms instead. Also, ice-fishing moms). She likes to hunt and eat moose. She could probably teach Obama and Biden how to handle a gun. She favors drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and could probably do it herself, with her husband. She just had her fifth child last spring, and little Trig has Down Syndrome, which means he's probably incredibly sweet and loving, and she's a seriously devoted mother.

(Although - and will this become an issue in the campaign? - how in the world is a mom with a four-month old, with Down Syndrome no less, going to campaign full-time for vice president for the next two months? Who will take care of that baby? Dad and the four older kids? Will America, for the first time ever, see a candidate for national office tote a newborn around? And how can the McCain campaign afford all that jet fuel bringing Palin back and forth from Alaska?)

More about Governor Palin: She is staunchly anti-abortion, pro-gun rights, devoutly Christian and is quite conservative. She was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska - it's REALLY small, I've been there and that's like being mayor of oh, say, San Bruno? I believe Wasilla has about 5000 people. Her family makes up seven of them.

She's been Governor of Alaska for less than two years, riding into office on a wave of anti-corruption sentiment up there. But she's caught up in her own little ethics difficulty. Her sister had a messy divorce from an apparently bad dude, who was a state trooper. Someone on Palin's staff called the state public safety commissioner to get the trooper fired. Palin's husband may have placed a call too. The commissioner refused, so Palin fired him. Now the state legislature is investigating whether she did anything wrong. She denies any knowledge of the phone calls.

If you saw her speech, you know why she's been considered a Republican up-and-comer. She's charming, personable, feisty and has a great backstory. She also has a classic northern accent, which sounds like a Minnesotan who went out moose-hunting and strayed a little too far. She pronounces nuclear "nook-u-lar," which always drives me crazy, but hey, it worked for President Bush.

OOPS: Gotta run, they're boarding my flight home from Denver. I will finish this post when I get home tonight and then send it out!

OKAY, I'M BACK. Ahh, home sweet home. Looks like I missed a heat wave in the Bay Area....But now back to our blog:

So. Sarah Palin. A game-changer for McCain. A guarantee that America will make history this year, with either our first black president or our first female vice president. Stop and take that in for a moment. 2008 really will go down in history, and we're all witnessing it.

But in the next 67 days, will Palin prove to be the clincher for McCain...or will she turn out to be a huge mistake? She seems a little over her head, but underestimate her at your peril. Sure, she has no national or foreign policy experience, but her oldest son is about to go fight in Iraq and she commands the Alaska National Guard (what exactly do they guard? the caribou herd from Russian invasion?), and that definitely counts for something. She can answer any questions about her lack of experience with a pretty powerful retort - hey, I'm raising five children while governing the largest state in the Union, what in the world could be harder than that? Joe Biden is likely to say something extremely, inadvertently sexist during their lone vice presidential debate. He probably can't help it. McCain certainly just guaranteed the highest veep debate ratings in history - and thank God we've been spared a Biden-Romney dronefest.

Palin could siphon off just enough disenchanted Hillary supporters to swing a state like Ohio or Florida to the Republicans. She will certainly galvanize the party's conservative base, who will lap this pick up. She checks off more boxes for McCain than any other possible choice - working class, likes guns, pro-life, a mom, Christian conservative, union member, humble roots - check, check, check. But let's see how the perky routine holds up on the grand stage. She could start to grate on people a bit with her frontier mom routine and that irritating accent. Do you think Hillary Clinton is fuming right now at the prospect of this Alaskan upstart usurping her rightful place in history? Yah, you betcha.

THINGS I HAVEN'T HAD TIME TO BLOG ABOUT YET:

Getting stuck on the jam-packed convention floor just before Hillary Clinton's speech, and finding myself smushed against Spike Lee, then trudging shoulder-to-shoulder with him from the California delegation all the way to New Jersey, while dozens of people snapped pictures with him.....

Wandering the corporate suite level, which was awash in Senators, Governors, lobbyists and titans of corporate America, not to mention food far superior to what we proles were getting...

Discovering the 1000 free bikes available to ride around Denver during the convention, complete with helmet and lock, that you could leave at one of seven parking lots when done. The bike pared a 35-minute shuttle bus and hike across town for Clinton's meeting with her delegates, to just four minutes...and they'll have the bicycles in Saint Paul too!...

Interviewing Barack Obama's 84-year-old godmother in the front row of the Invesco Field crowd...asking Jesse Jackson for some perspective on Obama's historic nomination - maybe the only guy who, when you ask, Did you ever think you'd see a black man nominated? has a different answer - as in, yes, 1988, when I was running...

And so much more...maybe later this weekend....time for some sleep now!

3 comments:

Jacob Wang said...

Considering her oldest son has left the nest (he's in the Army) and the oldest [17-year-old= daughter is pregnant with her own child, it is a VERY good guess who will look after the rest of the brood.

Doug Sovern said...

How right you are...and thanks to all who emailed me directly with their comments!

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