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Sarah the Scapegoat

Posted on Oct 30, 2008

By Joe Conason

Writing a postmortem for John McCain’s presidential candidacy would be premature. But if and when that moment comes next week, toxic staff infection will be listed as a primary cause of death.

Rarely has any national campaign suffered from the combination of oafish incompetence and transparent malice displayed by the little coterie of operatives who surround the Republican nominee. They continue to damage his reputation and theirs, even as they attempt to escape blame for the campaign’s declining prospects.

Now these geniuses seem to think they can offload the responsibility for their mistakes onto Sarah Palin, which would be like Dr. Frankenstein trying to blame everything on the poor monster. Of course, Frankenstein possessed too much character and decency to evade responsibility for the chaos he created. But the McCain inner circle seems unburdened by those qualities.

Recent polls indicate that Gov. Palin has turned into an albatross for the Republicans—both because of her erratic performance and the obvious questions that her nomination raised about Sen. McCain’s judgment. She has done nothing to expand the ticket’s appeal beyond the most ardent partisan base. Female Democrats, who were supposed to be attracted to a woman as vice president, dislike her intensely. Her behavior on the stump, where she regurgitates whatever cheesy material the campaign feeds her, has repelled independent voters, too.

In short, the brilliant Palin maneuver of late August hasn’t worked out so well for campaign manager Rick Davis and chief strategist Steve Schmidt come late October. The response in the latest round of leaked whispers is to trash her.

Tensions between the McCain and Palin camps broke out over the weekend in angry sniping, as the Alaska governor tried to fend off the attacks she anticipated from her erstwhile admirers. After her advisers complained to reporters that the campaign had mishandled her ever since the Republican convention, the McCain advisers struck back in harsh personal terms.

Nameless McCain sources complained to and CNN that she is selfishly “playing for her own future” as a party leader and potential presidential candidate. Depicting her as the Eve Harrington of the GOP, the sources said she “does not have relationships of trust with any of us, her family, or anyone else” and “sees herself as the beginning and end of all wisdom.” Repeatedly, they berated her as a “diva.”

Presumably Gov. Palin is capable of defending herself against these insults, but there is something awfully obnoxious about the way she is being treated by her former patrons—and their assumption that somehow we will believe it is all her fault.

Very inconveniently for the McCain crew, an extraordinary article appeared in The New York Times Magazine on Oct. 26 that explained exactly how the Palin choice came to be made and by whom. It was Schmidt and Davis, in collaboration with speechwriter Mark Salter, who picked her over a host of more qualified candidates, following a superficial investigation of her background, knowledge, official conduct and temperament. The three insiders then presented her to a smitten, impetuous Sen. McCain.

When Gov. Palin’s convention debut drew rave reviews and auspicious polls, the McCain advisers naturally took credit. “Game on!” bellowed Schmidt, as the political tide temporarily seemed to turn.

Once a protégé of Karl Rove, Schmidt brushed off any questions about Gov. Palin’s resume with practiced belligerence. “Her selection came after a six-month-long, rigorous vetting process where her extraordinary credentials and exceptionalism became clear,” he fibbed. And as far as he was concerned, every Palin skeptic was simply a sexist pig, “This vetting controversy is a faux media scandal designed to destroy the first female Republican nominee for vice president of the United States who has never been a part of the old boys’ network that has come to dominate the news establishment in this country.”

Well, what could be more sexist than whispering “diva” to describe her now? It is a synonym for a term that rhymes with witch, as Barbara Bush might put it, and no stereotype is more poisonous to women in politics. Oink, oink.

Setting up the running mate as scapegoat during the final week is bad form as well as bad faith. Every campaign is a test of character—and, win or lose, the handlers of Mr. McCain have failed.

Joe Conason writes for the New York Observer.

© 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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By Bobby Decker, November 1, 2008 at 11:35 am Link to this comment
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By Sepharad, November 1, 2008 at 1:04 am Link to this comment
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Don’t underestimate Poison Palin’s shrewdness, ambition, unscrupulousness, blatant dishonesty and survival skills. Obviously she memorizes well enough to not come off completely screwed, and she’s displaying all the confidence of a Christian holding four aces. The way she galvanized the neanderthal section of the GOP’s “base” has not been overlooked by GOP headquarters, and there’s a lot of scuttlebutt to the effect that “win or lose, Palin has a future with the party.”

My husband says that would be a good thing as it would doom the party for the next 25 years at least. However, be careful with this one. Lunatic theories, desperate ambition and cutie-patootie looks good enough to get even William Kristol out shaking the pompoms for her are a toxic cocktail and bode ill for all our futures until she’s out of politics for good.

The only good thing to emerge from the Palin candidacy is a disgusted Christopher Buckley’s defection from The National Review. I think he’s always been a truly independent-minded fellow, and a helluva writer. Dems should capitalize and take this opportunity to nurture any common ground they can find with Mr. Buckley. We’re a bit short on intellectual, sharp yet playful voices for the Dems’ issues, perhaps with the potential of a Gore Vidal, who so often thrust and parried with the late William Buckley, Jr.

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By AuntBec, October 31, 2008 at 7:07 pm Link to this comment

Good riddance to both of those creatures of the black lagoon…......

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By diane42997, October 31, 2008 at 9:19 am Link to this comment
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I loathe John McCain, but I do feel that he is not wholly responsible for his running mate - Sarah could have said “thanks, but no thanks” to the offer.  My only hope now is that the good citizens of Alaska seem to be seeing her with new eyes and with any luck they’ll impeach her or at least discredit her to the point where she simply won’t stand a chance of being elected to anything, anywhere.  Can I get an amen?

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By southparker, October 30, 2008 at 8:49 am Link to this comment
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She may be used as a scapegoat by the McCain handlers in the likely event he loses, but she’s not letting that divert her attention from her greater goal…to run atop the ticket in 2012.  Somehow I doubt she’ll regret this position she’s been put in.  She’s already using it as the springboard she requires to get into the game.  How else would she have accomplished getting into the public eye so quickly and with so little experience?  Her inadvertant slip-up early in the campaign, placing her name above McCain’s in a speech…the Palin/McCain ticket was a Freudian slip I’m thinking.

Not totally relevant here, but I just have to make mention of how Alec Baldwin referred to the GOP candidates last night on D. Letterman…John McBush and Bible Spice…way funny.

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By Jim Yell, October 30, 2008 at 6:25 am Link to this comment
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The Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln, but has become the party of the Dixicrats, a front for the KKK, skinheads and people so charmed by their religious bigotery that they believe the government should be passing and enforcing laws friendly to their peculiar prejudice.

I can feel no sympathy for Sarah Palan’s over reaching, nor for McCains irresponsibility and duplicity. Let them both be forgotten. The world would be a better place.

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By hippy pam, October 30, 2008 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

She wants to project her “martyr” image when she “drags” her D.S. kid out-starfished across her chest-TRYING to project an “in charge” image….Then she hands the kid off to her “unpaid baby sitter”[daughter] to be “amused” while mommy tries to get more MONEY and POWER.Oh-by the way-it is OBVIOUS that her kids-all of them-need BETTER ROLE MODELS….Do You Want Your Daughter To Grow up To Be An Unwed Mother Pregnant By A Boy Who Admitted On His My Space Page That He Did Not Want To Marry Or Have Children?

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