Some 72 Hours

As I write, the scandals surrounding Sarah Palin include the pregnancy of her unwed teenaged daughter; her husband's long-ago DWI; her directorship of the 527 group ...
by | September 1, 2008

Palin_and_mccain As I write, the scandals surrounding Sarah Palin include the pregnancy of her unwed teenaged daughter; her husband's long-ago DWI; her directorship of the 527 group of Sen. Ted Stevens, from whom she's been trying to distance herself lately; her support of the "Bridge to Nowhere," before she was against it; and, let's not forget, Troopergate, for which she'll soon be deposed under oath.

Palin just got herself a lawyer in the Troopergate matter. Meanwhile, the McCain campaign is sending a team of operatives, including lawyers, up to Alaska, to do a "post-vetting" of her.

And ABC reports that, Palin formerly belonged to the Alaskan Independence Party, always referred to as a "fringe" group (although former Gov. Walter Hickel was elected on its ticket in 1990) for its desire to hold a secession vote from the union.

Perhaps none of these may add up to much and normally I'd be inclined to agree with the McCain campaign and the bloggers -- and Barack Obama -- who say that family matters shouldn't determine fitness for office (even among family-values candidates). Putting such niceties aside, what's clear is that Palin is playing out as the worst sort of surprise pick -- one who keeps on surprising.

Remember just a few days ago, when she was picked, there was a lot of commentary about how the first 48-72 hours would be crucial in defining her, since she was such an unknown on the national stage? Well, at this point it looks like the media narrative will quickly harden around her being the next Thomas Eagleton-Harriet Miers-Clarence Thomas-Dan Quayle-pick your owned flawed historical comparison.

Perhaps all will be forgotten after a sterling convention address tomorrow. On the other hand, it may not matter how well she comports herself from now on. She may already be set for sacrifice on the altar of late-night TV joke writers.

The media will be looking for more dirt and her candidacy will be framed the way the Obamaniacs must have hoped -- that her sudden, barely-vetted selection casts doubt on John McCain's judgment.

But that might not even be the biggest problem this pick represents. Palin has played well among conservatives who were less-than-enthused about McCain and who had been deeply troubled about the rumors he'd select a pro-choice running mate. The campaign raised $7 million the day of her announcement. A core Republican constituency seems infatuated with her.

That just speaks, however, to the curious nature of McCain's candidacy. He's the only presidential candidate I can think of who won the nomination and then had to set to work winning over his party's base, rather than being able to tack to the center.

For all the bad press she's getting, Palin may still help the ticket among the party faithful. It doesn't look at this point, though, that she'll help swing over many moderate undecideds. And if her problems continue to mount, it will be tough for the GOP ticket to shift attention back to questions about whether Obama is ready to lead.

John Dickerson writes at Slate:

It may be fun to read about, and it sure is fun to cover, but it also supports the judgment of the Palin pick that I first heard from a Republican veteran shortly after the announcement: "Reckless."


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