Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Problem with Not Blinking

Boy, was that one drop-dead gorgeous view from Sarah Palin's living room window, as seen in Charlie Gibson's interview with her in Wassilla a few days ago. Me, I'd think twice before trading it in for the privilege of being cooped up in a Beltway office all week, looking out on Capitol Hill.

Palin said she didn't even blink when she was offered the VP slot alongside John McCain; if you're as dedicated to the "mission" [of reforming government] as she is, and they are, then you don't hesitate, not for one second. You don't worry about whether you have what it takes or whether there is someone more qualified than you. You answer yes, of course.

Did she think it was sexist, Gibson wanted to know, when others questioned whether she could adequately juggle the job of VP (or conceivably even the Presidency) and be a successful, responsible mother as well? Again, Sarah didn't blink. She's been doing that all along: "Of course you can do it, be the VP and raise a family," she said. "I'm the Governor and I raise a family." Seeing her there in her own element, I believed her. Up there in the tundra, her juggling act seems to have worked. When it comes to the state of Alaska, Sarah Palin has definitely broken the glass ceiling.

What Gibson failed to ask, however, was, if Palin does end up winning the Vice-Presidency and migrating to Washington, whether she would take her family with her? The question is crucial, because should she try to haul them all off to Washington, then the unique ideogram that is Sarah Palin now--and which works perfectly in her mini-empire of Alaska but depends on all that pastoral order--will be destroyed.

Meanwhile people have begun to condemn John McCain for compromising the country by his choice of an unequipped running mate. But I would go even further. I believe Sarah Palin has badly compromised herself, by accepting the offer. If she wins the Vice-Presidency, she could well lose everything else that is good about her, namely, a life that really works.

In the raw world of Alaska, Sarah Palin "has it all": a great job, great family, great landscape, great house, and a great life--all of it colorful, rich, and seamlessly interwoven. I can easily picture her driving the snowmobile home from the Governor's office at lunch time, in order to check on the kids and give them their mooseburgers. But "having it all" isn't enough, it seems, and now that greedy ambition for more power has reared its ugly head, Sarah may yet be the author of her own undoing. By saying yes to John McCain, she has made a choice that could cause her whole world to come unraveled.

For instance, it's not hard for me to picture the Obama family moving from Chicago into the White House, with all of them enacting a reasonable facsimile of their previous life. But what will become of Sarah once she is separated her from the mythic trappings of tundra, caribou, wolves, and snowmobile racing--upon which so much of her successful life depends? How will she fare when disappeared into the herd of bureaucrats roaming Capitol Hill, and cooped up in an office all day? And what about her handsome, snowmobile-racing, fisherman husband? Will he be happy plying his trade in the Potomac? Talk about fish out of water! Or maybe he will stay behind in Alaska to look after the kids, helping them to build snow men? Frankly I don't think you can just uproot a fir tree, replant it in the tropics, and expect it to thrive.

Still, if Sarah Palin fails to get elected, she can always return to her former existence, unspoiled and intact. The same can no longer be said for John McCain. An uncontrolled will-to-power has already cost him beyond anything he can possibly afford to pay--his "hero" status and his image as a man of integrity have shrunk to such a degree I believe they will never be recovered. I would not care, myself, to be the subject of comments such as these, written by the columnist Andrew Sullivan (, but his words sum up what many people are thinking and saying:

"I'm in two minds whether John McCain has lost his mind or never had a soul. But I have to say I am surprised by the barrage of lies and distractions his campaign is throwing out. The farce of the Palin candidacy is one such distraction - but the lies about sex education, the lies about Palin's pork record, the lies about "tiny" Iran, the lies about the lipstick-pig nonsense, the lies about the bridge to nowhere, the lies about the oil pipeline ... I mean, what is going on?
Some believe this is just GOP hardball. But it actually isn't. They're usually not this stupid. If you are going to broadcast a series of outrageous, demonstrable lies to smear your opponent, you tend to to that in the last two weeks of a campaign, so the lies can actually stick before they are debunked. But in September?
I know many people believe that the American people - especially the under-informed swing voters - are too dumb to know when they are being lied to. But these lies are so obvious that this cannot be true. And the sheer viciousness of the personal attacks on Obama make Rove's attack on McCain in 2000 seem mild.
Here's what I think. I think McCain is out of it. I think he checked out of his own campaign and handed it over to Schmidt and his fellow Rovians. This does not mean he does not have total responsibility. John McCain is now for ever a despicable and dishonest and dishonorable man. He has destroyed his reputation..."

Whatever happens to John McCain, because of a series of reckless choices, the old-time warrior now stands to lose everything that was good about himself, most especially his honor. I'm not sure anything is really worth that. Not even the Presidency.

No comments: