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The Veep Hunt

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Upon a Palin Horse.

“As one McCain aide put it: “We either get Hillary’s voters and we win, or we don’t. It’s not a mystery.” In a move that reeks of desperate Hail Mary strategizing (and, to my mind, grossly overestimates the potential PUMA vote in this country), John McCain chooses Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a woman he’d barely spoken to before yesterday, as his running mate. (I was flying back from Denver when the news hit, and it’s safe to say the selection of “Geraldine Quayle” was met with general jubilation throughout the plane.)

Basically, I think Sarah Palin is a wonderful pick…for the Democrats. Palin may have been an excellent governor over the past year — who knows? — but she’s an astoundingly poor choice for vice-president, worse even than Dan Quayle in the sheer tactical transparency of it. And I have every suspicion this gambit will backfire massively. To my mind, picking a running mate whose only obvious asset to the ticket is her second X-chromosome, and thinking that her sheer presence alone will somehow bring women to vote for McCain in droves, is not only a deeply sexist notion, it’s patently idiotic. (Just ask Walter Mondale how well the any-female-we-can-find strategy works.)

Her femininity aside — and, let’s be clear, that’s obviously why McCain picked her, unless (I say this as a short man myself) he just wanted a veep smaller than him — here’s a candidate who [a] mayored a town of 7000 people — college campus presidents have done more heavy lifting, [b] has been the GOP governor, for less than two years, of a state widely known to be a sinkhole of Republican corruption, [c] has her own ready-made scandal attached vis a vis this illegal firing of her ex-brother-in-law, [d] is a pro-life, creationist supporter of Pat Buchanan, and [e] has admitted earlier this month she didn’t even know what McCain’s stance on Iraq is. Now, that type of blatant ignorance may be what the GOP wants from their voters, but it’s damn sure not what voters want from their presidential tickets.

One has to wonder: If the McCain campaign was going to stake everything on such a pathetically obvious gambit for the PUMA vote, why didn’t they just pick Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who also has the advantage of actually being qualified for the job? Well, apparently Sen. Hutchison wasn’t sufficiently pro-life enough to fend off the fundies. So Team McCain had to venture all the way north of the border to find a pro-lifer up to snuff for the evangelical crazies…but don’t worry, he’s still a maverick independent and everything.

At any rate, because it’s so dead on, here’s the quality reaction of a MeFi’er, August Pollak, QFT. [Birddogged by WebGoddess.]

Oh my god, really?

Really?

Look, to be fair, I was halfway through a post last night on my own site about how ridiculous I though all the hard-right Freepers/Cornerites/etc. were harping about Palin. She was basically their new Fred Thompson. But I am seriously dumbfounded that they would have been this stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, on a PR level this is masterful for McCain. He’s killed all the momentum and press coverage about Obama’s amazing speech last night. So I really am amazed they think that one shot at gaining the press advantage was worth the most unbelievably inept VP pick I could have possibly imagined.

Forget even among fields of conservatives in general: is anyone from the McCain camp going to make a convincing case that Palin is remotely close to the most qualified woman in the GOP to be a heartbeat away from taking over a guy who turns 72 today and has a history of cancer? She has been governor- for 18 months- of a state with a population smaller than Obama’s state senate district in Illinois. Her previous office was the mayor of an Alaskan town with a population smaller than 3,000 people. At the very minimum, Obama has sat in on foreign policy sessions and dealt with national and international issues on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Palin has no foreign policy experience. This is literally one step above giving the slot to the winner of a game show.

So in what I can only perceive as a complete fit of insanity, McCain has decided to destroy with one pick the three talking points he had as an advantage over Obama:

Experience: She has none. Palin is utterly unqualified to be president of the U.S. Senate, let alone the country should anything befall McCain.

Celebrity: She’s a former beauty pageant winner who’s done multiple cover shoots for fashion and culture magazines and her claim to fame is being the subject of an article titled “America’s Hottest Governor.” There will be more talk about how she’s attractive than her actual policy credentials. Her gender, in light of her utter political weakness, will be seen blatantly- and rightly- as the novelty McCain picked it for. There is no clearer a celebrity pick for McCain than this one.

Moderate Female Voters: Putting aside for a moment that she’s outrageously anti-choice, if McCain truly believes that what really appeals to middle-age working-class white women is a younger, prettier, but amazingly less-qualified woman getting the promotion that Hillary Clinton didn’t, then I can’t really reflect any greater how utterly deaf to the interests of women the Republican Party is.

Jesus tap-dancing Christ. If McCain wanted a former beauty queen with no experience and a criminal investigation on her record I don’t know why he didn’t just pick his own wife.

Zing.

Update: Rasmussen has the first post-Palin poll, and it seems a gender gap has already emerged — Women aren’t really buying it. “These numbers pretty much speak for themselves, but men have a favorable impression of Palin by a 35-point margin, whereas women have a favorable impression of her by an 18-point margin. Conversely, by a 23-point margin, women do not think Palin is ready to be President, whereas Palin lost this question among men by a considerably smaller 6-point margin.” [Via Firedoglake.]

The Ticket.

As many surmised (and I hoped) earlier in the week, Sen. Obama has apparently chosen Senator Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate and future vice-president. In brief, I’m very happy with this choice (and particularly considering the evening’s early word suggested Bayh.) As I said the other day, Obama-Biden seems both a good match and a winning ticket to me. Bring on the convention.

Update: “Joe Biden is that rare mix. For decades, he has brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn’t changed him.” The ticket is unveiled in Springfield, Illinois. And other than Ron Fournier, embarrassingly having the AP carry water for McCain (again), and a handful of Clintonite dead-enders (to which McCain is now making blatant appeals), the pick seems to go over swimmingly.

Any Second Now. | I’ll Say Biden.

“Obama had not notified his choice — or any of those not selected — of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware…Aides said the announcement would come at the earliest on Wednesday morning.” With the convention a week away — I’ll see y’all in Denver — Sen. Obama would seem on the verge of a veep. (Colleague Dr. Vendre gave a concise round-up of the top potentials a few days ago.)

Of late, I’ve swung pretty strongly into the Biden-for-veep camp. I had him pegged as our next secretary of state, but the more I think about it, the more he seems the best complement for Obama in 2008, and particularly now that recent events in Georgia have given the election more of a foreign policy cast. He’s well-known, he’s experienced, he’s distinguished, he’s got impeccable foreign policy bona fides (his Iraq vote notwithstanding, of course), he’s a white male of a certain age, which should soothe those swing voters for whom such stuff matters, and, most importantly, he’s very comfortable in — and, in fact, would seem to relish — the acerbic attack dog role one desires in a #2. (Plus, Delaware’s governorship, while up in November, is nonetheless as safe a Dem seat as they come, meaning we’d keep Biden’s vote in the Senate.)

In short, I think Obama-Biden is a winner. Then again, I’m still of the mind that “Obama-Anyone Not Named Dubya or Clinton” is as close to a shoo-in this year as we’ll see in many moons to come.

Raising Kaine?

“Kaine and Obama became friends after they campaigned together during Kaine’s 2005 gubernatorial race…In recent weeks, Kaine and his staff have been in frequent contact with Obama and his campaign about strategy and operations in Virginia and elsewhere.” Webb may be gone, but some of the smart money seems to think that Obama is now leaning toward his fellow Virginian, Tim Kaine, for his running mate. Don’t know much about him, but, particularly if that secures Virginia, I’m all for it. Other names rumored on the short-short list: Joe Biden (Good choice, but might be a better fit at State) and Evan Bayh (frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal).

Scratch Webb Off.

“Last week I communicated to Senator Obama and his presidential campaign my firm intention to remain in the United States Senate, where I believe I am best equipped to serve the people of Virginia and this country.” In the Obama veepstakes, Sen. Webb takes himself out of the running. “Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for Vice President.”

Stating — and Rejecting — the Obvious.

“‘As he’s said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain’s service, and of course he rejects yesterday’s statement by General Clark,’ Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.” So…I guess Wes Clark won’t be the veep. For some ill-defined reason, the Obama campaign sees fit to throw the general under the bus because Clark, a guy I run hot and cold on, simply stated the obvious. Getting shot down over Vietnam, however ostensibly character-building, in no way constitutes executive experience: “I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility…I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”

Said Obama in Independence today: “McCain had ‘endured physical torment in service to our country’ and ‘no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides.’” Fair enough, but that wasn’t at all what Clark was doing. McCain’s basically getting away with the same sort of resume inflation as Sen. Clinton did in the primaries, and Clark — a five-star general who knows what he’s talking about — called him on it.

One could argue that there’s a method to this move by the Obama campaign, but even that theory suggests a certain ugly political opportunism at work. (One could also argue karma had some part to play in all this, since Clark earlier jumped all over Samantha Powers’ gaffe during the primaries.) Nonetheless, between this, the Senator’s switchback on telecom immunity (which I discussed in the comments here), and various other recent triangulations, the Obama campaign has had a pretty lousy week. I don’t know if it’s the recent influx of “veteran” hands, an attempt to beat back the National Journal liberal label, or just an early-summer malaise, but that sickly-sweet smell of Old-School Dem Politics is lingering in the air. Get it together, y’all. I know the polls look good, but this defensive-minded playing-not-to-lose is assuredly not the way to go.

Update: “I’ve said this for some weeks now, they’ve been repeated many times.” Clark sticks to his guns, and Webb has his back. Meanwhile, Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald makes the case against Obama’s last two weeks: “There is no question, at least to me, that having Obama beat McCain is vitally important…[but] his election is less likely, not more likely, the more homage he pays to these these tired, status-quo-perpetuating Beltway pieties.

Update II: Obama clarifies on Clark: “I don’t think that General Clark you know had the same intent as the swift boat ads that we saw four years ago, I reject that analogy…I think in at least one publication was reported that my comments yesterday about Senator McCain were in a response to General Clark. I think my staff will confirm that that was in a draft of that speech that I had written two months ago.

Update III: Fred Kaplan has a theory about Clark v. McCain: Grunts are from Mars, Flyboys are from Venus.

Al Little Late. | According to Doyle.

“The outcome of this election will affect the future of our planet…Take it from me — elections matter.” Finally, Al Gore endorses Sen. Obama. (Not exactly a profile in courage at this point, but could we really expect anything less from the man?) Well, in any case, welcome aboard.

Also joining Team Obama today: Patty Solis Doyle, who has been hired to be “chief of staff to the future vice presidential running mate.” As Doyle, “a native Chicagoan with deep ties to many senior Obama aides,” is no longer on speaking terms with Sen. Clinton (to whom she “devoted her adult life“) after having been blamed for Iowa, it would seem Clinton will not be making the veep short list. Try to contain your despair.

Webb 2.0? | The Twenty.

“The symbolism of all this to average swing voters just seems to me too powerful to pass up. The GOP is going to hang the elitist tag on Obama, as they’ve always done in recent elections. It’s worked in the last two elections, and it might well work in this one. But it stands far less a chance of working if Obama has this ruddy-faced, shit-kicking, pugnacious, southern white guy standing next to him vouching for him.The Guardian Michael Tomasky makes the case for a Vice-President Webb, while The Prospect‘s Ezra Klein (he should stay in the Senate), Slate‘s Tim Noah (he’s too volatile), and The Atlantic‘s James Fallows (he’d hate the gig) demur.

Update: Webb aside, Sen. Kent Conrad leaks that the Obama campaign is currently floating a list of twenty or so names for veep. He “told CNN that some of those on the list are ‘top officials now,’ others are ‘former lawmakers’ and others are ‘former top military leaders.‘”

Jeepers Veepers.

After Sen. Clinton gets toxic and ridiculous over Michigan and Florida — In a clear attempt to poison the well (and fire up the smoke machine), she compared the DNC’s decision to adhere to the rules she herself agreed to (when it suited her) to Election 2000, Zimbabwe, and the civil rights movement — her aides, fundraisers, and husband try to foist Sen. Clinton as Obama’s veep. But Rural Votes’ Al Giordano says hold up: “The Field can now confirm, based on multiple sources, something that both campaigns publicly deny: that Senator Clinton has directly told Senator Obama that she wants to be his vice presidential nominee, and that Senator Obama politely but straightforwardly and irrevocably said ‘no.’ Obama is going to pick his own running mate based on his own criteria and vetting process.

In the meantime, regarding delegates: Obama picked up two more Edwards delegates and supers Pilar Lujan (GU) and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA) crossed paths switching (Lujan to Clinton, Cardoza to Obama.) Also for Obama since the last update: Rep. Jim Costa (CA), Rep. Joe Courtney (CT), and DNC members Scott Brennan (IA), Jenny Greenleaf (OR), and Wayne Dowdy (MS). (In the meantime, Clinton picked up 2 more UADs from Ohio and Massachusetts.) Thus, the most recent tally: Obama +7, Clinton +2. Sen. Obama is now 57 delegates away from the (current) magic number of 2025.

McCain-Rice?

“Democrats who think it’s going to be a cakewalk into the White House next November had best remember one name: Condoleezza Rice.” Will John McCain pick Condi Rice as his running mate? A scarily plausible scenario.

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