Login

If John McCain Actually Said This, It’s Really Foolish

Sarah Palin has never been adequately appreciated for saving McCain & the Republicans from an epic shellacking in 2008.

As Senator John McCain continues bravely fighting his battle with cancer, a flurry of thoughts and memories of the remarkable American continue to emerge. At least one stood out at me as particularly perplexing.

Last week the New York Times reported that Senator John McCain wrote in his new book that he regretted having selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Palin called the report, “a perpetual gut-punch,” after hearing the precise opposite from McCain personally for years.

A few observations about the whole ordeal:

  1. It’s possible this isn’t true, which is what Palin seems to think. She suggests that it is the work of one of McCain’s ghostwriters, noting that people will often speak for politicians and misrepresent their true feelings. I don’t know McCain’s state of mind and his ability to think and articulate rationally as he continues to battle brain cancer. But the idea that he didn’t really say this is plausible.
  2. Still, I think it is highly probable that this report accurately reflects McCain’s true sentiments in 2008. Senator McCain was hardly a conservative champion during his years in the Senate. And while he pivoted right to overcome primary challenges from Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, any belief that McCain’s convictions had shifted towards Palin’s more traditional conservative ideas is silly.
  3. McCain’s close relationship with Democrat Joe Lieberman is well known; and given that he is the reported preference for McCain in 2008, I think it adds credibility to the claim. It would be quintessential John McCain, who relished the role of the Republican Party’s “maverick,” to select Al Gore’s former running mate to form a bipartisan ticket.

We may never know for sure what McCain was thinking in 2008. But here is what we can know for certain: If the report is true, it demonstrates an astounding lack of political sense.

Sarah Palin’s selection injected an energy and intensity into a campaign that was otherwise dead in the water. A quirky, conservative firebrand, Palin’s convention speech was the only moment of the campaign that serious political observers considered Obama’s meteoric rise might face a challenge.

To say that Palin wasn’t ready for the national stage is fair. To say that, in hindsight, she turned out to lack the policy chops that would have made her an effective player in D.C. is fair. But to say that McCain’s margin of loss without her wouldn’t have been staggering is engaging the worst kind of historical revisionism.

There was a perfect political storm that allowed a stunningly unprepared Senator from Illinois to ascend to the White House that year, not the least of which was the galling lack of a serious challenger on the right. But logically, who would a theoretical McCain/Lieberman ticket appeal to? The center-left.

Is there any thoughtful political analyst who thinks that Barack Obama was going to lose the center-left to anyone in 2008? Not a chance. Meanwhile, on the right, staunch conservatives were already opposed to McCain’s candidacy. Adding a pro-abortion Democrat to the ticket would have undoubtedly led to a third-party conservative challenger, thus dividing McCain’s already slim election yield. It is distinctly possible that if it became a three person race in that sense, Obama’s electoral success might have been on Reagan/FDR landslide levels.

Think of her current political involvement what you will, but Sarah Palin has never been adequately appreciated for saving the Republican Party generally and John McCain specifically from an epic shellacking in 2008.

I'm not sure what makes John McCain so remarkable in the eyes of some. Yes, he was a prisoner of war, and so were many others, but they didn't receive the hero's welcome McCain got because of his background. Unlike John McCain many of these men came home suffering from PTSD, agent orange problems and now unlike McCain languish in VA hospitals trying to get the care they deserve.

Sorry I hit the enter button by mistake. Other than his military service what did McCain do that was so note worthy. What great piece of legislation did he get passed. The Keating Five? The gang of eight? How often did he side with Dems, against those who elected him. Did he help build "the dam fence," he told his voters he'd build. His presidential campaign was a joke. Yes, he's dying and I'm sorry about that but so are hundreds of Vietnam vets everyday and they go unrecognized. And so you'll know, my husband and brother both fought in Vietnam, my husband flew F-4's and my brother was in the army on the ground. My brother suffers from the illnesses mentioned earlier, but unlike McCain and after four months is still waiting
to get prostate cancer surgery. But then he was never considered remarkable.

5

To play along with the revisionist game here 2008 really couldn't have gone worse for the GOP. In addition to Obama winning easily the Dems ran up huge majorities in Congress, which led to Obamacare among other things. Sure Obama could have theoretically ran up the score more for himself with more electoral votes but that wouldn't have changed anything.

The mistake of selecting Palin was not just that she was/is a fool but it created a whole audience for people who like that sort of thing. Without Palin you don't get Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Todd Akin, Roy Moore, etc.

(edited)
2

There is little evidence that a Vice Presidential nominee has any effect at all on Presidential elections, and the idea that Palin helped McCain in 2008 is a stretch. She delivered a rousing speech at the convention, then proceeded to put her foot in her mouth at every opportunity. Throughout the summer, McCain was polling at pretty close to even, and he was leading after the convention. Had it not been for the economic collapse in late September, McCain probably would have won no matter who his running mate was. And if he had selected Lieberman, it would have been too late at that point for a third party, conservative candidate to get on the ballot anywhere.

3

If it was a mistake for McCain to pick Palin it was a HUGHE mistake for the GOP to pick John McCain, the Democrat that pretends to be a Republican. He had the opportunity to kill ObamaCare as he campaigned on and turned his back on the people who elected him. I lost all respect for him long ago. He is not a man of his word. He will be giving an account for his life soon, hopefully he as accepted God’s gift of salvation.

5

Palin was never intelligent or informed and it was a mistake for John to select her.

1

Let's get something straight: No Republican could have won in 2008. The economy was collapsing a year before that election, and the financial panic was the final nail in the coffin. And it all took place in the context of the perception of the Iraq War going sour and eight years of relentless Bush (and therefore GOP) vilification on a Republican president's watch. The party nominated McCain, but choosing Romney or Huckabee would have made no difference. Who McCain chose for a running mate was even less relevant. Ten years ago the GOP was plainly and simply doomed. Now, in the context of what happened to the party's fortunes after that, Palin's elevation had a very....Trumpesque affect: short term re-energization via the Tea Party movement, but a longer term poisoning of Republican minds and judgment with the dementia of "populism". In short, winning a battle, but ultimately losing the war, to where today, the GOP is theoretically in unified control of the government, but has completely forgotten why it sought that control in the first place, and so seeks to hold onto it for its own selfish sake. It's almost....Hillaryesque when one stops and thinks about it.

I liked Sarah Palin....and still have a soft spot for her....because I think she was placed in a really tough spot and did not appear to get sufficient preparation or advice. I also agree that she helped solidify the Right while, in the end, not doing enough to pull in moderates. 2008 was genuinely a perfect storm that hit the GOP...and with a staggering economy and a languishing war...there was no perfect candidate....and at least McCain could argue far more foreign policy and military experience than Obama or Huckabee...or Romney.

I think we are making too much of McCain's comments...if he genuinely thinks that she became an unhelpful distraction on the campaign trail....why do we need to take that so personally? Palin is not especially relevant in conservative politics these days...probably in part by choice. Yeah it's a bit of a jab at her personally....but it's as much a jab at McCain's own choice in picking her and his campaign's work at preparing her. I just think that we need to let go of taking everything as a big deal.

@FreeMkts I think you are completely wrong. Palin didn't create these people. In fact there are significant differences among the people on your list. The only thing in common is that they are seen as an embarrassment. The voters exist with a populist mindset. Palin just filled that gap, like Trump. It isn't my political philosophy, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. 2008 Palin was a rock-ribbed conservative. Since then, she has really embraced populism and likely always was. That wasn't really what she was selling in 2008. The rise of populism is really tied to the radicalization of the Democrat party. They have driven these voters out and they have moved to the GOP by default because there was no where else to go. You are giving Palin way too much credit.

The only things important in selecting the VP, is to either enhance a strength or fortify against a weakness. In McCain's case, he chose to fortify against a weakness. Palin was young, energetic, conservative, new, fresh, executive, common verse McCain who was old, lethargic, Washington fixture, legislator and elitist. Obama picked Biden who compensated for age, inexperience and elitism. Trump picked Pence to compensate for his moral failings, lack of character and break from the GOP norm. Bill Clinton chose to reinforce his young, new, fresh, southern approach. Romney chose largely to reinforce strengths rather than draw a strong contrast, though 2012 Ryan was viewed differently than 2018 Ryan.

Palin contrasted McCain, but almost too much. Her age made him seem really old, not experienced. Her outsider status reinforced his status as an old-hat, Washinton insider. Her conservatism exposed his progressivism. Almost all of the contrasts that Palin drew made McCain seem worse, not better. It is also many of those differences that Obama wanted to draw. None of this is Palin's fault. Considering the environment, her experience and the handcuffs that the McCain campaign put on her, she did a good job considering. It is the stuff she has done after 2008 that I have issues with.

Palin did to McCain what Bill does to Hillary. They are so much better at retail politics and likeability, that they make the actual candidate look worse by constantly outshining them, even if it wasn't on purpose.

The first rule of VP nominees, should always be do no harm. In the end, the VP makes little difference. The only significance is in the ability to consolidate base support and in the change in public perception that it gives the Presidential nominee. The VP just doesn't flip many voters. Even with Trump, his totals would not have been significantly different if he had chosen Christie over Pence. That would have been a terrible choice, but in the end would have made little difference. Pence was just a good talking point for people, not what actually made them break Trump's way.

Now McCain choosing Liberman might have cost him significant votes. The gain would be very minimal, but the loss could have been massive. It was riskier than picking an inexperienced, largely unknown Governor of Alaska.

(edited)

If McCain thinks the double-team of two old white moderates was going to defeat the fired up & ready to go team of Obama at a time when Republicans were, like, what, -27% in the polls? than he's even more clueless than I thought he was. As far as Palin goes, the less said about her, the better.

When W abandoned conservatism, busted the budget while controlling all three branches of government, and ignored troubling signs on Wall Street, he gave us Obama. When McCain was readying his first run against W, he traveled the country, supporting candidates, collecting IOU's, and attending Republican gatherings. I was at one of those. We were at venue on a river that night, and the rain was pouring down in Biblical proportions. People at the meeting were conservatives, and they all knew who McCain was, and no one would talk to him. I was standing at a big picture window watching the downpour, and McCain walked up and stood beside me for a long time without saying anything. Then he said, "Look at all that rain. It's so dry in Arizona, the trees are chasing the dogs." I didn't bite, and he wandered off. I wished many times that I had engaged him to see what made him tick. The writers at Rolling Stone, of all people, did a very good article on him in 2008 called "A Maverick, Revisited." It was not a flattering portrait.

If this is true (NYT reporting?) then I regret working for his campaign and voting for him.

She's the only reason I voted for him.

I voted for McCain because of Sarah Palin...she was the most popular governor EVER at that time. She was remarkable being thrust into the nasty presidential spotlight & having to prop up a lackluster, lousy McCain and all the creeps in the DC swamp. I don't know too many women who would have fared better. And this is written by a an old sixty yr old New Yorker & 35 yr Illinoian who chooses to support strong women who have to deal with the continual garbage slung at them by supposed "leaders". The media is 98% godless & they hated her for soooooo many reasons.

Stories