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Monday, September 01, 2008

Once More Into the Breach

John Schwenkler

Sorry to keep going back to Palin - I’ve been running through missed blog posts, and I keep encountering head-scratchers. This time it’s Ezra Klein again, getting all poetic in the way he sometimes does:

This was, for McCain, a major decision. And we can learn from it. And here’s what even his supporters must admit: Country did not come first. Polls did. The calculations are fully transparent. Understanding that he needed to broaden his electoral coalition, he picked a woman. Understanding he needed youth, he picked a young politician. Understanding he needed to emphasize his reformist credentials, he picked a onetime whistleblower. What he didn’t pick was anyone able to help him govern, or capable of stepping forward in a moment of crisis. Palin is not an experienced foreign policy hand like Lieberman or a successful and experienced governor like Tommy Thompson. Today, McCain chose his campaign over his presidency. Over our presidency. Palin seems like a promising young politician, but McCain increasingly seems like a desperate one.

Okay, work with me here. Suppose you’re John McCain. If what you say is to be believed - and why shouldn’t it? - you got into politics because you care about your country, and you think that Barack Obama is a hapless, inexperienced naif whose elevation to the Presidency would put the United States - nay, the entire civilized world and the cause of freedom in it - in grave danger. You think, in other words, that it is only if you are elected that this danger can be averted, the terrorists destroyed or dispersed, and the cause of democracy preserved.

Got that? You’re John McCain, and that’s what you think. Now why in the world, in an election as close as this one, would you select anyone as your Vice Presidential candidate other than the person who gives you the best chance to win? And so why in the world would the decision to the person who does give you such a chance - or whom you at least take to give you such a chance - show that you had opted to “choose your campaign over your presidency”? You won’t HAVE a Presidency unless you can run a successful campaign, and up against the Obama juggernaut there’s no room to pull punches: if Palin gives you the best chance to win, and the cost of failure is civilizational collapse, then Palin it’s going to be.

I’m not insisting that Palin actually is that person, though I do think that Thoreau makes a pretty strong case. But what I do know is that the idea that McCain should have hitched himself to an electorally weak Vice Presidential candidate just so that he can end up - with the terrorists having prevailed and the world crumbling around him, mind you - telling himself that, HAD he won the thing, he’d have had a worthy successor … well, that’s a pretty silly idea. John McCain can’t put country first unless he starts doing better in the polls.

P.S. Andrew Sullivan, whose anti-Palin hysteria managed somehow shriller by the minute despite always seeming to have reached its apogee, made the same silly argument.

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