Hurricane-force winds have just blasted the political shores of America, and the storm's name wasn't Gustav. Like a swirling force of nature, the maelstrom known as Sarah Palin ripped across the presidential electoral landscape as it rearranged lives, jostled expectations, and up-ended political odds.
Republicans were as flabbergasted by McCain's VP pick as were Democrats. By choosing as his running mate the reformist yet inexperienced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who had been a beauty queen, TV sports reporter, and small-town mayor, McCain demonstrated all of the following: he enjoys the company of younger, attractive women; he likes taking bold, impulsive moves; and he is in thrall to right-wing evangelicals.
So did McCain overreach by going for broke with the Erin Brockovich-like mother of five with New Testament street cred? By selecting the gun-toting darling of the pro-life Christian Right, did he shore up his conservative base or recklessly throw away the election?
Whatever the political outcome, we now know what a McCain presidency would be like: as tempest-tossed as the hurricane that spared New Orleans this time around.
By prematurely picking GOP's up-and-coming "It" Girl before she had been adequately challenged and politically tested, the Republican nominee lost his strategic advantage regarding the claim that Obama is too inexperienced to be commander-in-chief. Furthermore, as additional questionable details surface regarding the inadequate background check of Palin, and how McCain just met with her that week, the maverick politician is clearly a seat-of-the-pants decision-maker. Is the nation ready to take this kind of risk with its next president?
But as it's already has been endlessly commented upon by the Chattering Class since Friday, was Palin's selection a desperately cynical ploy calculated to attract Hillary holdouts? Or will these women just stay home in November given the choice between both candidates. (I suggest a new bumper-sticker slogan for the 2008 election: "It's the Women, Stupid!")
Could Palin end up being McCain's gender bridge to nowhere, not unlike the $300 million earmark for a span from Ketchikan to an island of 50 people that Palin sought to overturn?
Now that we know that the It Girl's oldest girl is pregnant, how will this ultimately roil the waters? The family-values GOP is standing by the gals, especially because unmarried 17-year-old Bristol has opted to have the baby. (Maybe Ellen Page can star in a film sequel called "Juneau.")
The Republicans will not support sex-ed in the schools unless it's all about abstinence--which in Palin's paleo-playbook would be taught in fifth period, right after creationism. But if your daughter happens to get pregnant because she was uninformed about birth control and decides to have the child, so much the better because that means you are pro-life and you will have added another future Republican to the party ranks. Hypocrisy in the GOP has few moral boundaries, no 18,000,000 cracks in its do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do glass ceiling.
So Sweet Sarah gets a free pass from Republicans. Why? The answer is simple: the governor is pro-life. She is unwavering in her opposition to abortion, even in cases of incest and rape. (Given the chance, if she were to become president one day and must appoint a Supreme Court justice, she'd make sure that he or she'd gut Roe vs. Wade like she used to gut roe from salmon in Alaskan canneries.)
How will Ms. Northern Exposure weather the media fallout now that Bristol's baby bump is finally exposed? Is it a political bump that just might grow in size since it calls into question other issues like her vetting process which was the political equivalent of speed dating. Will she and McCain soon go all Thomas Eagleton on us, and the governor will bow out graciously as his running mate?
On the other hand, Sarah Palin seems tough and hard-nosed behind her librarian's specs and good looks. Plus she is a Hockey Mom, which is far more physically taxing than being a Soccer Mom.
But poor little Bristol and her baby on board. Little wonder she looked unhappy in those press photos. (I just thought it was a typical teenager's pout.) Now she will have the most unwelcome tabloidy out-of-wedlock pregnancy this side of Britney's younger sis. What teen wants that?
Still, it's far too early to tell how everything will politically shake out for both nominees. In one week's time, the nation went from Obamapalooza to Palin to Gustav to Bristol.
In this topsy-turvy election year, the "radical" Democratic presidential candidate went with a safe, conservative, older choice as his running mate. Meanwhile the "conservative" Republican candidate went with a riskier, younger, inexperienced choice as his running mate.
There is a Chinese curse which says, "May you live in interesting times." Less than two weeks after the Beijing Olympics, we are doing just that.