September 2, 2008

IDENTITY CRISIS:

What the Palin Pick Says (DAVID BROOKS, 9/02/08, NY Times)

The main axis in McCain’s worldview is not left-right. It’s public service versus narrow self-interest. Throughout his career, he has been drawn to those crusades that enabled him to launch frontal attacks on the concentrated powers of selfishness — whether it was the big money donors who exploited the loose campaign finance system, the earmark specialists in Congress like Alaska’s Don Young and Ted Stevens, the corrupt Pentagon contractors or Jack Abramoff.

When McCain met Sarah Palin last February, he was meeting the rarest of creatures, an American politician who sees the world as he does. Like McCain, Palin does not seem to have an explicit governing philosophy. Her background is socially conservative, but she has not pushed that as governor of Alaska. She seems to find it easier to work with liberal Democrats than the mandarins in her own party.

Instead, she seems to get up in the morning to root out corruption. McCain was meeting a woman who risked her career taking on the corrupt Republican establishment in her own state, who twice defeated the oil companies, who made mortal enemies of the two people McCain has always held up as the carriers of the pork-barrel disease: Young and Stevens.

Many people are conditioned by their life experiences to see this choice of a running mate through the prism of identity politics, but that’s the wrong frame. Sarah Barracuda was picked because she lit up every pattern in McCain’s brain, because she seems so much like himself.


It seems fair to say that whether one thinks she's an identity pick or not depends on whether the viewer engages in identity politics, which is why the Left and far Right see her that way.

MORE:
The party's just starting for John McCain (John O'Sullivan, 9/02/08, Daily Telegraph)

On all sorts of grounds it was a shrewd pick.

As a woman who has given birth to a Down's Syndrome child, she nails down the pro-life vote. As the wife of a union member and oil-rig worker, she appeals to the blue-collar Reagan Democrats. As a woman with a successful career and a successful family, she has the admiration of the independents, including some feminists such as Camille Paglia.

It was also a highly risky choice - the typical choice, you might say, of a Navy flyboy going after a pretty girl who can talk back at him. It's given a hostile media, suddenly nervous that Obama could lose, a paradoxical line of attack: you can't afford the inexperience of a small state governor.

And, sure, she could fall flat on her face in full view of the country. That's the risk McCain is taking.

But Palin seems to be one of those extraordinary, ordinary people that America throws up at irregular intervals. She combines conservative views with highly unconventional drive and ability. Her appointment has injected real excitement into the Republican campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 2, 2008 12:01 PM
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