September 3, 2008


McCain’s Effort to Woo Conservatives Is Paying Off (DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 9/03/08, NY Times)

Mr. McCain has met with small groups of Christian conservatives in pivotal states like Michigan and Ohio — even persuading one Ohio advocate to send a mass e-mail message announcing his switch from “no way” to “I can’t wait” to support Mr. McCain.

He used a recent appearance with the Rev. Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in California to embrace opposition to abortion more explicitly than President Bush ever did. Asked when a fetus gains human rights, Mr. McCain responded, “At the moment of conception.”

And he has abandoned previous calls to moderate the Republican platform’s support for a ban on abortion without exception. Instead, he allowed conservative organizers like Phyllis Schlafly to shape what many advocates say is the most conservative platform in the party’s history. At Ms. Schlafly’s behest, for example, the party approved an immigration plank calling for new laws to speed widespread deportations and other punitive measures at odds with Mr. McCain’s stance on one of his signature issues.

To make up for a history of conflict with the Christian conservative wing of his party, Mr. McCain has in some ways gone further than Mr. Bush to reassure the right of his intentions, even at the risk of spooking more moderate voters.

“I am now more confident about a John McCain presidency than I am about a George Bush presidency,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “The campaign has courted conservatives aggressively, and it has turned around remarkably in just the last few weeks.”

For skeptical Christian conservatives, Mr. Perkins said, the selection of Ms. Palin was evidence that when it came to the Supreme Court, Mr. McCain would deliver on the principles he laid out at Saddleback Church.

It's interesting to see how badly the CW has biffed their analysis of the attacks on Sarah Palin, which have little to do with her gender and everything to do with her lived opposition to abortion.

A stark choice on abortion (Jeff Jacoby, September 3, 2008, Boston Globe)

DURING a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania last March, Senator Barack Obama was asked about teenagers and sexually transmitted diseases.

He replied that "the most important prevention is education," including "information about contraception." Then he added: "Look, I've got two daughters - 9 years old and 6 years old. I'm going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16."

If Obama had deliberately set out to appall antiabortion voters, he couldn't have uttered four words more jarring than "punished with a baby." The equation of any new child with punishment set teeth on edge, and Obama's campaign quickly issued a clarification. The candidate, a loving father of two, believes that "children are miracles," it said; he only meant to underscore the importance of reducing teen pregnancy. But Obama's unscripted words needed no clarifying. They tartly encapsulated the extreme position on "choice" he has staked out in his career.

What brings Obama's revealing turn of phrase to mind, of course, is the pregnancy of Governor Sarah Palin's unmarried 17-year-old daughter.

"Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned," Palin and her husband announced in a statement. "We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support. Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family."

Granted, Obama was engaging in a hypothetical speculation, while the Palins were dealing with a real-life family challenge. Still, what a contrast! To the Democratic nominee, a teenage daughter's unforeseen baby is a punishment to be prevented; to the Republican Veep-designee, it is a blessing to be embraced.

The Case Against the Case Against Palin (Christopher Orr, 9/02/08, TNR: The Plank)
A very good friend, who is a lifelong Alaskan and one of the smartest people I know, offers this word of caution to those (yes, like me) inclined to take Sarah Palin lightly:

The folly, of course, turned out to be my own (and Murkowski's), as Palin slaughtered the incumbent in the primary--posting a 30 point margin of victory--and went on to win the general (over a former Democratic governor) without seeming to break a sweat. She then quickly fulfilled an implicit campaign promise by slapping down ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips in negotiations over a proposed Alaska natural gas pipeline, even though they, too, by all accounts, were well prepared to dine on her tender little frame. Not bad for a lightweight.

Listening to the Democratic leadership respond to John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, one hears echoes of the Alaska Republican leadership from just a few years ago. Barack Obama’s spokesman, Bill Burton, put it this way: "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency." Former mayor? If you're going to skip over her job as governor and, before that, her job heading the commission that oversees production of the largest petroleum reserves in America, why not "former high school student"? Bah, what does it matter: She's just a small town mayor, just a hockey mom, just a beauty pageant queen. Palin has never shunned these belittling monikers, in part, I imagine, because the camouflage has served her so well. Soothed by the litany, her opponents tend to sleep too late, sneer too much, and forget who it is that hires them.

Watching Palin operate over the past few years has been like witnessing a dramatic reading of All the King’s Men. In 2002, Murkowski had interviewed but passed over Palin in selecting a replacement for the senate seat he vacated to become governor. In a grand act of nepotism, he chose his own daughter instead. Palin was tossed a bone: She chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees the production of petroleum in Alaska. When she reported conflicts of interest and other ethical violations by another commissioner, she was ignored by Murkowski’s chief of staff and ultimately resigned in frustration. One can imagine how the quick double dose of corruption--insiders having their way with the polity and its resources--sickened the young Palin. It also fired a savage competitiveness that is not, perhaps, apparent at first glance.

What the Republicans missed about Sarah Palin then--and what the Democrats seem poised to miss now--is that she is a true political savant; a candidate with a knack for identifying the key gripes of the populace and packaging herself as the solution. That keen political nose has enabled her to routinely outperform her resume. Nearly two years into her administration, she still racks up approval ratings of 80 per cent or better.

For GOP Delegates, Sarah Palin on the Ticket Is a No-Brainer (Stuart Rothenberg, 9/03/08, Real Clear Politics)
We won’t know for at least a few days, maybe even a few weeks, whether Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was a smart addition to the Republican ticket, but it already is clear that delegates at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., are close to unanimous in their enthusiasm for the self-proclaimed “hockey mom.”

Yes, Palin’s selection pleased social conservatives and gun owners, who see her as an unapologetic supporter of their causes. As one former Member of Congress from a swing state told me on the floor on the opening night of the Republican convention, “The party was with McCain intellectually, but not emotionally. Now, with the selection of Palin, that’s changed.”

Another Republican, a moderate from New England who doesn’t necessarily agree with all of Palin’s positions on the issues, was no less enthusiastic.

“She connects with people. She’s the mom next door,” said the Republican, who argued that Palin’s greatest strength is getting presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) back to his maverick image and message.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 3, 2008 7:16 AM
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