An Alaska-Sized Gamble — And Possibly A Brilliant One
“McCain, I thought, had just made his first important decision as presidential nominee and blown it. I began mentally formulating jokes and one-liners. Then I Googled Palin’s background and began to learn more about her. As I did, I sobered up. Here was a self-made woman with political and leadership skills. In a state known for corruption, she had — as a mayor, chair of a state commission, and governor — faced down at every stage the good-ole-boy network accustomed to running things. She had beaten better known candidates in her campaigns for office. She had called out and fired public officials for corruption. She had successfully taken on corporations, lobbyists, and special-interest types when they challenged her. She was pro-life and an NRA member but, nonethless, known for acknowledging the good faith of those who disagreed with her. Her husband, a commercial fisherman and pipeline worker, was a Steelworker. Palin herself was a former union member. They have five children, the oldest on his way to Iraq as an Army enlisted man, the youngest a Down Syndrome baby. Her parents, a teacher and school secretary, were hard working people who earned extra money by coaching school teams. She chaired a 50-state governors’ natural resources committee. As McCain, she was known for speaking her mind directly and breaking with Republican party-line positions when she thought they were wrong. She was aggressive and smart as hell.
Then I witnessed the rally in Dayton, Ohio, at which McCain introduced her. She was more poised than McCain. She was direct, no-nonsense, speaking to constituencies beyond the Republican base, and clearly at home with herself and her role. She appealed to Sen. Hillary Clinton supporters to come on over and break the glass ceiling with her. I found myself rooting for her — just as I had for Obama and Biden the night before — as an underdog and outsider living out the American Dream. If I felt that way, I thought, millions of others might be having the same thoughts at that moment.
So. What seemed at first glance an improbable, out-of-the-blue political gamble — and perhaps a world-class blunder — began to appear to be a gamble, alright, but perhaps a brilliant one.
The Obama campaign will issue more condescending put-downs at its peril.