Sunday, January 18, 2009

Putting Things To Rest: McCain / Palin

It's been a while since we've added a new feature that we failed to follow up on. So with the changing of the guard at 1600 Pennsylvanie Ave., the new year, and, of course, the Indians signing Carl Pavano (previously referred to as "The Worst Free Agent In History"), it's time to tie up some loose ends; there are things we need to have one final word on and then never speak of again. Consider this segment like the last two minutes of Rome is Burning except without the pretentious goatee and the words "jack," "green," and "dumbfounded." Today, we tackle: The McCain/Palin Campaign. We certainly need to put this one to rest.

As with our treatise on Romeo Crennel, here's another opinion that you won't hear very often and you certainly won't hear from those who voted for Obama:

Sarah Palin was an inspired choice for VP.



Now, we here at DMS still harbor suspicions that the entire McCain campaign was a bad joke that backfired on them. We mean, when an ad involving Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton is not the silliest thing you did, then you had a strange campaign. And certainly the bitter backstabbing that came out within hours of November 4 is a testament to the general train wreck of the McCain/Palin campaign (side note: it actually would have made for a interesting, if tumultuous four years).

The Palin rollout was particularly damning. Let's recap:

1. Within 12 hours of Obama's acceptance speech, McCain introduces previously unknown Sarah Palin in Ohio. Press goes nuts.
2. Nothing but positive accolades from cable news. Both for the pick and the whole "stepping on Obama's toes" mechanism of the rollout.
3. Republican National Convention. The media is loving Sarah Palin. We know it seems strange to think of now, but the press had nothing but positive things to say about Sarah Palin.
4. Tina Fey does a "scathing" impersonation of Palin. And by "scathing," we mean "dead on." This is where the wheels start to come off.
5. Charie Gibson interview. She stumbles a but about the "Bush doctrine," which really isn't that big a deal.
6. The Katie Couric interview. This is where the wheels came off the train. She sounded like a dumb-fuck, there's just no other way around it. Can't name a court case besides How about Roe v. Wade? How about Brown v. Board of Education? Marbury v. Madison? Bush v. Gore? Just so many exciting to choose from! What newspaper do you read? All of them? At this point it is clear that Sarah Palin is probably no smarter than your average AP U.S. History student who knows Marbury v. Madison (even if they don't know why) and can at least feign competence on a AP exam.
7. Total shutdown/lockout of the press. No more questions! Nothing to see here!
8. Next time we see a media interview with Sarah Palin, it's with Sean Hannity and she spends the whole time bitching about the liberal media.
9. At this point, it's over. In the span of a few weeks, Palin went from superstar to laughing stock to giving interviews in front of live chickens being beheaded. Along the way, we get "Joe the Plumber," "$150,000 wardrobes," "Pallin' around with terrorists," and a whole lotta winking, but none of this really mattered. The damage was done.
10. The Republican Civil War between the David Brooks "eggheads" and the Sarah Palin "real Americans" ensues.

Now.

If it sounds like we're piling on Sarah Palin, we're not. As we stated: we thought the Sarah Palin pick could have worked out. The problem was with the rollout and subsequent handling.

If you're going to introduce a total unknown, it's probably not best to do it right before the election. And 10 weeks is right before the election.

Imagine if they announced Sarah Palin in, say, May of 2008. We would have had all Summer to get to know her. Her inevitible meltdown would have occured in, let's say, June. Meanwhile, the meltdown gets buried by the Obama/Clinton 100 Years War. In fact, the pick of Sarah Palin during this tumultuous time in the Democratic party might have broken the whole thing to pieces.

Too, Palin would have gotten better and better on the campaign trail. She might learn a few things about foreign policy before asked to defend her foreign policy credentials. They would have figured out what works and what doesn't.

The problem was that the business of Sarah Palin was condensed into a tiny time frame and we had to frame of reference to put her in. That's why the media simply exploded in all directions. Imagine if Barack Obama had been introduced 10 weeks before the election, same thing would have happened. And when Obama did make mistakes, he had months to change the dialogue. The McCain campaign had literally hours to try to explain away gaffes.

Perhaps the underlying problem was the cynical strategy involved in the selection of Sarah Palin itself. It was pretty clear what the McCain campaign was trying to do: if Obama picks Hilary, pick someone "safe." If not, pick a woman. So the Obama campaign brilliantly waited until the very end to announce Joe Biden, a.k.a. Not Hilary Clinton. So the McCain campaign scrambles to find the woman of their dreams and they quickly throw Sarah Palin in front of the cameras. Destruction ensues. Game over.

Had the McCain campaign said, "screw it, we're just going to pick a woman regardless of the Obama / Hilary drama" and rolled out Sarah Palin early on, at least the narrative arc would have been different.

Instead, now every single interview with Sarah Palin involves the words "liberal media bias" or "bias liberal media" or some other form of those three words that at this point sound like the ultimate in sour grapes. Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com put it well, "complaining about the media is not a strategy."

On the other hand, maybe she wasn't ready for the big stage. But a rollout in May, would have at least given her a few extra months to get ready.

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