By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Dan Quayle in a skirt

John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (at left in photo) as his running mate is deeply problematic on two levels.

1. It shows McCain can’t adjust quickly to changing events. A woman might have made sense last week. But, right now, it looks as though Republican hopes of peeling off vast numbers of Hillary Clinton supporters are diminishing. No, Clinton voters don’t have to march in lockstep with convention delegates. But whatever lingering anger there was between the Obama and Clinton camps had largely dissipated by Wednesday night.

2. It fails to address McCain’s biggest weakness. That would be his age (72 today) and his history of cancer. Let me be blunt: If McCain wins, it would surprise no one if his vice president became president in a year or two. Palin is stunningly inexperienced. And before you say, “So’s Obama,” keep in mind that’s the single biggest obstacle Obama needs to overcome. Voters are making judgments about that every day. Running mates are not generally subjected to that level of scrutiny. And it already looks like the vetting process used to select Palin was a little ragged.

If McCain really believed he needed a woman, I’m not sure why he didn’t go with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. At 72, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina is probably too old, but Hutchison is 65.

By far the most intelligent choice would have been former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Above all else, McCain needs a plausible president as his running mate. Romney’s not the most popular guy in the world, and McCain plainly doesn’t like him. But he would have done McCain a lot more good than I suspect Palin’s going to do. And given his political and business experience, you can picture him as president.

This is not going to play well, I suspect.

More: Markos Moulitsas, who also thought of Quayle, flips the experience question on its head: “The Sarah Quayle Palin pick is an abandonment of the ‘Obama is not ready to lead’ attack lines. Those are dead, and to be honest, while that line didn’t work for Hillary and it had limited traction for McCain, it still had some traction. That attack line is gone.” He’s right.

And the Outraged Liberal takes note of the corruption investigation now under way involving Palin’s alleged involvement in trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from his job as an Alaska state trooper.

Photo (cc) by Tricia Ward and reproduced here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Bill Baar

    If a guy makes it to 70 without chronic ailments, the odds of getting to 100 are very good. (5050 I think).As a 50+ guy looking at my smoking peers, (and I doubt Obama’s really quit his habit) I’m not sure their odds of making it to 60 without infract or stroke are very good.A lot depends on how McCain acts during the debates, but unless he just has some senior moment I don’t think age will be a factor in the race.I just know way too many very active seniors (who vote too by the way), and too many age-peers with one foot in the grave.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Bill: How about a guy who makes it to 70 after several bouts of melanoma?

  3. Brian Flaherty

    I think it is brillant. She locks in the Red States and keeps Blue leaning states like CO in play because of her rural/sportsman backgroud. She has energized the base and Biden will now have to be careful in his debate with her. Remember how the fems felt when Rick Lazio “invaded” Hillary’s “space” in a debate? Biden has to be careful that he is not perceived as a bully.

  4. Brian Flaherty

    Wow, CNN just said the same thing I just said about Biden. They must have read your blog Dan!

  5. Ryan

    Dan, The brother in law was accused of some serious breaches. This story may not have any legs. See some good background on it here:

  6. Joel Monka

    I don’t think she was chosen to pick up Hilary voters; I think she is intended to shore up his base. She’s a social conservative, pro-life, NRA member and hunter, etc. All the other candidates who have her right wing credentials are either unpopular nationally, (Ridge and Huckabee) or personally detested by McCain. (Romney) She will energise the party- there will be a lot of people eager to vote for her for President four or eight years from now.

  7. Steve

    Dan Quayle in a skirt“I think if a similar comment were made about a Democratic candidate, left-wing bloggers would scream. Just sayin’.But the record shows that Bush/Quayle won in ’88. So maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds. 🙂

  8. jhall

    Joe: “I know Hillary Clinton, I served with Hillary Clinton. And Governor, You’re No Hillary Clinton.”

  9. Steve Brown

    Just wondering, if the Democrats start attacking her would the practice (at least in Massachusetts, anyway) be referred to as Janeswiftboating????

  10. Doug Shugarts

    Two points –It seems far-fetched to think that a significant number of HRC’s female supporters will move en masse to an anti-choice GOP ticket, regardless of McCain’s choice for VP.This election is also the first in recent memory in which neither campaign believes it must battle for the South.Doug Shugarts

  11. Bill Baar

    PS My link for the quote on Russert.

  12. Bill Baar

    I may have lost my whole post…damn… anyways Dan… 5/10 year survival rates are very good for a guy with melanoma caught early.If you make it to 70 without chronic ailments e.g. heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure… your genes have spoken and you are in very good shape if you’ve had good habits (google around on Vietnam POW health status which other than dental is better than your peers).It’s those of us in our 50’s in a high risk group for sudden death…the Russert quote shows 58 to 62 as he peak risk years.So lifestyle and genes are more important than age now adays.I don’t think Obama’s released his complete health record either.

  13. Dan Kennedy

    Bill: How about melanoma caught not so early? And recurring? I’m sorry, but how much of McCain’s health history have you read up on? Here is a good overview.

  14. DevorahLeah

    She’s not only pro-life but believes creationism should be taught in the schools. Perfect for the base of the Republican party, which has never been entirely comfortable with McCain.Btw, why do so many right-wing Republican politicians feel the need to mention they are Christian? What does a person’s religion have to do with their fitness for office? Just askin’…

  15. Dot Lane

    Right wing Republican politicians feel the need to mention they are Christian because their actions generally show little familiarity with the teachings of Christ. It is all about the branding.I’m baffled by this choice and, as a woman, insulted. It’s the equivalent of nominating Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

  16. Bill Baar

    For Stage IIa melanoma, the survival rate 10 years after diagnosis is about 65 percent. But the outlook is much better for patients like Mr. McCain, who have already survived more than seven years.For patients with a melanoma like Mr. McCain’s who remained free of the disease for the first five years after diagnosis, the probability of recurrence during the next five years was 14 percent and death 9 percent, a study published in 1992 found.I don’t think that’s too bad. My father-in-law just went through this a month ago by the way at age 78 and while he’s just started his five to ten year wait, the odds are very good even though he does share McCain’s patched together look now. Obama is a smoker with a history of cancer including prostate cancer in the family. Point here is age only a factor in this election if McCain fumbles. It will appear a senior moment, it will cost him, and he won’t get any passes.But if I was making bets on eight year survival rates, and Obama still smoking, I’d bet on the old guy. (I just head a friend age 51 drop dead cutting the grass…lifetime smoker… that sort of influences me.) Age is important but it’s not everything.

  17. Peter Porcupine

    Bill, et al – I have a question for you all.WHY do you think EVERY woman is pro-choice?I know dozens, even here in MA, who are pro-life, let alone more conservative areas of the country. The abortion debate, like the death penalty, really isn’t partisan but more dependent upon overall world view. For decades now, the media speaks as if ALL womn support Roe v. Wade – and really, it isn’t so.It also has virtually nothing to do with ability to govern, but it seems it is the litmus of choice for Democrats.

  18. Aaron Read

    “The Sarah Quayle Palin pick is an abandonment of the ‘Obama is not ready to lead’ attack lines. Those are dead, and to be honest, while that line didn’t work for Hillary and it had limited traction for McCain, it still had some traction. That attack line is gone.” He’s right.Unfortunately, no…he's wrong. Within two hours of the announcement I was listening to NPR's "News & Notes" (I don't think it airs in Boston) and they had two conservatives spinning that Palin has far more EXECUTIVE experience than anyone else running for Prez or Veep.They even had the gall to say that an Obama presidency "scared them" because he barely had a year and a half in national office whereas Palin had "many" years of "executive" leadership between her governorship and mayoral time.It was so ridiculous as to be laughable, and yet Tony Cox didn't call B.S. on it, which I found rather disappointing.

  19. Sean Roche

    Quayle is the wrong analogy. Palin’s more like Clarence Thomas: a no-experience, no-name, no-record affirmative action pick.And, like Thomas, she appeals to the base.

  20. DevorahLeah

    Regarding Peter Porcupine’s comments, no the Democrats DON’T think all women are pro-choice, and several pro-life Democrats gave prime-time speeches at the convention. These days, the Republicans are the ones with the litmus test– could a pro-choice Republican get elected in a red state? Didn’t think so.

  21. Dave

    I love how the charges being leveled by the Donks against McCain’s VP pick also apply to The One at the top of the ticket on the other side.

  22. Dan Kennedy

    Bill: You’re leaving out this:Mr. McCain has had four melanomas.In 1993, he waited more than six months before seeking care after a Navy doctor recommended that he consult a dermatologist for a lesion on his left shoulder that turned out to be his first melanoma. It was excised and has not recurred.Pathology tests showed that the two other melanomas — detected on his upper left arm in 2000 and on his nose in 2002 — were of the least dangerous kind, in situ. In that type the malignant cells are confined to the outer layer of skin.The most serious melanoma was spotted on his temple in 2000 by the attending physician at the United States Capitol after it had escaped the eye of Mr. McCain’s personal physician at Mayo Clinic Scottsdale. (The Capitol physician also spotted another melanoma that was in situ.)

  23. O-FISH-L

    Dan, your rage at McCain’s brilliant pick is palpable. Calm down, it’s Friday, it’s a long weekend, the Sox are still in it, all is not lost.As for your claim, “Palin is stunningly inexperienced. And before you say, “So’s Obama,” keep in mind that’s the single biggest obstacle Obama needs to overcome.”Point well taken, so where was your headline last night (or when the Dem. primaries ended) “The black Dan Quayle”? Actually, that headline would have been too mild since nobody, be it Quayle, Palin, or Edwards, was as bereft in seeking the Vice Presidency as Obama is in seeking the TOP job. Big difference. Shamelessly speculate all you want about McCain’s health, but the woefully inexperienced Obama doesn’t need anyone to get sick to ascend to the top job, he only needs the electorate to have a momentary lapse of judgment. BTW, I know black males in the US already have a lower life expectancy than whites, but how much worse is it for those who spent their formative years in Indonesia? Certainly not the argument I planned to have, but if you are going to get into the minutiae on why McCain’s demise is imminent, please go all the way.

  24. irish

    Aaron was right when he wrote “They even had the gall to say that an Obama presidency “scared them” because he barely had a year and a half in national office whereas Palin had “many” years of “executive” leadership between her governorship and mayoral time.It was so ridiculous as to be laughable,” The fact is Mrs Palin was the mayor of a town with a population of I believe about 9,000 people for about 20 months (I don’t have all the facts on length of service), and she has been governor of the state for about a year and a half. Last time I checked, the city of Chicago has more people than the entire state of Alaska. It’s like the difference of a coach of a good high school football team versus the coach of an average major conference team, it’s a whole different ball game. Obama, if elected, with his influence will have an up hill fight to try and change anything in washington, what makes anyone think that she will have a chance in hell of getting anything done with a democratic congress and house if something happens to Mr Mccain. Keep in mind how much the job of president ages an indivudual. Take a look at Clinton and Bush before and after pictures. If elected, Mr Mccain will be the oldest elected president, god knows how he will look after 4 years in office, that is if he can make four years. How many people really believe that Mrs Palin with her “many” years of “executive” leadership is prepared to lead our country tru the economic and social problems this country faces. Again the republicans have poured the cool aid and want us to drink it. It shows again just how out of touch and desperate Mr Mccain is to be president

  25. mike_b1

    “Appeals to the base.”Come on. No one — no one — has ever heard of this chick.

  26. Dot Lane

    “But if I was making bets on eight year survival rates, and Obama still smoking, I’d bet on the old guy.”But what about the liberal bias in actuarial tables?

  27. homeofthewhopper

    Lest we not forget. My friend made this to remind me how bad it could be.

  28. Marc Larocque

    “But whatever lingering anger there was between the Obama and Clinton camps had largely dissipated by Wednesday night.”Who are you to judge this???”And given his political and business experience, you can picture [Mitt Romney] as president.These are very large generalizations. Mitt Romney better than Palin why?

  29. Dan Kennedy

    Marc: Not generalizations at all. They are observations based on widely known facts that are not open to dispute or interpretation.1. You check out the roll call? Obama, 1,549 votes, Clinton, 231, before Clinton herself moved to make it unanimous. This means that most Clinton delegates voted for Obama. They all did that of their own free will.2. Résumés mean something, do they not? Romney is a successful business executive, earned national praise for his management of the 2000 Olympics in Utah, and served a full term as governor of a large, industrial state. There is no comparison to Palin.

  30. Bill

    Yesterday when I logged on to, I wondered why Tina Fey was standing next to John McCain.

  31. MeTheSheeple

    Main Sen. Olympia Snowe, had she been willing, would’ve been a far better pick than Hutchison.This isn’t the primary any more — this is the general. There shouldn’t be -that- much worry about “firming up the base” when you should be moving to pick up the independents in the middle.So what’s the deal with the preoccupation with the base?Are they afraid the hardcore right-wingers are going to simply stay home and the younguns Obama is attracting might actually turn out for the polls? Is this election going to be more a function of turnout than mass appeal?

  32. Save Our Savings

    Dan Quayle in a pony tail….G.I. John is playing with Barbie AND Barbie. He’s shown that he’s thinking between his legs instead of using what’s between his ears. It stuns and saddens me that so many people are drinking the kool-aid. If they are elected, this country is getting that much closer to losing what we were meant to be. Anyone who has any young children will be seeing them sent off to the Middle East. Thinking about the next four years in incredibly negligent and short sighted. This election is about the next forty years….not the next four.

  33. Donnie

    Why are all of the liberal democrats running their mouth off in fear of Palin?? I believe that it is because they KNOW that she has more experience than Obama. How?? Because he was absent most of the time that he was supposed to be in DC and didn’t vote, other than present, but on very few things. Palin was a very wise choice on the part of McCain.

  34. mike_b1

    No one here fears Palin. I think Old Man McCain just handed Obama an early Christmas present.

  35. St Wendeler

    Such great analysis. The Palin pick really did fall flat and didn’t play well.Early Christmas gift for Obama,, I wouldn’t recommend that you compare Quayle’s resume to Obama’s – 12 years in the US Congress vs. 4 for Obama (not counting the 3 years he’s spent on the campaign trail.)

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