Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Saturday, October 25, 2008

  Yet more evidence that McCain's judgment is suspect

Various reports about dissension within the stumbling Republican presidential campaign continue to trickle out. Anonymous insiders are whispering to reporters that relations between John McCain and Sarah Palin are growing ever more tense because of her "rogue" behavior. The tensions between the McCain and Palin factions probably go beyond standard-fare precriminations (as the principals to an impending political disaster seek to pin the blame on each other ahead of time). Repeatedly during the last month, as the Republicans' chances of victory grew dimmer, Palin has second-guessed McCain's decisions in public and contradicted his stated positions. Whether she's complaining that McCain pulled his funds out of Michigan, or pushing to expand the campaign's over-the-top attacks against Barack Obama's character, Palin appears to be intent on positioning herself so as to deflect all blame for the upcoming defeat back onto McCain. In other words, with an eye toward bolstering her own career Palin no sooner got the VP nomination than she broke faith with a man who'd wanted to be her political mentor ("I can't wait to introduce her to Washington!").

But the really curious thing is this: Why in the world does Palin's behavior come as a surprise to McCain? Or rather: What does McCain's failure to foresee it tell us about his personal judgment?

I'd have said that, given her record in Alaskan politics, it was pretty darned obvious that she'd take the first opportunity to kick McCain to the curb.

Are there any of Palin's political patrons whom she hasn't turned against as soon as it became expedient to do so? From the start of her political career, that has been her signature.

After the then mayor of Wasilla, John Stein, helped her to gain a seat on the town council, she contested his re-election in a bizarrely divisive race. Among other things, Palin spread vile rumors against Stein and his wife. Palin also turned against several of her other allies in Wasilla, such as councilman Nick Carney and the chief of police, Irl Stambaugh, whom she quickly fired without apparent cause. And Palin is notorious for her callous treatment of another early supporter from Wasilla, Alaska Senate President Lyda Green, who has since become one of Palin's strongest critics in Juneau.

Palin continued this relentless rise to power at the level of state politics. For example, she immediately kicked to the curb another powerful patron, former state Rep. Victor Kohring, as soon as he was charged in a corruption investigation. She was a big time beneficiary of Governor Frank Murkowski's patronage until she chose to run against him, at which point she discovered very publicly that she was opposed to his record of patronage. Palin also exploited an alliance with Senator Ted Stevens right up until he was indicted in 2007, when she turned on him as well.

These are just the most famous cases in which Palin tossed overboard a series of patrons as soon as it would benefit her career to do so. By always portraying herself as a courageous reformer against entrenched corruption, Palin has sought to mask her duplicity in lining up powerful patrons only to push them aside when they threatened to stand in her path.

"I had a hand in creating Sarah, but in the end she blew me out of the water," [John] Stein said, sounding more wearily ironic than bitter. "Sarah's on a mission, she's an opportunist."

According to some political observers in Alaska, this pattern -- exploiting "old-boy" mentors and then turning against them for her own advantage -- defines Sarah Palin's rise to power. Again and again, Palin has charmed powerful political patrons, and then rejected them when it suited her purposes. She has crafted a public image as a clean politics reformer, but in truth, she has only blown the whistle on political corruption when it was expedient for her to do so. Above all, Palin is a dynamo of ambition, shrewdly maneuvering her way through the notoriously compromised world of Alaska politics, making and breaking alliances along the way.

"When Palin takes credit for knocking off the old-boy network in Alaska, it drives me crazy," said Andrew Halcro, an Anchorage businessman and radio talk show host who ran against her in the 2006 GOP primary race for governor. "Sarah certainly availed herself of that network whenever it was expedient."

All of this was well known in Alaska when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. If he had vetted her with any diligence, McCain should have foreseen that she'd remain a loyal ally only as long as it served her career.

That is to say, if John McCain has any ability at all to read other people's characters.

The truth, I think, is that McCain's judgment simply is lousy. Just about the last kind of running mate any candidate needs in a close and difficult race is a back-stabber. Besides, McCain prizes loyalty very highly, whereas Palin isn't loyal even to her family members (in race in 2002 she endorsed a woman running for mayor against Palin's own mother-in-law). That McCain ever took a chance on a person like Palin strongly suggests he simply failed to perceive what is glaringly obvious about her character.

We've seen any number of instances of McCain's poor judgment in the past, from demanding an invasion of Iraq (and other Middle Eastern countries) to embracing George Bush's failed policies, to taking creepy idiots and lobbyists like Randy Scheunemann as his closest advisers. But the fact that the McCain camp is stunned now to find Palin "going rogue" is possibly the clearest evidence yet that John McCain's judgment is just appallingly bad.

crossposted at

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