Having been listening to happy talk for more than a week about the “Palin factor,” courtesy of all my local friends and the commentaries of Pat Buchanan, and having felt at least for a few minutes some of the same euphoria about the GOP vice-presidential candidate, it now seems appropriate to look at the gaping hole in the donut. Although Palin seems a damned-sight better as a vice-presidential candidate for those to the right of CNN than McCain’s preferred pick, Joe Lieberman, she nonetheless presents certain problems for our side. For now and the foreseeable future, she remains the assistant of John McCain, and much of the address that she delivered at the GOP convention in St. Paul consisted of gilding the lily for the man who pulled her out of tundra obscurity and made her his running mate.
This does not mean that Sarah is indistinguishable from her benefactor. From what we can tell, she enjoys more popularity on the right than does McCain; nor does she seem as prone as McCain to seek the favor of the leftist media. She is also nice to look at in comparison to her aged running mate—and in comparison to the scowling Medusa Hillary. What I wish to suggest is that there is nothing not to like about Sarah and her outdoorsy husband. But there is even less that would justify the frenzied excitement she has generated among “conservative” well-wishers. In fact those who are now frenetically rallying to McCain because of his vice presidential pick are GOP loyalists who have been looking for an excuse to declare for McCain, but until now that excuse was not available. Sarah Palin has provided it.
A few sobering facts may be in order in light of this joyous rediscovery of GOP enthusiasm, which may have been there all along waiting to rise to the surface. If McCain pulls out a victory in November, Sarah will remain his indentured servant for as long as Mac is in the White House. She is unlikely to play the role of the Earl of Essex to Queen Elizabeth I, by mounting a rebellion against a sovereign head of state. More likely she’ll be running around pulling up McCain’s collapsed bridges to the Right.
And there is every reason to believe that the collapsing of these bridges will continue to occur throughout a McCain presidency. For there has not been much to distinguish McCain from a Democrat, as his longtime popularity with the liberal press would suggest, except for his consistency as an opponent of abortion. On affirmative action, immigration, campaign finance reform, and fitful reaching out to the Civil Rights lobby, he is in fact in no way different from his companion and advisor Joe Lieberman. And on foreign policy, he is also indistinguishable from Lieberman, except in his heightened degree of enthusiasm for neoconservative policies. Does anyone really think Sarah would break from her benefactor and superior if he went mucking around the world looking for areas to intervene in? Pardon my skepticism on this point!
Although Sarah’s speech attracted more attention than did McCain’s, I doubt it was more important as a blueprint for a McCain presidency. The GOP presidential nominee told us last Thursday what he would do as president, even if his oratory was not high drama. I’m not sure why we should look to Palin’s speech and not to her boss’s to obtain some idea about a how a McCain, as opposed to a Palin, presidency would be run. Is there any reason to think that in this case the vice-presidential tail would wag the presidential dog? Again I am waiting to be told why this counterintuitive course would be followed. The fact that W sometimes deferred to Cheney on foreign policy does not mean that the same unusual course would remain the order of the day under McCain.
Lately rightist commentators, such as Peter Brimelow, Richard Spencer and John Zmirak, have stressed the possibility that McCain is sending signals that he intends to grant amnesty to Latino illegals as soon as he is in a position to do so. His reference in his speech, interspersed among liberal cliches, to the “daughter of the Latino migrant,” the equality of whom with other Americans, including those going back to the Mayflower, McCain intends to guarantee, may have been the opening shot in an effort to woo the Latino vote, as a friend of illegal residents. Contrary to the complaint of Morton Kondracke on FOX news that “the GOP has done nothing to win the Latino vote,” McCain’s critics on the right think that he might be itching to give Latino voters even more than the Democrats. Although their arguments are not conclusive, I see nothing implausible about their warnings, given McCain’s previous politics.
My question is what Palin would do if McCain became McCain. The answer, until I can be shown otherwise, is nothing at all. She would continue to serve her master, who might remain that for eight rather than four years. The optimistic opinion that McCain, who has had skin cancer and is already advanced in years, would only serve one term, is wishful thinking. His mother of 96, who was present at the convention, looks thirty years younger than her age; and McCain may well have been blessed with her genes. Moreover, his skin cancer, which is not a killing melanoma, seems well under control. With any luck, a victorious McCain could spend the next eight years in the White House, with Sarah Palin in tow.