Long before John McCain delivered his concession speech, which reminded even the liberal left of his dignity and courage, his staffers had plunged into their next task. It is, sadly, one they had begun two weeks prior to the election, a time when their candidate most needed them.
But rather than shoring up McCain’s weakly explained policies on the failing economy — the most important issue to voters — his staffers were already scrambling to lay blame for their faltering campaign on McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin. It was a move that some saw coming long before it happened, as unnamed staffers complained to the press that Palin had “gone rogue” and was already positioning her own political future.
It is reflective, too, of the continued inability of McCain’s staff to recognize that Sarah Palin could — indeed, should — have been the GOP’s Obama. Her folksy, “hockey Mom” persona was the perfect foil to Obama’s claim that he was a relative Washington outsider, just as her from-the-hip speaking style was the mirror image of Obama’s soaring, lofty rhetoric. Where Obama sought to break the racial barrier as a harbinger of change and reform, Palin as the vice president would have broken the gender barrier, accomplishing the same goal.
Yet despite the huge surge in the GOP’s favor after naming Palin to the ticket, the McCain campaign squandered away her appeal. Some wonder now, in hindsight, whether this waste was intentional.
Given the “full-scale kneecapping of Sarah Palin” that McCain’s staff has undertaken since the election, it certainly appears they have a grudge to bear against her. Unnamed McCain aides have told reporters that Palin allegedly did not know Africa was a continent, not a country, and could not identify the members of NAFTA. Such claims are bogus, according to McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann.
“Her debate performance speaks for itself,” he said. “The idea that she could stand up on the stage with somebody who’s been in the Senate for 35 years and discuss domestic and foreign policy as effectively as she did, and yet somehow she doesn’t know who is in NAFTA and doesn’t know that Africa is a continent and not a country is laughable.”
Then, there is the matter of the wardrobe malfunction to the tune of $150,000. While the campaign complied with the Federal Election Commission requirement to disclose the total amounts spent, unnamed GOP insiders alleged to the media that the expenditures included spray-on tans and clothing for her husband Todd. One anonymous McCain aide described the purchases as “Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast.” To counter such malicious leaks from within her own party, Palin began pointing out when she wore items that she had purchased herself, like the black wool jacket she wore at a stump speech in Iowa.
So, why the back-biting? After all, with one campaign under her belt and a proven appeal to the hard right within the Republican Party, Sarah Palin may be the GOP’s very best hope come 2012. And therein may lie the answer itself.
McCain’s staff may very well go on record as having run one of the most inconsistent and bumbling presidential campaigns in history. Yet, just as Mac’s staff remained in deep denial of their failing strategies throughout the election, they persist in deep denial, blaming Palin instead of themselves for their numerous errors.
Granted, while the election was in full swing, it made sense to let the media obsess over Palin’s missteps, trusting that ultimately they’d have no impact on the presidential candidate just as Biden’s gaffes bounced off of Obama. If nothing else, that obsession kept the press from focusing on McCain’s failings.
Now, however, it’s doing little more than undermining Palin’s hopes to lead the party in the next election. Which might very well be the point since, it turns out, the sources behind many of the anti-Palin stories weren’t just McCain staffers … they were former Mitt Romney supporters.
Angered that McCain did not tap their candidate for his running mate, Romney aides who went to work for McCain-Palin have made it clear they expect their candidate to head the next GOP ticket.
“Sarah Palin is a lightweight, she won’t be the first, not even the third, person people will think of when it comes to 2012,” says one former Romney aide, now working for McCain-Palin. “The only serious candidate ready to challenge to lead the Republican Party is Mitt Romney. He’s in charge on November 5th.”
Yet for all of their smear tactics, there are two things these smear-tacticians have forgotten. First, that America’s attention span has grown so short that, in two years when the next presidential campaigns covertly get underway, the electorate will have forgotten today’s mudslinging
And second, but more importantly, that Sarah Palin earned her reputation as a pit bull by holding on tenaciously and pursuing the goals she set for herself,
Perhaps the lipstick fooled them