Sarah Palin’s selection will end up as a big win for John McCain. He has to stay with her and quell any talk of pulling an Eagleton (after the time when 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern yanked the plug on Missouri Sen. Tom Eagleton, who had been his choice for vice president). McCain and Palin will confound their critics and gain good yardage in the presidential race.
None of the criticisms of Sarah Palin amounts to any misconduct on her part. Her daughter got pregnant. Her husband had a DWI 20 years ago. Her sister married a bum — a state trooper — who admits he shot a tazer gun at his 11-year-old son to instill discipline, and a lot of her friends and family badgered his boss to discharge him. Palin, acting without explanation, but with ample justification and within her authority, fired the trooper’s boss. All this comes to a massive, so what?
The important thing about Sarah Palin is her public life. She has rooted out corruption and triggered scandals — real financial scandals, not salacious personal gossip — that led to the resignations of the State Republican Party chairman and the attorney general and the defeat of the governor. It is that commitment to exposing corruption, reforming ethics, cutting spending and smashing the insider lobbyist-legislator relationships that dominate Washington that will be on display when Palin speaks out on Wednesday. Voters, anxious to change Washington, will love every minute of it.
And then they will come to grasp the essential difference between McCain and George W. Bush. McCain is an outsider, and Bush, after three generations of Washington breeding, is an insider. McCain chose Palin. Bush chose Dick Cheney.
The attacks on Palin mirror the problems that tens of millions of American women find in their everyday life. To attack them would be to condemn themselves and their own choices in their own lives. Watching Palin standing strong and McCain backing her up will be inspiring to many of them. And the identification of the Democrats with the attacks on her will turn them off.
After Palin speaks, voters will give McCain huge credit for selecting her and standing by her despite the personal attacks. Women throughout the country will empathize with a person who has a difficult family. Single mothers will applaud her attitude toward her own daughter in distress. And the contrast between McCain’s toleration and understanding and Barack Obama’s refusal even to consider nominating a woman will be apparent to women voters. McCain and Palin will get great credit for being outsiders, not cut from the plastic mould fashioned by political consultants.
Combined with the good public sector performance in the face of Hurricane Gustav — and the Republican willingness to suspend their convention while the battle raged — the Palin episode shows the best in the Republican Party and sends a signal that it is under new management. The Republicans, McCain and Palin will come through this crisis in great shape.