I’ve been a John McCain fan for a long time. Yeah, I know it’s kinda weird to be a fan of a politician, but there are certain personality traits that just seem to pull me in. Ted Turner from his Captain Outrageous days, before Jane Fonda domesticated him the way Tarzan’s Jane did to him, had that personality. Also, folks like Adam Clayton Powell, Richard Branson, and Master P, who all said, “I think I can circumvent the old way of doing things, and change the game in the process,” have that personality. I like people who do conventional things in non-conventional ways… not just to be different, but because the conventional way just won’t work for them. Bill Clinton changed the game when he went on Arsenio Hall and played the sax; now all politicians make the late night circuit. Obama changed the game with MySpace, Facebook, and Blackplanet; don’t think that won’t be standard operating procedure from here on. Well, McCain has been doing similar things in the Senate for a long time. He always kinda messed things up for everyone, Republicans and Democrats, but always with a goal of making things better in mind.
If you had asked me 18 months ago, my dream ticket was either Obama/McCain, or Obama/Wesley Clark. My undergraduate chapter of my fraternity used to go neophyte/prophyte as President/V.P., with the young, smart energetic guy having an older, wiser guy to bounce ideas off of, and I was thinking the same thing would work with our top officials in government. Having Obama, who understood more of what was going on and where we needed to go as a country, team up with an old war vet and politician who could have been a great president in his younger years and still had enough knowledge of the past to make sure we didn’t repeat it, seemed like a great idea… kinda like Lion-O and Tygra in the ThunderCats. I wanted Gore in '80, but I would have been happy with McCain. I didn’t like a lot of his positions, but I knew where he was coming from and trusted him to be consistent and not spin his actions into some surreal act of God when it was just his choice to go off page.
I watched John McCain over the last two years, and I know this race has been killing him. He had to downplay what he really stands for, particularly in terms of his personality, and try to be the good party man in order to keep the Conservative faction of the Republican Party from Swiftboating him and getting a replacement. He was forced to take on all of Bush’s advisors to try to get him to be George W. with a McCain mask on. Well, like with any mask, the expression never changed. There was no joy in that mask. McCain is not the type of guy who gets off on a good smear campaign. I know deep inside, he admired and desired Obama’s ability to stay out of the mud, and use honor, dignity, and the issues to win over voters, rather than look to destroy his opponent’s character and track record, and attack his wife and children to do it. I remember when Sean Hannity tried to get McCain to say that Obama was not a loyal American, and McCain refused and kept saying that he knew Obama, and he knew he loved his country. Hannity showed the frustration of an old school Rovian who couldn’t get McCain to play the game, and McCain showed the frustration of having to deal with old politics.
McCain wanted to get back to his old maverick ways; the question was, how to do it without ostracizing the Conservative Right that already hated him for not embracing them. McCain flirted with the idea of putting Joe Leiberman on the ticket to get the Liberal and Conservative Democratic voters, but the Conservative Republicans told him they would cut him off if he did. His second maverick option was to get more women voters. McCain has been trying to figure out how to get the Hillary women for four months now. He didn’t make a decision on his VP until he saw the looks on the faces of Hillary’s Obama Haters during Obama’s acceptance speech. He could see their hearts melting like the Winter Warlock's when Kris Kringle gave him a toy. He immediately went to the playbook page that says, "…to divide White Women from Blacks, offer the opposite of what they have." Don’t think if Hillary didn’t win, he wouldn’t have considered Allan Keyes, Colin Powell or Condeleeza Rice… he may have even pulled J.C. Watts out of mothballs.
Well, it looks like the old McCain is back. With the selection of Sarah Palin, McCain has destroyed the Conservatives’ ability to play Rovian politics, and re-established his maverick approach to getting what he wants. The Conservatives can no longer attack Obama’s family, because he has made attacking families off limits based on Palin’s daughter. He has made Obama’s experience and readiness to lead a dead point, because anything that is said about Obama can be equaled or bettered by attacks on Palin. On the other side, he has countered the pick of Biden as the attack dog, with an attack dog of his own… but one that wears a pink collar. Palin has already won the VP debate, something no Republican male could have done against Biden. If Biden goes after her, women will move to one of their abused sisters in solidarity. If he lays off of her, she will live up to her nickname, Sarah Baracuda, and eat him alive. He’s lose-lose all the way.
The most brilliant aspect of choosing Palin is her daughter’s pregnancy. Many folks think he chose her despite the fact that her daughter was pregnant, or really didn’t know she was. I believe he chose her because her daughter was pregnant. He knew that he couldn’t just bring in some Hillary knockoff, because people would have seen right through it. He would have lost more votes than he gained, and probably some self-respect at the same time. The Rightwingers can’t attack Palin, because it will show that they are the mean nasties that people say they are; besides, on paper she represents their values. The Leftwingers can’t attack, because Palin’s daughter is the type of at-risk teen whose cause they are supposed to be championing. And the women can all rally around one of their own… except better. A woman who is a successful mother and wife and businesswoman, but still has problems, is just like them. She is like an episode of Desperate Housewives, or a "You can have it all... including great sex!" segment on Oprah. She is almost just like Michelle Obama… but even better… because she’s White. Besides, the Conservatives didn’t give him a distracting issue of God and country like 9/11 or same sex marriage to rally around for this election, but now he has his pregnant surrogate grand-daughter to rally the hearts of "real Americans" around. If not voting for Obama means you don’t like Black people, then not voting for Palin means you don’t like your own mother, daughter, sister, next door neighbor, co-worker, etc.
Of course, Palin is far from the best candidate the Republicans had to offer. She isn’t even the best female candidate they have. Linda Lingle is the Republican Governor of Hawaii. She has been governor since 2002 (this is her second term), and has been in politics since the 80’s. Being from Hawaii, she is even more of an outsider than Palin, and she has more than twice as much experience. My first thought about him picking Palin over Lingle was, “they were right, senility really has set in.” But McCain needed qualities, not qualifications. Now with Palin, McCain has his dignity back. It was noted that in the first three days after he chose her, neither McCain nor Palin mentioned Obama by name. Their focus has been to talk about their maverick backgrounds, and how they are going to attack the big dogs in Washington to bring about change. Right at the moment when Obama started to fight back in a more Rovian style, McCain and Palin took a page out of Obama’s playbook and started ignoring the opposition and attacking voter apathy with a message of hope and change. I am happy to say my respect for McCain is back! And his brilliance is back. But he still plans to use his maverick style to continue the same failed policies as Bush, so I’m still voting for Obama.