Will Scandal-a-Day Sarah Palin Be the Next Tom Eagleton?
Since being named John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin is averaging a scandal a day. Will she, like Senator Thomas Eagleton in 1972, have to be cut loose from the Republican ticket before the election? Here is what we have recently learned about Palin:
1. Palin lied about her opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere. Moments after being introduced as McCain's Vice Presidential pick, Palin stated that "I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress — I told Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere [a proposed bridge to only 50 people in a remote part of Alaska that was inserted into the federal budget and became the most celebrated recent example of political pork barrel spending]." It turned out that Palin's statement was patently false, and that Palin strongly supported the Bridge to Nowhere while running for Governor.
2. Palin is embroiled in a "troopergate" corruption scandal. Palin also stated that, while serving in a public post in Alaska, she "found corruption" and "fought it hard." This "fight corruption" meme about Palin has become so prevalent that, during last Sunday's "Meet the Press" television program, host Tom Brokaw and his panelist Doris Kearns Goodwin repeated it no less than four times, with Brokaw even "stipulating" it to be a fact. The problem is, it's false. In fact, Sarah Palin just hired a lawyer because she is involved in a corruption scandal in which she is alleged to have ordered the firing of an Alaska state trooper who was married to Palin's sister, solely because the couple had divorced and was engaged in a custody battle.
3. Palin ran indicted Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens' lobbying group. Far from "fighting corruption" in government, Sarah Palin seems to cozy up to it. In particular, Palin was the director of a lobbying group (the kind that get to raise unlimited funds from corporate donors, in this case oil companies) for Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who earlier this year was indicted on criminal corruption charges.
4. We learned yesterday that Palin's teenage daughter is pregnant. This might not be a big issue, except that Palin always touts "family values," and favors abstinence-only "marriage education" for students as opposed to sex education that would include the subject of contraception. So forget glass ceilings, now the issue is Palin's throwing stones in glass houses.
And all this is after less than a week! Anxious Republicans must be asking themselves, what other shoes are waiting to drop regarding Sarah Palin?
In 1972, presidential candidate and Senator George McGovern chose Senator Tom Eagleton as his running mate. Apparently, McGovern and his staff did a rush job of vetting Eagleton beforehand. It turned out that Eagleton had been hospitalized three times for psychiatric disorders, and had undergone electric shock therapy. Eagleton was soon ditched from the ticket, and McGovern lost the election in a huge landslide.
It's pretty clear what Sarah Palin's scandals say about Palin thus far, but they say much more about McCain. Since the 1972 Presidential election, 24-hour cable news networks and the Internet, including YouTube, have sprung up. A candidate's recent statements and actions are readily accessible to millions of people, often within minutes. Can you say "Macaca?" In picking a Vice Presidential running mate, the Presidential candidate must "first do no harm." In the modern media context, this means fully vetting one's potential running mates to avoid fresh scandals. This is especially true of Sarah Palin, who is almost universally unknown, has not been on the national stage, and thus has never been subject to widespread public scrutiny before. It's even more true when McCain is the oldest Presidential candidate in U.S. history. And the election is only two months away, hardly enough time for the voters to publicly scrutinize Sarah Palin, or for the McCain campaign to adequately respond to any fresh scandals involving Palin.
Yet John McCain, who had zero familiarity with or use of the Internet until just weeks ago, doesn't get it. This was evident when he tried to claim that he had never said that he had little knowledge of the economy, then was confronted by Tim Russert and others with quotes and video footage of him saying exactly that more than once, which made McCain look dishonest and clueless. McCain seems to be stuck in time around 1968, when we were fighting the Soviets in the Cold War and a political candidate's recent controversial statements and actions might more easily be forgotten in a few months.
But this is 2008. Inexplicably, it appears that McCain may have picked Palin after only a minimal amount of vetting and either being unaware of her scandals and controversies, or worse, being aware of them and ignoring them. Unfortunately for McCain, the media and the voters will do neither.