This week, I continue my review of John Heilemann's and Mark Halperin's book, Game Change, and discuss the book's portrayal of Sarah Palin.
Game Change has encountered mixed feedback from journalistic circles. The upholders of professional standards deplored the book's ample use of unnamed sources, arguing that anonymity undermines the journalistic ethos and makes verification of information difficult. Pragmatists, on the other hand, acknowledged that the public would never have been able to catch a glimpse of Washington's inner workings -- to which voters are entitled in this open society -- unless reporters pledged to maintain confidentiality of their sources in the government and among the Beltway bandits.
Beyond journalistic ethics, the book also prompted pensive discourse about political loyalty: Is it even possible for politicians nowadays to count on their closest advisers to be discreet after the race is through, no matter what the outcome? Or will leaky pundits continue to spill the beans to the public whose appetite for quick and juicy minutiae is stoked by the perpetual hi-tech revolution in the media?
I am a pragmatist. And I believe that voters have a right to know more about people whom they elected to represent their interests than said representatives may prefer. But then there are times when voters, growing increasingly cynical and disenchanted, might wish they had known less. I, for one, had a higher esteem, before I read Game Change, for Senator McCain and the selection process generally used in the national presidential ballot. The book's description of John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate made both Democrats and Republicans cringe. The realization that the McCain camp nominated Mrs. Palin to the second highest public office in the United States with so little forethought and after only a perfunctory vetting of her political biography is nothing short of appalling.
The Palin debacle speaks as much about the former Alaskan governor as it does about the shortfalls of the McCain campaign.This seasoned senator entered his second presidential race griping about the grueling nitty-gritty of this endeavor. He also apparently resented having to do his homework in the run up to important debates and meetings, his lack of preparation in glaring contrast to Mr. Obama's well-researched and informed policy statements. One couldn't help questioning Mr. McCain's desire and preparedness to assume stewardship of the nation that now faces increasing challenges domestically and internationally.
That Sarah Palin had accepted a VP slot for which she was clearly under-qualified raises questions about her judgment and credibility. Her stepping into the national limelight without a clear understanding of how this juggernaut of an undertaking would impact her and her family's lives exhibits her naïveté.
Sadly, a sensational VP pick seemed to be Mr. McCain's only way to salvage his fizzling campaign. Not only was the selection of Mrs. Palin and her presentation to the public poorly managed by McCain's strategists, but it also stood a good chance of damaging Mr. McCain as a president, were he elected. His brand as the Republican Party's maverick would have been quickly trumped by Sarah Palin's staunchly far-right views. It was unclear how, if at all, the McCain-Palin team planned to reconcile the two politicians' ideological clashes that would have been inevitable down the road.
There is talk of Sarah Palin hoping to capture the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential election. Her emergence on the national scene was initially greeted with much enthusiasm in the party, and she still has a dedicated support base. Yet, it is difficult to imagine how she would dispel the criticism -- a lot of it was legitimate, too -- leveled against her in 2008. Her lack of foreign policy credentials and a checkered record as Alaska's chief executive will still be there in two years, unless she takes definitive steps now to redeem herself. But her resignation from governorship last summer certainly did not boost her chances for the White House. And neither, probably, did her tell-all memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, in which she attempted to settle the score with Team McCain that pummeled her after the election for extravagant spending and lack of discipline. In the end, Sarah Palin may prove as divisive a candidate for Republicans as Hillary Clinton has been for Democrats.
John Heilemann, Sarah Palin, Mark Halperin, John McCain