Why Did McCain Pick Palin?

I mean the above question this way: What does this pick say about his judgement?

It’s an important question, because for months McCain’s been crowing about how judgment and experience are important. So, given what we know –or rather, what we don’t know– about Sarah Palin, why this person? why this woman? and why right now?

The reason I ask is that the more I learn about her, the less I understand the answers.

First, why her, given her relative lack of experience?

Seriously. As Paul Begala said yesterday, “She comes from a state with more reindeer than people…and she’ll have to put on a few pounds to be considered a lightweight.”

I understand (but don’t agree with) the critique of Obama as inexperienced. But doesn’t she make him look like an elder statesman?

She was the mayor of a town of 6,000 people.
He was elected to the
state legislature in one of our most populous states.

She was elected governor in a state that only has 700,000 people.
I haven’t looked it up, but I’ll bet you a million bucks more people voted for Obama for US Senate
just in the City of Chicago than live in Palin’s whole state.

That doesn’t automatically mean she’s not a good candidate. But what does it say about McCain that he picked her?

BTW, an Alaskan blogger fills in some gaps about Wasilla, where Palin was Mayor, and offers this shot of “downtown,” with prominently features “The Mug Shot Saloon.”

I am not making this up.

The same Alaska blogger has this to say about Palin’s “executive experience.”

“Before her meteoric rise to political success as governor, just two short years ago Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla. I had a good chuckle at MSN.com’s claim that she had been the mayor of “Wasilla City”. It is not a city. Just Wasilla. Wasilla is the heart of the Alaska “Bible belt” and Sarah was raised amongst the tribe that believes creationism should be taught in our public schools, homosexuality is a sin, and life begins at conception. She’s a gun-toting, hang ‘em high conservative. Remember…this is where her approval ratings come from. There is no doubt that McCain again is making a strategic choice to appeal to a particular demographic – fundamentalist right-wing gun-owning Christians. And Republican bloggers are already gushing about how she has ‘more executive experience’ than Obama does! Above is a picture of lovely downtown Wasilla, for those of you unfamiliar with the area. Behind the Mug-Shot Saloon (the first bar I visited when I moved to Alaska long ago) is a little strip mall. There are street signs in Wasilla with bullet holes in them. Wasilla has a population of about 5500 people, and 1979 occupied housing units. This is where your potential Vice President was two short years ago. Can you imagine her negotiating a nuclear non-proliferation treaty? Discussing foreign policy? Understanding non-Alaskan issues? Frankly, I don’t even know if she’s ever been out of the country. She may ‘get’ Alaska, but there are only a half a million people here. Don’t get me wrong….I love Alaska with all my heart. I’m just saying.”

I love salt of the earth people too. I love small town America. I really do. Some of the best times in my life have been spent in Texas small towns.

But just how wise is making the jump from Wasilla to Vice-President of the United States?

As someone else here in Dallas noted today: Dallas has more population than the entire State of Alaska, but nobody’s calling for Tom Leppert to be Vice President.

A sub-question to these questions about Palin’s experience has to do with the obvious choices of other, more qualified women out there right now. If McCain believes he needed a woman Veep, then why not a more qualified woman from a more populous state?

Why not:
Kay Bailey Hutchison?
Cristi Todd Whitman?
Elizabeth Dole?
Olympia Snow?
Susan Collins?
Lisa Murkowski? (A US Senator from…wait for it…Alaska!!!)

The Republican Party has many women who have become stars in their own right, with decades of experience between them. Here is one list of thirty-two potential Republican women with more experience than Palin.

Why, with all of them out there, did he pick Palin?

One of his own advisors actually said yesterday,“I think we’re going to have to examine our tag line, ‘dangerously inexperienced…’”

Yeah, no kidding.

Questions about her qualifications are not just coming from hardcore Democrats. They’re coming from some Alaska Republicans who know her best. These quotes are from a story in the Anchorage Daily News titles “Choice Stuns State Politicians.”

“State Senate President Lyda Green said she thought it was a joke when someone called her at 6 a.m. to give her the news.

“She’s not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?” said Green, a Republican from Palin’s hometown of Wasilla. “Look at what she’s done to this state. What would she do to the nation?”

“State House Speaker John Harris, a Republican from Valdez, was astonished at the news. He didn’t want to get into the issue of her qualifications.
“She’s old enough,” Harris said. “She’s a U.S. citizen.”

“Former House Speaker Gail Phillips, a Republican political leader who has clashed with Palin in the past, was shocked when she heard the news Friday morning with her husband, Walt.

“I said to Walt, ‘This can’t be happening, because his advance team didn’t come to Alaska to check her out,” Phillips said.”

Speaking of vetting his choice, as this story from the Associated Press points out, McCain himself had promised to nominate someone far more substantial. The last time we had a Veep candidate who was this little known, with such a skimpy resume, it was Dan Quayle. And McCain himself promised he would NOT make a pick like that…

“McCain said in April that he was determined to avoid a pick like Dan Quayle, the little-known Indiana senator whom George H.W. Bush put on his ticket in 1988. The choice proved embarrassing.

Quayle “had not been briefed and prepared for some of the questions,” McCain said while discussing his vice presidential search. He was clearly aware that, as a septuagenarian, the decision he made about a running mate would be “of enhanced importance.”

Four months and one birthday later, McCain’s announcement of Palin made clear the paucity of her experience.”


To top it off, the two of them have only met once in their entire life.

Seriously. I’m not kidding.

Politico.com has the story:

“John McCain on Friday announced a running mate whom he met only six months ago and with whom he spoke just once on the phone about the position before offering it in person earlier this week.

McCain’s first encounter with Sarah Palin came at a Washington meeting of the National Governors Association in February, according to a campaign-provided reconstruction of how the little-known Alaska governor was thrust into the national spotlight. The two discussed the position by phone on Sunday before McCain invited Palin and her husband to Arizona to formally make the offer. McCain, joined by his wife, Cindy, did just that Thursday morning at their home near Sedona, Ariz.”

Now, obviously, John McCain can pick anyone he likes for his Veep selection. But I will point out that when we last hired a part time youth director at our church, I had more face-to-face meetings with
him than John McCain did with the woman he now wants to be second in command of our nation!!!

Doesn’t that seem a little strange?

I mean, this isn’t someone he’s held as a trusted and close confidant. It’s not someone he’s even worked alongside, legislatively, as partners in government. It’s not someone he’s spent family time with. As the story makes clear, he and Cindy met Sarah’s spouse Scott last Thursday.

Sarah Palin is a conservative hardliner too. is staunchly anti-abortion. She is a leader in a group called “Feminists for Life.”

So, to review….

He’s picked a woman almost nobody knows, with very little experience….
He’s pick this woman,
when far more experienced women were available
He’s picked a running-mate even
HE even doesn’t know, when far closer confidants and colleagues were available…

So, I ask again….what does this say about his judgement?

Moving on.

The most incredulous part of this pick to me is the following: Sarah Palin is under investigation in the State of Alaska. This is not old news. This is breaking news. There are stories about it on YouTube from less than two weeks ago. (Does anybody in the McCain campaign watch YouTube?!!!)

The investigators involved have determined that there is enough credible evidence to depose Sarah Palin. ABC is reporting that she is likely to be deposed any day now.

And the final report on the matter? It’s due to be released sometime during the first few days of November!!!

Now, so far, I have yet to mention any specific allegations against Sarah Palin. And, in some sense, the allegations are not germane to the point I want to make right here.

The point for me here is this: why, why, why…pick a politician in the midst of an ongoing state investigation?!!!

Don’t you want somebody who’s squeaky clean?
Don’t you want somebody where all that’s going to come out has already come out?
Why would McCain pick Palin right now, and what does that say about his political judgment?


It gets more interesting when you peel back the onion of this state investigation.Talking Points Memo is doing some great investigation of the scandal, and has this helpful timeline. The story is that Sarah Palin had a brother-in-law (husband to her sister) who was a state trooper. He doesn’t sound like he was a very nice person, and may have even been abusive to Palin’s sister.

Here’s a video of local news coverage.

What is now known is that Palin and her executive staff in the governor’s office contacted the head of the state troopers (Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan) for Alaska two dozen times with “information” about Palin’s ex-brother-in-law.

Two dozen times!

Eventually, Palin fired Commission Walt Monegan from his job as head of the Alaska State Troopers. And from that very moment, Monegan has consistently claimed he was fired, in part, because he would not fire Sarah Palin’s ex-brother-in-law… because he did not act on the two dozen contacts he had from Sarah Palin, her staff…and even her husband.


She, as you might imagine, denied any involvement for weeks, and said that nobody from her staff was involved either.

But! Just two weeks ago, she flip-flopped. She has now admitted that members of her staff DID contact Commissioner Monegan, and that she understands such contact could be seen as inappropriate. BTW…she flip flopped because a tape has surfaced of one of her staff actually placing an actual phone call, inquiring about getting the bro-in-law fired…ooops!

So, now she’s switched her story to a denial that she “coordinated” the twenty-four contacts. But, given what else she’s denied, it sure doesn’t look good for her, does it?

Now, again, I’m certainly not defending the ex-brother-in-law, or Commissioner Monegan. And there may have been other reasons to fire him.

But twenty-four contacts with Comissioner Monegan about an ex-brother-in-law?

That’s twenty-three more than she’s ever had with John McCain!!!

Then, to deny it profusely, only to later admit part of the story IS true?


BTW, the man she choose to replace Commissioner Monegan with as head of the Alaska State Troopers? He lasted all but two weeks on the job. He was forced to resign after allegations of sexual harrassment that Sarah Palin later admitted that she knew.

This story is hardly over. And given that fact, I just have to ask: Why pick her?

Politico.com suggests some answers. They suggest six reasons why McCain made this pick. You can read the whole thing here. Here’s the highlights of their top two reasons:

“1. He’s desperate. Let’s stop pretending this race is as close as national polling suggests. The truth is McCain is essentially tied or trailing in every swing state that matters — and too close for comfort in several states like Indiana and Montana the GOP usually wins pretty easily in presidential races. On top of that, voters seem very inclined to elect Democrats in general this election — and very sick of the Bush years.

McCain could easily lose in an electoral landslide. That is the private view of Democrats and Republicans alike…

2. He’s willing to gamble — bigtime. Let’s face it: This is not the pick of a self-confident candidate. It is the political equivalent of a trick play or, as some Democrats called it, a Hail Mary pass in football. McCain talks incessantly about experience, and then goes and selects a woman he hardly knows, who hardly knows foreign policy and who can hardly be seen as instantly ready for the presidency.

He is smart enough to know it could work, at least politically. Many Republicans see this pick as a brilliant stroke because it will be difficult for Democrats to run hard against a woman in the wake of the Hillary Clinton drama…”

So, to sum up:
There seem to be a lot of questions about McCain’s judgment in picking Palin.

I am sure more of these will get played out in the coming weeks. But it sure has me scratching my head this morning.

The Daily Show –ever the repository of its own biting, twisted, yet often dead-on versions of the truth– asked the same questions I ask here in a piece last night. While I would never say it quite the way they do, I’ll let the court jesters have the last word as to why McCain picked Palin. And we’ll let the next few weeks see if anybody else agrees with them.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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