Now that I’m back from the convention, and have transferred all my backed up stuff onto my new computer (sigh), I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and consider McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. I was in an airplane during her speech yesterday, but I saw her speak with McCain today, and I think it would be a mistake to underestimate her potential appeal. Besides making a significant chunk of the Republican base swoon with delight, she seems like a genuinely engaging person, and one who will give the McCain campaign some badly needed energy. These are not negligible things.

On the other hand, I completely agree with Steve:

“What matters most right now is John McCain’s comically dangerous sense of judgment. He picked a running mate he met once for 15 minutes, who’s been the governor of a small state for a year and a half, and who is in the midst of an abuse-of-power investigation in which she appears to have lied rather blatantly. She has no obvious expertise in any area, and no record of any kind of federal issues. McCain doesn’t care.

Sensible people of sound mind and character simply don’t things like this. Leaders don’t do things like this. It’s the height of arrogance. It’s manifestly unserious. It’s reckless and irresponsible. It mocks the political process. Faced with a major presidential test, McCain thought it wise to tell an imprudent joke of lasting consequence.”

I have a terrible track record predicting how voters will respond to things, but I think that this choice will damage McCain in the long run, particularly since he made it so shortly after Obama’s speech. This might have seemed like a good way to stomp on the Democratic convention, but it also ensures that a lot of voters will have this juxtaposition in their minds: Obama’s speech, which, whether you agree with it or not, manifestly took the election and the choice before us with the seriousness they deserve, and McCain’s transparently cynical choice of a charming but plainly unqualified person to be his running mate, which did not.

I was also struck by McCain’s willingness to gamble not just with our country, but with his own campaign. He has chosen as his running mate someone he has barely met; who has no experience dealing with the kind of scrutiny she is about to face; who has, by all accounts, not been fully vetted; and who is in the midst of a scandal. That is a shockingly reckless thing to do. Obviously, I think it’s worse to gamble with the country, but taking this kind of crazy flyer on someone you don’t know nearly enough about is recklessness of a different kind, and worth noting in its own right.

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