She’s no Harry Truman

SHE’S NO HARRY TRUMAN…. About a month ago, in her Republican convention speech, Sarah Palin subtly compared herself to Harry Truman, describing a “young farmer and haberdasher from Missouri followed an unlikely path to the vice presidency.”

Today, John McCain offered a similar comparison while speaking at the Truman Library in Missouri.

At a moment when his own running mate’s qualifications to be president are being increasingly questioned by both the left and the right, Senator John McCain came here Wednesday to praise Harry S. Truman, a man many feared was unqualified when he was suddenly thrust into the presidency.

Look, I can appreciate the fact that McCain is a little defensive right now about having picked a ridiculous running mate, but comparing her to Truman, even obliquely, isn’t helping.

Truman was a war hero, an experienced senator, and a leader who gained national recognition and widespread respect as head of the wartime Truman Committee. Palin and Truman couldn’t be more different.

Who would serve as a better vice-presidential analogue for Palin? Quayle is certainly the first name that comes to mind, but Michael Schaffer has a more provocative idea: John Tyler, the nation’s 10th vice president.

Running alongside an elderly war-hero candidate, the Virginian was nominated as a balancing gesture, to soothe the sectional divisions within his Whig Party. It worked, as Tyler helped reassure both slaveholding Southerners and stalwarts of party hero Henry Clay about the man at the top of the 1840 ticket, William Henry Harrison.

Tyler, of course, assumed the presidency just one month into Harrison’s term, and was a total disaster.

Just saying.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.