Life of Her Party
For many years, reality was out of vogue with Republicans. They ignored the reality of Iraq and Katrina, of Pakistan and Osama bin Laden.
When confronted with their colossal carelessness around the globe and here at home, their mantra was, as Rummy put it, “Stuff happens.”
Now reality, in all its messy, crazy, funky glory, has flooded the party, in the comely, crackling form of Sarah Palin.
Unable to stop the onslaught of wild soap opera storylines erupting from the Palin family and the Alaska wilderness, McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt offered caterwauling reporters a new mantra: “Life happens.”
Indeed, it does. Only four days into her reign as John McCain’s “soul mate,” or “Trophy Vice,” as some bloggers are calling her, on the ticket known as “Maverick Squared,” Palin, the governor of Alaska, has already accrued two gates (Troopergate and Broken-watergate), a lawyer (for Troopergate), a future son-in-law named Levi (a high school ice hockey player, described by New York magazine as “sex on skates”), and a National Enquirer headline about the “Teen Prego Crisis” with 17-year-old daughter Bristol.
It seems like a long time since Vice President Dan Quayle denounced Murphy Brown for having a baby out of wedlock, bemoaning a “poverty of values.” It also seems like a long time — and another McCain ago — that Republicans supporting W. smeared the old John McCain by spreading rumors that he had fathered an illegitimate black child.
This week, the anti-abortion forces celebrated the news of Bristol’s pregnancy, using it as further proof that their beloved Governor Palin — who will no more support sex education than polar bears — was committed to the cause.
Since John McCain played craps first and sent the vetters to Alaska afterward, Republicans have been defending Governor Palin by saying that, while she has no foreign policy experience — except, as Cindy McCain pointed out, that “Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia” — she has a lot of domestic policy experience as a supercharged P.T.A. and hockey mom.
As more and more titillating details spill out about the Palins, Republicans riposte by simply arguing that things like Todd’s old D.U.I. arrest or Sarah’s messy family vengeance story will just let them relate better to average Americans — unlike the lofty Obamas.
“If this doesn’t resonate with every woman in America, I’ll eat my hat,” Bill Noll, an Alaska delegate whose daughter got pregnant at a young age and kept the baby, told The Times’s Ashley Parker.
Even as they push Sarah Barracuda as the glamorous but tough hunting and fishing mom who can juggle it all — she’s the only nominee, as Fred Thompson bragged in his convention speech, “who knows how to properly field dress a moose” — they rant at reporters who wonder how she will juggle it all and question some of her judgments.
At a Washington, Pa., rally on Saturday, as her two other daughters stood with her, Ms. Palin left Bristol baby-sitting Trig, who has Down syndrome. “Then we have our daughter Bristol,” the new conservative Republican star said. “She’s on the bus with the newborn. ... It’s his naptime, so he is with his big sister on the bus. But we thank them for being here.”
And this while Bristol was still absorbing the shocking news that she was about to turn into tabloid roadkill — and oh, yeah, she’s getting married sooner rather than later.
When you make a gimmicky pick of an unknown, without proper vetting, there’s bound to be a sticky press conference sooner or later. I watched it happen with Ferraro and Quayle, and I watched Mondale and Poppy Bush curdle with embarrassment but plow through.
The political unknowns, of course, want that tantalizing brass ring, so they’re not always completely forthcoming about their skeletons, if they’re lucky enough to be ineptly vetted. This is ironic, since the nominee who gets blindsided with these crises — Did McCain really know that this Palin reality show was about to pop and swallow his convention — is presenting them to voters as the most trustworthy people to inherit the nuclear codes.
Because Ferraro grabbed at the chance, without revealing to Mondale’s incompetent vetting team how damaging some of her husband’s financial imbroglios could be, she went from being a female icon to part of the reason it’s taken a quarter-century for another party to take a chance on a woman.
When McCain gets in trouble, he pulls out the P.O.W. card. Now Republicans are pulling out the sexist card.
Hillary cried sexism to cover up her incompetent management of her campaign, and now Republicans have picked up that trick. But when you use sexism as an across-the-board shield for any legitimate question, you only hurt women. And that’s just another splash of reality.