Like a few million other people, I watched HBO’s “Game Change” over the week-end. The made for TV movie was about the campaign for President in 2008, but focused primarily on the inner workings of the McCain campaign staff and the process of selecting and trying to make viable, the Vice-Presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin. It was a well done, superbly acted movie based primarily on on interviews with Steve Schmidt, who was the head of the McCain campaign, as well as the woman who was in charge of the VP effort. Basically the movie showed that Palin was selected because she was considered a game-changer. With her good looks, vibrant personality, excellent speech making ability, and hard-core right-wing beliefs, it was felt that Palin would ignite the Republican base, as well as independent voters the way the charisma-lacking John McCain could never do. Initially things seemed to be going in that direction, as huge crowds comprised mainly of the Republican base enthusiastically turned out for Palin’s campaign stops. Steve Schmidt and the rest of McCain’s aides were congratulating themselves on what a great selection they had made, and that this would enable the ticket to win the election. And then It all turned to crap.
It suddenly became apparent to them and to the media how incredibly ignorant Sarah Palin was about politics in general and foreign affairs in particular. For example she didn’t know that there was both a North and South Korea (thought it was all one country), thought the Queen of England was the head of government in Great Britain instead of the Prime Minister, thought Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 instead of Al-qaeda, and so forth. Stuff a grade schooler is supposed to know had somehow escaped her. More upsetting than her ignorance of world affairs was her cluelessness about how much she didn’t know. It was as if people in Alaska were living in a 1950s “Leave It To Beaver” or “Ozzie and Harriet” time-warp.
The movie went on to show how the McCain aides went on a crash course to try to bring Palin up to speed on world affairs, including cue cards and daily lecturing sessions on current events.With all this pressure, and with media criticism and satire piling up on her (think of the huge boost in Tina Fey’s career by impersonating Palin so delightfully) Palin started to shut down and go into a deep funk. Some in McCain’s campaign believed she was deranged or on the verge of a nervous breakdown. One almost began to feel sorry for her. Of course, large crowds of the Republican base still turned out at her campaign stops. Her popularity among the GOP base never wavered as long as she was so strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay rights, and the base had no qualms about putting her within a heartbeat of the Presidency, ignorant or not.
Interestingly, John McCain wanted to pick Joe Lieberman as his VP, who was a Democrat turned Independent, and was supporting the MCain candidacy. This move in my opinion, would have led him to victory over the highly inexperienced Barack Obama. However, Lieberman was pro-choice, and it it was believed that the Republican base could never support him at the convention. There’s that abortion issue again. We, of course, know how it all turned out, but it hasn’t discouraged Sarah Palin from continuing to maintain a high profile in this election year, and quietly hoping the the Republican convention will somehow be deadlocked, and magically turn to her as their candidate. Ignorant or not, she is unquestionably highly ambitious and strongly covets the the Presidency. And if she doesn’t get the nomination this year, she’s young enough to run in 2016 if Obama does get reelected, or in 2020 if Romney wins the presidency.
As an interesting sidelight, the woman in charge of running the Palin campaign on a daily basis ended up not voting in the election. Being a Republican, she couldn’t vote for Obama. But after witnessing Palin’s incredible shallowness and superficiality, she also couldn’t bring herself to vote to put her within striking distance of being President should something have happened to the aging John McCain. As she put it, Palin was a mile wide but an inch deep.
So here we are in another campaign year. (It comes like a plague of locusts.) As I’ve written before, with the lousy economy, high unemployment, huge deficit spending, and rising gasoline prices, I can’t see how Obama can get re-elected, unless the Republicans do something incredibly stupid again. Not beyond the realm of possibility. But Democrats, and progressives in general, have another albatross around their necks. They assume that people will generally act in a rational manner and in their own self-interest. That is seldom the case, however, as people tend to be highly irrational, and act contrary to their interests, especially if they feel threatened in any way. A good example is Obamacare. Supposedly the public is against the individual mandate (which will require everyone to buy health insurance by 2013) by a margin of about two to one. Yet every time a person without health insurance gets sick or injured all of us that did purchase insurance have to pay for the uninsured sick person. Our rates and the doctor’s fees go up and the insured pay a larger tab to cover the costs of the uninsured. In a rational society almost everyone would be clamoring for the individual mandate since most people do buy health insurance. But whoever said we were a rational society.
Somehow the majority of people feel threatened by this requirement, and thus act against their best interests. And that , in a nutshell, is what politics is all about. Making the opposing candidate and party more scary than you and your party. But take heart, this whole mess will be over with in about 8 months. Until the next invasion of the locusts.