John McCain’s disturbing choice

To bring you up-to-date on the Sarah Palin-Pat Buchanan connection, which we posted about below:

It appears that Palin did not officially support Buchanan’s 2000 campaign for president, although as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she did wear a Buchanan button when Buchanan visited the town. She wrote in a letter to the editor of an Anchorage newspaper: “As mayor, I will welcome all the candidates in Wasilla.” (I can’t help wondering if this would have applied to David Duke if he had run for president and visited the town. After all Buchanan’s and Duke’s views on a number of issues– immigration, race, “Jewish power” and Israel– are not a million miles apart.)

Pat Buchanan said on MSNBC that Palin and her husband were involved in his 1996 campaign. So far there is no confirmation or denial of this from Palin. I think she owes an explanation of precisely what (if anything) she did for Buchanan’s campaign and how much she knew of his obnoxious positions.

Bloggers and journalists have raised plenty of other doubts and concerns about Palin– some valid, others not– and again, she needs to respond to reasonable questions. I suspect that once the initial excitement over her selection fades away, those questions– which seem to be popping up by the hour– will become much more urgent.

But in this post, my concern is less about Sarah Palin than with what John McCain’s selection of her says about him. I can’t find it on YouTube yet, but according to Ezra Klein, CNN has run a pre-selection clip of McCain proclaiming that his top criteria for a vice president would be “finding the person most qualified to step in and assume the presidency.” Does even the most fervent McCain supporter think Palin meets– or even comes close to meeting– this requirement?

Even McCain’s own people aren’t pretending.

“She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long,” said Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s top advisers, making light of concerns about Mr. McCain’s health, which Mr. McCain’s doctors reported as excellent in May.

Even assuming that Palin is a fast learner and prepared to sit at McCain’s feet, isn’t that something of a gamble? If elected, he will be the oldest man ever to become president. And remember that Ronald Reagan was shot and nearly killed after only two months in office.

In July I linked to a Time magazine article about the respective gambling habits of Barack Obama (a cautious but winning poker player) and McCain (a risk-taking crap shooter). His selection of Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat away from leading the most powerful country on earth is of a piece with that.

I have posted favorably here about McCain a number of times over the years. Until yesterday, I was not unduly frightened by the possibility of him becoming president. But putting aside every other consideration, isn’t it reasonable to compare Obama’s most important and possibly fateful choice so far– Joe Biden– with McCain’s? And isn’t it reasonable to draw some conclusions from those choices?

Update: Jim Vandehei and John F. Harris at Politico write about some of the things we can learn about McCain from his selection of Palin: most notably, he’s desperate and this is not the choice of a self-confident candidate.

Further update: I’m no less disturbed by John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate than I was when I posted this. But I really want to try to keep the comments here free of unsourced rumors about any of the candidates. So please, knock it off.

Additional update: McCain’s campaign has confirmed that Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant and intends to marry her boyfriend.

So doesn’t a woman (or a man, for that matter) with a Down’s Syndrome baby and a pregnant teenage daughter have a greater responsibility to her family than she does to the rather time-consuming task of running for vice president and serving as Alaska’s governor? Please don’t tell me she can simply “do it all.”