Busted Halo
feature: politics & culture
September 2nd, 2008

The Sarah Surprise

Why John McCain’s running mate has changed the game


While watching Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night, my conservative-leaning heart sank a little. “There’s no way,” I thought, “McCain will ever out-charisma this guy. And who’s he going to pick for V.P. that would garner any real coverage or excitement? Pawlenty? Romney? Capable politicians yes, but…(yawn).”

The next day, when Senator McCain named Gov. Sarah Palin as his choice for Vice President I felt kind of giddy.

Real surprises in political campaigns are a rarity. But Sarah Palin is the unexpected plot twist in a movie where you thought you knew everything that was going to happen.

As someone who’s gotten tired of the media’s love affair with Obama (a fact that even Jon Stewart consistently mocks), I loved seeing reporters completely thrown for a loop by this choice. I also appreciated the irony in the Obama campaign’s first reaction being insult and derision. They’re all about healing the politics of division in this country, ya know.

Good Choice
Why do I think Gov. Palin is a good choice? First, she’s solidly pro-life. I’ve read some writers who say that abortion doesn’t matter in this election, but I beg to differ. It’s the first factor I look at in a candidate, and I think many Christians of all denominations feel the same way. I understand we’re not supposed to be one-issue voters, but this is still an important issue especially in light of Obama’s statement at a 2007 Planned Parenthood meeting that he would enact a federal law removing any and all restrictions on abortion when he becomes President.

Gov. Palin’s pro-life beliefs are more than a political ideal. She chose to give birth to her son despite a pre-natal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. According to a 2007 study in The New York Times, “About 90 percent of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.” So Palin walks the walk.

And now faced with the pregnancy of her unwed 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, Sarah Palin and her whole family are sticking to their principles and supporting the teen in her decision to have her baby. The Looney Lefty blogosphere has already been tossing around vicious lies and innuendoes about the Palins, and will undoubtedly laugh at the imperfection in this Christian family—as if Christians consider themselves perfect.

“Sarah Palin is the unexpected plot twist in a movie where you thought you knew everything that was going to happen.”

On the contrary, Christians know—or at least they should know—that people are fallible. When we inevitably fail to live up to the standards we profess, we have God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness to help us move forward with courage and hope. Based on their past actions, I think the Palins will be models of that courage and hope, and help their daughter face the future with the best possible support.

Then there’s the other life issue: the War in Iraq. McCain has been accused of wanting to continue the war indefinitely. But both he and Gov. Palin have a personal investment in Iraq. Gov. Palin’s son will be deploying there in September. And Sen. McCain’s son served in Iraq recently himself, a fact the Senator never exploited for political gain. It’s illogical that these two will take the issue of war lightly.

Inexperienced but Impressive
Gov. Palin also has a history of taking on corrupt elements in her own party and sounds well-educated on energy issues. Though her experience is minimal, her accomplishments during her political career are impressive. Unintelligent, weak-willed pushovers do not take on their own party and come out the victors.

Now Gov. Palin needs to prove herself on the national stage to a hostile media and opposition. It won’t be easy. On Saturday morning, I was reminded of Hillary Clinton’s accusations of sexism against the press and Obama campaign. I wrote it off as sour grapes at the time, but now wonder if Sen. Clinton had a point. Two male reporters on a network news show snarkily commented that they can hardly wait to see the Palin-Biden Vice Presidential debate. The condescending connotation was, “I can hardly wait to see Joe Biden wipe the floor with this chick.”

Being that not a lot is known about Sarah Palin yet, it’s possible she will be a lightweight. But being that not a lot is known about Sarah Palin, she may also be smart, dynamic and articulate. Underestimate her at your own risk.

Considering how sick I was a few days ago of this already long political campaign, I’m surprised to find myself excited at seeing how things go down in the next couple of months. Gov. Sarah Palin is responsible for that excitement. Yes, there’s a chance she’ll cause the McCain campaign to crash and burn. She may also be just what he needs to turn this into a real race. Let the games begin.

The Author : Tony Rossi
Tony Rossi is a writer/producer for various Catholic media and publishes the blog "The Intersection."
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  • Karen

    GREAT article! Absolutely true. And…by the way… shame on the Catholics who insist on calling themselves Catholic but don’t put LIFE #1 on their issue concerns, especially the vunerable unborn — As Dr. Seuss put it so simply: “A person’s a person, no matter how small!”

  • carol

    The advent of portable sonogram machines has made a dramatic difference to women considering abortion. When you see that “your” body has someone else’s in it, things change.

  • Cassie Sharpe

    good luck

  • Zane Bradley


  • cashelguy

    Sarah Pakin has changed the game it is true. She is so hopelessly unequiped to President she is helpint to take the McCain candidacy into political oblivion. Not only does she not read newspapers or magazines, she doesn’t even know the names of any of them. Her son didn’t graduate from high school. Her daughter is a teen mother. She has an expense account of $150,000.00 for clothes and grooming. This is the woman who is supposedly the candidate of “family values!?”

  • Ken

    How is it that I am “harping on abortions,” and not John, or Bill, or Shaun?

    What does it mean that I don’t have loved ones in Afghanistan or Iraq? I don’t have loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan–therefore my opinions don’t matter? Are you saying that the only parents who care about their children are those who have children in Iraq or Afghanistan? Are you saying that parents whose children are not in Afghanistan or Iraq have nothing to worry about? Are you saying the grief of parents who lose children in Iraq and Afghanistan is somehow more important and more worthy of concern than the grief of parents who lose children to accident or disease? Just what is your point, anyway?

    I “harp on abortions” because Abortion is an issue that isn’t going to go away. I have no desire to exercise “control over women’s bodies”–everything I have been saying implies that women are perfectly capable of exercising control over their own bodies.

  • Catherine

    Ken, you harp on abortions too much. There are more important issues happening today than how much control you have over womens’ bodies. Obviously you don’t have any loved ones stationed in Afghanistan or Iraq.

  • Ken

    Thank you, John–point well taken, at least with regard to the US Bishops. With regard to Palin and Obama, however: I am prettier than both of them, and no one is talking about ME!

    Ahem. But seriously, folks–I think Shaun is taking the discussion in the direction it needs to go. We need to think in terms of keeping abortions to an unspecified “minimum,” just as we speak in terms of keeping “collateral damage” to an unspecified minimum. If the horror of “collateral damage” is something we just have to live with in a fallen world, then abortion is, too; if an unspecified “minimum” of “collateral damage” is legal and acceptable, then an unspecified minimum of abortions must also be legal and acceptable if not morally perfect. Americans in 2008 have no business calling ourselves “pro-life.” We are not–no, not one of us.

  • John

    Also…if both Palin and Obama weren’t good looking we’d not be talking about either one.

  • John


    The US Bishops have made several statements on the War in Iraq being an immoral one that does not fall under the conditions in the Just War theory.
    You might not want to paint the three or four extemists bishops with the entire conference.

  • Bill

    Shuan, Thanks for trying to find the info. I looked more this afternoon and the only info I could find was on factcheck.org. They indicated that there has been a general decline in abortions, but in the past couple years it seems to have stalled, but not increased.

    On another note, there was a story on msn.com today saying that the decline in the housing market was causing a decrease in divorces. I guess some people will use that as a silver lining.

    I still plan to vote for McCain, but I have enjoyed the give and take.

  • shaun

    Bill: I have to concede to your statistics. As I was trying to find the most reliable source I found that the statistics I knew of had been corrected and replaced by the AGI. I was unable to find good statistics post 2004, however, and there was a small uptick in 2001.

    I think my point holds, however: the sharpest decline in abortions was under Clinton. You can either interpret that to mean that his policies were good for reducing abortion (stronger economy leads to stronger families, etc.) or that you can’t derive much usable information about the effectiveness of so-called pro-life politicians from such statistics.

    Either way, I don’t see good evidence that voting for McCain is going to reduce the number of abortions performed. The bad economy is more likely to increase them, and the culture of death promulgated by his pro-war stance does nothing to encourage us to value life.

    I think my general

  • Bill

    Shaun, I would be interested in looking at your statistics. Please cite them so I can see the info. The information I posted was the newest I have been able to find. Thanks in advance.

  • shaun

    Regarding the number of abortions:

    It’s true that they decreased, mainly under the Clinton years and the last few years of Bush 41 (who was “pro-choice,” if you like that term, though I don’t). That decline halted under the Bush 43 years. Then they started going back up, though you are right that the decreases under 2 pro-choice presidents made up for the increase under the pro-life president.

    On another score, that “born alive” stuff from Jill Stanek and co. is a gross misrepresentation, and it drives me nuts. But people who are already inclined to dislike Obama have glommed onto it and spread it far and wide, so that it now has the ring of truth. Sad.

  • Ken

    “Lesser of the two evils?” So you kill a “lesser” amount of innocent people, and this is supposed to put you on some higher moral plane than those of us who say that women are perfectly capable of making their own moral decisions?

    The Catholic Church does in fact take the war in Iraq lightly. Its clerics excommunicate politicans who support a woman’s right to choose; they take no action against politicians who vote to blow up innocent people with bombs. If this is not a blatantly hypocritical double standard, I don’t know what is.

    You say you don’t pass judgment, but you have been doing nothing but pass judgment on Obama because he doesn’t buy into Catholic clerics’ assumptions about ‘where life begins.’ Obama is not a Catholic. He is under no obligation whatsoever to be a Catholic, and to write Catholic dogma into US law.

  • Tony Rossi

    The thing with Obama’s position on abortion rights is that it doesn’t just uphold the status quo; it expands these rights greatly. He supports the Freedom of Choice Act which removes any and all restrictions that the states have put on getting an abortion (parental notification, partial birth abortion, etc.). There are also ongoing attempts by Democratic legislators to make it illegal for doctors to refuse to perform abortions because of their consciences. In addition, when Obama was in the State Senate, he voted against a law that would provide medical care to babies born alive during botched abortions. He claimed the bill needed a provision that it wouldn’t affect Roe vs. Wade. When the bill added that provision, he voted against it anyway. When confronted with a question about this a few weeks ago, he called the people who made this accusation liars. The “liars” however had the paperwork to prove what they were saying, thereby making Obama the real liar in this situation. Even the most pro-choice members of Congress didn’t vote against the federal version of this bill. Obama did.

    I also don’t think the Catholic Church takes the war in Iraq lightly. After all, both Popes have spoken against it. And yes, it is a life issue. But being that neither party is consistent on the life issue, there is a lesser-of-two-evils choice to make.

    If someone has thoroughly thought through their reasons for voting for a particular candidate in this election – even if it’s not the candidate I support, I don’t judge them for that. I would hope to receive the same respect in return.

  • Bill

    I know this will probalby start a storm again, but Tony I couldn’t agree with you more. In an earlier post I listed exactly what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about killing. According to the church it comes down to intent. Now, not intending a person to be killed does not relieve a person from the responsibility of the innocent persons death, but it does lessen it. The Church’s teaching on abortion is a much stronger statement, and again I quoted it in an earlier post. It includes a statemetn that a person who is an active participant in an abortion is excommunicated. Not my words, it’s in the Catechism.

    Shaun, the number of abortions in the country have dropped significanlty from 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.3 Million for 2004-2006 according to Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI).

  • Ken

    John McCain and Sarah Palin are not “pro-life.” In supporting the invasion of Iraq, and any war, for that matter, they show that their actual position toward life is to kill anyone–guilty or innocent–that they see as a threat to freedom as they define it. Their actual attitude toward the sanctity of life is no different than that of women having abortions. It is self-serving hypocrisy for them to claim some “pro-life” moral high ground.

    You know, when our government says “we are keeping collateral damage to a minimum,” what we are actually saying is, “We are ‘only’ going to kill as many innocent people as we have to in order to get what we want.” You cannot with any integrity call yourself “pro-life” and at the same time be ready to drop bombs to get your way in the world. And spare me any “self-defense” self-justifications, or appeals to the “smartness” of our bombs. A bomb blows away everybody within its bursting radius, and when we drop a bomb we are, whether we deign to admit it or not, deliberately aiming at everyone within the bursting radius of the bomb, be they young, old, innocent, guilty, whatever. The “pro-life” position is sheer, self-serving hypocrisy–those who say they are “pro-life” are not, and they have no intention of being so; their professed respect for the “sanctity of life” is no greater than that of a person seeking abortion. The judgment you pronounce on Obama falls just as hard on you.

  • Tony Rossi

    Shaun – the initial response of Obama campaign spokesperson Bill Burton to the choice of Palin was,
    “Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies — that’s not the change we need, it’s just more of the same.” Realizing how harsh that sounded, Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden then issued a more gracious congratulatory message themselves. I didn’t therefore misrepresent what I stated to be the “campaign’s” initial response.

    The Looney Left comment was in regard to the bloggers who spread unsubstantiated lies about Gov. Palin and her daughter. I didn’t intend to include all Democrats or liberals in that description. My political party has its share of Right Wing Wackadoos so I have no delusions that they’re perfect either.

    If you investigate Sen. Obama’s actual record on abortion instead of the conciliatory things he says, you will find a radical. That’s not my partisan opinion. Those are documented facts.

  • shaun

    Boo hiss! This member of the “loony left” doesn’t come to this site for partisan crap. Like PitBull Palin if you like (I thought her speech was mean-spirited and divisive), but why misrepresent Obama’s initial response to Palin? Both he and Biden were positive about her speech in everything I’ve read.
    Conservatives have had a lot of time to try to reduce the number of abortions in the country while they’ve been in power and guess what? Hear those crickets chirping? They use that to turn out your vote, then put it back in the box until the next election.
    How bout supporting policies that truly respect the dignity of all persons, and see if that doesn’t create a fuller culture of life than this “cosmopolitan elites look down at us small town folk” BS. Coming from Mr. 10-houses, that’s pretty rich!!

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