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."
See more articles by (16).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Bill

    Ken, Thanks for your service. I think your right on the war hero stuff. People do what they do in situations, it’s usually not planned and when it’s done they then there is time to relect. It’s nothing more than survival in my mind. Personally I believe that both Jon Kerry and John McCain were heroic in their actions. I don’t know if I could have done what either of them did. For that matter, all of you guys that fought in Viet Nam have a special place in my heart. My uncle fought there and suffered from untreated PTSD, and eventually killed himself. It must be difficult to come home from a war that is unpopular and not have the support necessary. I sincerely hope that we have progressed beyond that as a nation. Again thanks for your service.

  • Ken

    My apologies for my lack of clarity regarding the “war hero” comment. I’m not sure I know what I meant by that myself. I was a grunt for nine months with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam. Based, I suppose loosely, on that experience, I get frankly tired of all the hero talk. Was I a hero? I don’t know. I don’t feel particularly heroic. Some guys I was with did stuff I think was “heroic”; this was over 40 years ago and I still remember their names and I still can see in my mind what they did. Other stuff that went on was not heroic in any way shape or form, it was shameful and sickening in a way that you can’t understand if you weren’t there. We mostly put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. We were not interested in being “heroes,” we were concerned with not letting each other down and getting our selves home alive and in one piece. I’m one of the lucky ones–better soldiers than I ever was didn’t make it back. John McCain was one of the lucky ones, too. I was luckier than he was. I am not ashamed of any of it, I am not proud of any of it, I am not bragging. I did what I thought was the right thing at the time. So what is a “war hero”? You tell me–or don’t tell me, whatever–I guess I’m the one that brought up the whole ‘war hero’ business in the first place. I am really sorry that Sen. McCain endured what he did. What happened to him should not happen to anybody. But in my view anyway what happened to him does not make him a “war hero” (whatever that is–sorry). It certainly does not in and of itself qualify him to be president. If you are going to give me a “war hero” to vote for, on the strength of the argument that such a person is most likely to protect us from terrorists and other kinds of enemies, then please give me someone who flew a hundred missions without getting shot down and without getting taken prisoner. As long as we are on the subject of “war heroes,” was John Kerry a war hero? You tell me. Why or why not?

    And, given your latest qualifiers, I am going to have to stand by my original comment. Calling “mere” political qualification a “yawn” is a shallow and irresponsible way to evaluate candidates–seems to me you’re saying that they’re not “Miss America,” so their enormous qualifications mean nothing. And if that is what you are in fact saying, that is sad. There you all have it. Vote for whomever you wish, I don’t care. This country is going to go where it’s going to go.

  • Jarrad

    No Bill, that’s a corgi puppy. I would like to encourage everyone to post a picture with their comments. You simply need to got to


    and post a picture to your email address.

  • Bill

    Jarrad, Is that a Shiba Inu in the picture next to your name?

  • Bill

    Th research was no big deal, I know where to locate topics in the Catechism. I provided the refferences so that people can find them later if they wish, and to elevate this debate above opinion.

    Most people here probably do have life experience, but when we are on a site for 20’s and 30’s it is reasonable to believe that some people do not have life experience, other than school.

    I brought up my background, becasue I believe that may shed some light on why I think the way I do. It has nothing to do with thin skin.

  • Jarrad

    It’s great to see such passionate debate concerning the article.

  • Bill

    Tony, Thanks again for your arcticle, I thought it was a good piece and I agree with you. I was going to respond to Ken, but you said it much better than I could have. Right on!

  • Monica

    You spent all that time researching to respond to my comment? I’m sorry you have such thin skin Bill but I don’t see how you being a police office is relevant to anything. Everyone here has accumulated real life experience but we are all focused on the issue at hand.

  • Bill

    Monica, What I meant by read the Catechism is pick up the book and read it. Starting specifically with paragraph 2261, which states “The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule and to the holiness of the creator.” I don’t believe that we are deliberately targeting innocent Muslims as you contend. And yes God is hurt when any innocent person is killed, but the Catechism specifically uses the word deliberate, and that cannot be denied.

    Paragraph 2263 deals with our soldiers at war. You will find “The act of self defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor….The one is intended the other is not.”

    This theme continues in paragraph 2265, which says “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.” This would cover the President, Congress, Soldiers Police Officers and any other legitimate authority.

    Paragraphs 2270 through 2275 cover abortion, and even stronger language is used. As a matter of fact, in paragraph 2272 it says “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime.” Now, if that doesn’t say that God values the unborn life a little more, then I don’t know what you need.

    Also, I do not support criminals like Adolph Eichmann. I do not believe that God holds a criminals life at the same level of a inoocent person. Whether that person is a Christian, Muslim, or unborn child.

    Finally, I’m not a “kid” and I don’t appreciate being called one. I’m 38 and have been a Police Officer for 16 years. In that time I have accumlated real life experience. Some have been good, others haunting. In your first response you made a personal attack on me, which was uncalled for, and I responded in like. For that I’m sorry, but if this debate is going to continue it needs to be above board.

  • Caitlin

    I think the rating your article got speaks for itself.

  • Tony Rossi

    Ken: I’m not a sophisticated journalist nor did I ever imply I was. I was however the one doing the yawning. I never said that yawning over merely competent candidates was spin; I said it was reality. The reason Obama is where he is can be largely credited to the fact that he made people sit up and take notice instead of yawn. The cult of personality plays a role in politics. That’s our culture, not me, doing that. At no time has it been more obvious than recently. If you can’t see that, I don’t know how else to convince you.

    I also find it ironic that you accuse me of being ageist, sexist, mean-spirited and wrong. Then you go on to question Sarah Palin’s commitment to her family, something you would never do to a male candidate. The ageist accusation is also comical since I’m likely voting for the 72-year-old candidate in this election.

    I would respond further but when I read your comment “…a war hero (whatever that is),” I knew you were coming from a place I simply couldn’t relate to. So I’m ending it there.

  • Ken

    Tony, I am sure you are a sophisticated journalist, and I gladly acknowledge that you are not necessarily the one doing the yawning, but I insist that “Yawning” over candidates who are “merely” competent is not spin, it is trite and silly and shallow–not to mention ageist, sexist, mean-spirited and wrong. It is the same thing as saying that Gov. Palin is just another pretty face, and it is a sign that what was deeply wrong with this country in the past is getting worse and not better.

    The Associated Press reports that Gov. Palin claims she is against earmarks and wasteful spending, when in fact as mayor and governor both she requested more in special federal spending per capita than any other state. This is not “spin,” it is outright distortion of fact. The comparison you make with Obama’s “spin” of his voting record is not a valid comparison.

    In your token admission that Republicans also engage in mean-spirited attacks, you only refer to Bush’s slander of McCain in 2000; you forgot to mention the “swift-boat” slanders of John Kerry, who is arguably as much of a war hero (whatever that is) as John McCain.

    Finally, your allusion to “family values” rhetoric points up hypocrisy almost, but not quite as egregious as the truly frightening “pro-life” rhetoric. Gov. Palin presents herself as a “pro-family” conservative, yet she plainly puts her career ahead of her family and demands that her family get in line behind her. Is this what conservatives mean by “Pro-family” and “family values”? Or is putting career ahead of family only wrong when men do it?

  • Tony Rossi

    Ken – you wrote “your ‚Äúyawn‚Äù over the fact that other canditates are ‚Äòmerely‚Äô competent politicians is irresponsible and just plain silly.” It’s not irresponsible and silly, Ken; it’s modern politics. How a candidate comes across to voters is a part of the decision-making process. You can argue that it’s wrong to judge that way, but it’s not wrong to say that it IS a factor in how voters make decisions. Though he’s gotten more policy specific lately, the majority of Obama’s campaign has been about style over substance, about personal charisma. He would not be where he is if it weren’t for those factors you call irresponsible and silly. For McCain to take the charisma factor into account when choosing a V.P. is not silly or irresponsible. It’s smart politics. If the most competent, experienced Democrat were running for office, Obama would not be at the top of the ticket.

    In terms of the media being harder on Obama – yes, they were harder on him when it came to the Jeremiah Wright incident for instance. But the press was hard on Obama when it had something to do with his work or philosophy of government. They didn’t, however, question whether his daughters would be emotionally damaged if he became president because he wouldn’t be able to spend as much time with them. The press also didn’t start reporting completely unsubstantiated rumors about the parentage of his children. Those kinds of attacks are just mean-spirited and wrong. I have no delusions that Republicans don’t engage in these types of attacks too. In fact, it was exactly that type of slander by the Bush team in 2000 that forced McCain out of the race. Those are the kinds of attacks Sarah Palin faced this week. It was simply wrong.

    Finally, you claim that Sarah Palin is fraudulent. No, Ken. She’s not fraudulent; she’s a politician. They put a positive spin on their records. If you think Obama hasn’t spun the truth to make himself sound good, you are sadly mistaken. For instance, during his acceptance speech, he tried to establish himself as a bipartisan agent of change by saying that John McCain has voted with the Republicans 90% of the time. What Obama failed to mention – which was reported on CNN the next day – was that Obama voted with the Democrats 97% of the time. That’s certainly twisting the facts to make yourself look good. I am well aware that I need to take everything told to me by the people running for office with a grain of salt, and I’m fairly good at seeing through spin. But spin comes from both parties. That’s a fact of political life.

  • Ken

    Bill, your comment regarding the LA Times endorsement of Obama proves nothing. Your prejudices lead you to believe that this is “repayment,” but the numbers don’t lie: the George Mason University study finds that the media are in fact harder on Obama than on McCain. The supposed “media love affair” with Obama demonstrably does not exist; your post is one more instance of refusal to deal with that reality.

  • Monica

    Bill, your support of Adolph Eichmann has nothing to do with this article or it’s comments. And I don’t even know what “Please don‚Äôt take my word for open a Catechism.” means. Whatever that is, it’s not smarmy, nice try kid.

  • Anne

    I find the willingness to endorse a candidate based solely on his or her views of abortion to be absurd. Ms.Palin has captured everyone’s imagination, but she really needs to be scrutinized beyond her stand on abortion. What would she look like to us if her family excersize reproductive responsibility by abstaining? I see someone as mean as Dick Cheney, wearing a different costume, and having very little other experience.

  • Bill

    Well I have to hand it to you “smarmy” was a new word to me. However, it doesn’t change the Church’s teaching on abortion versus other deaths. Please don’t take my word for open a Catechism.

    Following your line of thought Adolph Eichmann did not deserve to pay for his crimes with his life. I guess they should have hired you to defend him. Now that’s smarmy.

  • Monica

    Bill, you can be as smarmy as you like but it still doesn’t change the fact that you are cherrypicking what to believe and distorting what the Church says to justify that belief.

    All human life is valuable, if you are going to vote solely on abortion than you need to find another website choir to preach to. This one is about open discussion so if you are going to stick around don’t get your feelings hurt too much.

  • Bill

    Ken, I had to look into your claim by the LA Times and George Mason Universtiy. First the Times endorsed Obama in February; and Obama gave his first speech to George Mason University. I took the following quote from Obama’s website, right next tot he George Mason Universtiy Logo. “Senator Barack Obama held his first candidacy speech to students at our university. Lets repay his faith in us by getting to work and spreading the word about what a formidable candidate he is.”

    I don’t know about you, but this “study” stinks of “repayment”.

  • Bill

    Wow Monica, You sure jumped off the deep end with that post. I simply stated the Catholic position, that some lives can defend themselves and others cannot. The lives that cannot defend themselves deserve more protection from those people that can defend them.

    I don’t know why you felt it was necessary to add the remark about Muslims versus White Christians. I did not mention either group in my post. Maybe you should read the whole post before you reply. Just a thought.

powered by the Paulists