Alex Massie

No-one expects the Alaskan Inquisition

No-one expects the Alaskan Inquisition
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Like most people, I guess, I'm still coming to terms with John McCain's decision to select a running-mate young enough to be his wife.

Sarah Palin is not the pick I would have predicted. But, what a coup de theatre! Who's that Obama fellow? What was that speech he gave last night?

Some of the smartest conservatives I read - Noah Millman, Ross Douthat - declare themselves excited. That counts for something. And, indeed, from what we've seen of her today, there's clearly considerable upside to the pick. Apart form anything else, it gives some "buzz" to a McCain campaign that was beginning to seem prickly, thin-skinned and bad-termpered. It needed a lift, a lightness and a spark. This may be it. (She's probably also better on guns and drugs than anyone else on either ticket...)

However, hoe how (thanks commenter Craig) often does a running-mate really (and I mean really) help you win? I expect McCain will get a better post-Veepstakes bounce with Palin than Obama did with Biden. (Incidentally, the forthcoming Biden-Palin debate sounds like a Boy Scouts convention, but I digress...) But will that last? One thing the selection does do, however, is legitimise questions about McCain's age and health. He's 72. Older than any non-incumbent running for President. And he's nominated someone who, until November 2006, was Mayor of a town inhabited by fewer than 10,000 people.

Yes, she has some executive experience. She may even be a fine governor. She might well prove to be an excellent Vice-President. But it is impossible to make the case - at least not while keeping a straight face - that she's someone anyone can imagine being President in, say, six months time should (heaven forbid) something happen to McCain. In that sense, then, it is not a serious pick. Whatever else one might say about Gore, Cheney, Biden, Kemp, GHW Bush, none of them were, in this respect, frivolous selections.

Perhaps this is unfair on Mrs Palin. I hope so. But it's hard to avoid the sense that, regardless of her qualities and however much she excites conservatives, there's a whiff of Ferraro-Quayle* about this selection.

We all know that John McCain loves to gamble (craps is his game) but this is the biggest, most daring punt of the campaign. It might be just crazy enough to be genius...

*Quayle, mind you, had a couple of House terms and eight years in the Senate. So, as Jim Fallows says, perhaps it's more akin to Clarence Thomas' appointment to the Supreme Court.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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