Nolte: John McCain Deserves Our Thanks for Selecting Sarah Palin as His Running Mate

Darren Hauck/Getty Images
Darren Hauck/Getty Images

From the sound of it, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is currently on his deathbed in Arizona to meet with old friends, nurse grudges, and express regrets. Along with his upcoming memoirs, the 81-year-old war hero, who is suffering from a deadly brain cancer, is so focused on shaping his legacy, he has apparently drawn up a list of potential candidates, including his wife, to replace him after his death.

Ultimately, this decision will be up to Arizona’s Republican governor.

McCain is now openly wishing he had not chosen Sarah Palin, who was then the sitting governor of Alaska, as his 2008 presidential running mate. Looking back on his ill-fated quest to defeat Barack Obama, McCain now says he should have chosen Joe Lieberman, a fellow senator.

At the time Lieberman was officially an Independent, but that was only for political expediency. After losing the 2006 Connecticut Democrat primary, and in order to hold on to his seat, Lieberman ran in the general election as an Independent and won. But he was still a pro-abortion Democrat who caucused with Democrats, and who just six years earlier had been Al Gore’s running mate.

McCain’s public expression of regret against Palin comes off as ungracious, as well as further proof that he still does not understand why his own presidential campaign failed.

Over the last decade, Palin has been unfailingly loyal to McCain. Despite the malicious leaks against her that came from his own campaign surrogates, despite unrelenting personal attacks from McCain’s own daughter Meghan, Palin has never spoken ill of the elder McCain. She has always and only expressed gratitude and respect, even as McCain’s family and immediate subordinates (all of whom were seeking favor from the media hoping to be rewarded with careers) savaged her purely for mercenary purposes.

Within this context, McCain kicking Palin from his deathbed, when he knows it would be impossible for her to defend herself, edges into an act of dishonorable cruelty on his part.

What makes McCain’s statement seem especially gratuitous is that is makes absolutely no sense.

Polling proves beyond doubt that the only time the hapless McCain campaign came within striking distance of Obama was after Palin came onboard. Her outsider status,  populist bona fides, charisma, willingness to fight, and ability to capture the heart of a Republican base (that never embraced McCain), was the only chance the mercurial senator, who seemed to bask in the glow of media acclaim whenever he stabbed one of his own in the back, ever had.

Choosing Lieberman, who had already lost as a Democrat in that same role six years earlier, would have been a disaster, just more proof that McCain’s judgment was erratic, his “maverick” status a narcissistic pose, his conservatism a joke. While Joe Lieberman seems like a decent man, at the time, McCain was a 72-year-old cancer survivor. Choosing a far-left Democrat as his successor would have been seen as a gimmick fueled by desperation and therefore just more proof that McCain lacked the prudence to sit in the big chair.

Instead, after wisely choosing Palin, McCain and his campaign made two fatal errors.

First, Palin was utterly mismanaged. Just for starters, before Trump successfully did the same, Palin wanted to launch an insurgency campaign into working class Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, where her blue collar populism and legitimate reputation as an anti-establishment reformer could have made the difference. She was told no.

Secondly, on September 24, less than two weeks before Election Day, McCain made the disastrous decision to suspend his presidential campaign. For reasons no one will ever understand, in the hopes of saving the economy, McCain jumped on a white horse when he had no idea which way to charge. He looked ridiculous and effectively handed the presidency to an inexperienced left-wing radical.

Even if Lieberman could have talked McCain out of making what is almost certainly the biggest blunder in the history of presidential campaigns, Palin was still his only hope.

McCain’s Palin regret could have to do with something besides losing the presidency. Among America’s establishment elitists, the Palin pick does damage his legacy. It pains me to think that anyone would care what that hideous group thinks, especially on a deathbed.

Maybe it is bigger than that, though, maybe McCain understands that by launching Palin into a national figure, he effectively paved the way for a makeover of a Republican Party that was long overdue, a Party that in 2008 was too eager to go to war, too chummy with big business, and that made illegal aliens a priority over American citizens who followed the rules — most especially in the Rustbelt.

Everything about Sarah Palin, her fearlessness, her governing record, her fight, her ideas, her refusal to conform in the face of unprecedented media hate and unrelenting backstabbing from McCain’s inner-circle — all of these things helped to drop the scales from the eyes of voters, which in turn paved the way for a Donald Trump to, at long last, shift the GOP base away from war, corporations, and pandering to illegals.

From the Tea Party to Trump, the GOP has not been the same since Palin strode into the spotlight, and now it is hardly recognizable from the calcified dinosaur McCain loved so. If that is what he regrets, that is a real shame, because on top of his military career, choosing Sarah Palin was the greatest service McCain ever performed for his country.

 Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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