Lady Is A Champ
By Dick Morris
September 1, 2008
Sarah Palin does not simply represent an opportunity to appeal to women voters and to add a new, charismatic presence to the ticket. Her selection signals the rebirth of John McCain, the courageous, independent senator who seemed to have been anesthetized during the long primary process.
Beaten down psychologically - as the Vietnamese could never do - by the drubbing he took in South Carolina's Republican primary in 2000, he seemed to pull his punches in this campaign. The crusading maverick, the take-no-guff independent, seemed to have been left behind in the Senate Office Building as a different McCain took to the campaign trail in 2008. Conscious of the discipline and uniformity of the GOP primary electorate, he seemed to morph into what he never was in the Senate (but Barack Obama accuses him of having been, anyway) - a Bush clone.
But Palin is McCain's kind of governor. She took on the corrupt establishment of the Republican hierarchy in Alaska and defeated incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in a GOP primary. The Murkowski family and the family of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens have run the state for decades. Frank served as senator and then gave it up to run for governor. And into the Senate seat slid his daughter Lisa Murkowski, whom Alaska voters dutifully elected. To give you a gauge of how hard it was for Sarah to beat Murkowski for governor in a Republican primary, Stevens has just won his primary for re-election even though he is under indictment!
But Palin uncovered Republican corruption in the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which she had been appointed to lead. She reported the violations of ethical regulations by her co-commissioner (who also happened to be the Republican Party state chairman). Barred by state law from going public with her charges, she quit and revealed her accusations. She was vindicated when her co-commissioner agreed to pay a $12,000 fine for breaking the state ethics law.
Then, in true McCain style, she took on the state attorney general over his corruption and forced him to resign. Finally, she challenged Gov. Murkowski himself in a primary and won 51 percent of the vote in a three-way contest. Since then, she has line-item-vetoed huge parts of the state budget that she found wasteful and has cleaned house from top to bottom.
Her appointment demonstrates the crucial flaw in the Democratic attack on McCain: the accusation that he is another George W. Bush. Bush chose Cheney. McCain chose Palin. That's emblematic of the difference between them.
Now McCain needs to follow up this bold choice by articulating the many differences between his views and those of the Bush administration. From his opposition to torture to his proposal of the surge that saved the war in Iraq, he is no Bush clone. With his push for campaign-finance reform, tobacco regulation, corporate-governance reforms, an end to earmarking and cuts in spending, he has crafted a totally independent course that he needs to articulate at his convention. His legislation for energy independence and to fight climate change would implement everything Obama pledged to do in these areas in his excellent acceptance speech at the Democratic convention.
The entire edifice Obama and Biden built in the Denver convention hinges on the supposed similarity between Bush and McCain. Every speaker hewed to his suggested talking points in calling a McCain presidency a third Bush term. As proof, Obama cited the fact that McCain voted with Bush 90 percent of the time. But most Senate votes are unanimous! They praise high school sports teams or American heroes for their accomplishments or rename post offices or courthouses. It's likely Obama and McCain voted together most of the time, too.
Once McCain rebuts the supposed similarity between himself and the man he ran against in the bitter primaries of 2000, there is not a whole lot Obama can do to besmirch McCain's reputation.
Reacting to Palin's selection, Obama called it "more of the same." To say that Sarah Palin is more of same is like saying that Cameron Diaz is like Doris Day.
I had an opportunity to meet and spend half a day with Gov. Palin during a vacation cruise to Alaska sponsored by National Review magazine. The governor invited several of us, including editor Rich Lowry and former UN Ambassador John Bolton, to come see her. There we learned about her crusade against corruption in Alaska, her support for oil drilling there, and the quality of her leadership.
I will always remember taking her aside and telling her she might one day be tapped to be vice president, given her record and the shortage of female political talent in the Republican Party. She will make one hell of a candidate, and hats off to McCain for picking her. Her very presence on the ticket underscores something Obama doesn't want us to notice: He spent two years stopping a woman from becoming president and now he is about to spend two months stopping one from becoming vice president. Obama could have made history but failed the test. McCain passed with flying colors. That point will not be lost on independent women.
But it was when I looked up her biography after the meeting that I learned one of the most salient facts about Sarah Palin. She knew she was bearing a Down syndrome child but refused to have an abortion. While I am personally pro-choice, pro-choice means just that, the right to choose to have or not to have an abortion. My head bows to the integrity, guts and courage it takes to embark knowingly on such a life challenge because of one's personal belief in the sanctity of life. When we look at McCain's loving adoption of a child from a Bangladeshi orphanage run by Mother Teresa and Palin's knowing birth of a handicapped baby, we see a quality of character on this ticket worthy of the White House.