September 26th, 2008
11:29 AM ET

The Palin Pick - The Devolution of McCain

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/26/art.palinmccain3.jpg]
Carl Bernstein
AC360° Contributor

In one of our many conversations as we crisscrossed the country during his campaign for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, John McCain said to me, "I've always tried to act on what I thought was the best for the country. And that has guided me.... The only thing I can do is assure people that I would act on principle."

I traveled with McCain for weeks that political season, stayed in Arkansas with him, Cindy, and their children, and – for a Vanity Fair cover profile - filled dozens of notebooks and tapes with observations from and about a potentially heroic politician who seems far removed from the man running for president today.

Three weeks after the 2008 Republican convention, on the cusp (maybe) of the first presidential debate, it is time to confront an awkward but profound question: whether in picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has committed - by his own professed standards of duty and honor - a singularly unpatriotic act.

"I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war," he has said throughout this campaign. Yet, in choosing Palin, he has demonstrated - whatever his words - it may be permissible to imperil the country, conceivably even to "lose" it, in order to win the presidency. That would seem the deeper meaning of his choice of Palin.

Indeed, no presidential nominee of either party in the last century has seemed so willing to endanger the country's security as McCain in his reckless choice of a running mate. He is 72 years old; has had four melanomas, a particularly voracious form of cancer; refuses to release his complete medical records.

Three of our last eleven presidents (and nine of all 43) have come to office unexpectedly in mid-term from the vice presidency: Truman, who within days of FDR's death was confronted with the decision of whether to drop the atom bomb on Japan; Lyndon Johnson, who took the oath in Dallas after JFK's assassination; Gerald Ford, sworn in following the resignation of Richard Nixon. A fourth vice president, George H.W. Bush, briefly exercised the powers of the presidency after the near-assassination of Ronald Reagan.

Given that history, what does John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin - the cavalier, last-minute process of her selection and careless vetting; and her over-briefed, fact-lite performance since - reveal about this military man who has attested to us for years that he is guided by his personal code of honor? "Two things I will never do," McCain told me, "are [to] lie to the American people, or put my electoral interests before the national interest" - an obvious precursor of "I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war."

McCain, I wrote for Vanity Fair, "often speaks of the duty to follow his conscience in politics, rather than polls or party discipline. This, he says, comes from having escaped death and becoming 'more aware of the transience of everything we do.'"

"I've always had a pretty good idea about how to define something as to whether it's right or wrong," he told me. "I don't mean that I'm better or worse than anybody else. I just mean that when I see an issue and think about it and talk to people, I do generally have the ability to know what's the right course of action, even if it may not be what the majority wants. So I have a certain amount of confidence that I don't have to have a majority opinion on my side."

It does not take a near-death experience to know that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be commander in chief, or that - in choosing her - McCain has ignored his own oft-avowed code of conduct. "McCain made the most important command decision of his life when he chose Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee," noted David Ignatius in the Washington Post. "....No promotion board in history would have made such a decision."

Above all, the John McCain I covered in 1999-2000 was - he said - convinced that two factors were undermining the interests of the United States: its cultural wars, causing political gridlock in Washington and civic discontent across the land; and the unbending agenda of the right-wing of the Republican party that, in his view, had been captured by the Christian conservative movement and bore disproportionate responsibility for the poisonous state of American politics. Exhibit One: the scorched-earth campaign that George W. Bush was then waging against McCain's insurgent run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Yet, McCain, is, in fact, running the kind of campaign against Barack Obama that George Bush ran against him in 2000, which he regarded rightly as dishonest, dishonorable and diversionary in terms of the truth about him and about the nation's problems.

The conservative commentator George Will has been especially incisive of late about the "dismaying," "un-presidential temperament" of McCain and the sleazy tenor of his campaign. Karl Rove (!) has responded to the incessant lying of McCain's ads (one claims falsely that Obama has promoted "comprehensive" sex education for five-year-olds - he had, in fact, endorsed legislation to insure that kindergartners were warned about sexual predators), by saying, yes, the McCain camp's mendacity has "gone one step too far."

Meanwhile, McCain's frequent invocations of the need for bi-partisan statesmanship are interspersed with the angry themes of cultural warfare and of the Republican convention orchestrated by his handlers, the most dominant of them practitioners from the campaigns of George W. Bush: attacks on "tax-and-spend Democrats," on the dependable liberal bogeyman, on "the angry Left," on Constitution-rewriting federal judges (including, incongruously, three of the Supreme Court justices who voted to uphold McCain's singular legislative achievement: the campaign-finance act he authored with Democrat Russ Feingold).

"If hypocrisy were gold, the Capitol would be Fort Knox," McCain once famously said. "Some of those guys," he said, referring to his fellow senators, "have they even had lives? What have they done?" He added, "Aw, jeez, this is exactly the kind of thing that gets me into trouble." Indeed.
McCain's first choices to be his running mate were former Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-Independent from Connecticut, and former vice presidential nominee of his former party. Neither passed the ideological litmus test of the Republican-Right - "The Base" - because each holds pro-choice views. Certainly both are qualified to step into the presidency in terms of national security credentials - regardless of whether one agrees with their particular politics - in the event of the death of the president.

McCain's "Hail Mary" pick - Palin - was hastily decided on the next-to-last day of the Democratic convention, by which time it was evident that Obama's convention was winning over independent voters; all that remained was the final night and the opportunity for Obama to deliver a speech that would further work to his advantage, and debilitate the McCain campaign. Only by exciting "The Base" could McCain remain competitive and win, it was calculated.

The distance from McCain's ads and assertions about his presidential opponent and Democrats generally, and his decision to run a "persona-based" campaign, as opposed to being specific on the issues, is of a piece with his choice of Palin to be his running mate. As another conservative commentator sometimes critical of McCain - Peggy Noonan - has noted, the "narrative" of a life [McCain's, Palin's], takes over from existential political fact in the type of campaign run by McCain and his handlers. We have heard an awful lot in the past few weeks, especially from Sarah Palin, about John McCain "The Maverick," just as we did in the convention narrative. But what McCain has actually been doing in this campaign, rather than actually being The Maverick, is conveying the appearance of iconoclasm, and playing to the crowd. (Hence, perhaps, "suspending" his campaign - and trying to postpone the first presidential debate while his poll numbers are sinking - to deal with the financial crisis?) At this point, the maverick claim seems no more genuine than Sarah Palin's charade foreign-policy tour of Manhattan with no witnesses - reporters - permitted to observe the proceedings.

The issue of Palin's relative ignorance about international affairs and the larger world beyond America's shores (compared to previous vice presidential nominees), her attendant arrogance in seeming to revel in it, and McCain's decision to subject the country to it in choosing a possible president - is the biggest question in this election, or perhaps ought to be. It goes to the core of who the John McCain of this campaign is.

Another conservative commentator, David Brooks, wrote last week: "Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she'd be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness."

The more we learn, the more we realize the vetting process was - given the rush of the circumstances - hopelessly inadequate: McCain didn't know many aspects of Palin's record or her reputation (none of which is to say she wouldn't be a congenial fit as, say, Secretary of Interior in a McCain administration). McCain's first choices for a running mate - Ridge and Lieberman - were light years ahead of Palin in the vice presidential-qualification department. But they didn't meet the ideological test, exactly the ideological litmus test that McCain has attacked his whole political career and told us he would never succumb to.

John McCain is a serious man, as anyone who has spent time with him knows. But he has not run the kind of serious campaign he once promised.

Not for the first time, as many of his fellow Republicans (as opposed to friendly reporters and sympathetic Democrats) had long maintained, McCain's more reckless inclinations and lesser impulses prevailed. A great political movement that would transcend rabid partisanship and hard ideology does not seem in the cards.

And if he wins the election, Sarah Palin - who in her first post-convention discussion of foreign policy indicated a willingness to go to war with Russia over Georgia - stands a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Ultimately it is the choice of Palin, made in the moment when action speaks loudest, that may undermine a quarter-century of assertions by John McCain about the preeminence of duty, honor and country in his political schema.

Editor's Note: This essay was written originally for The Huffington Post.

Filed under: Carl Bernstein • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. J.V.Hodgson

    His choice of Palin was politicaly vote only motivated and nothing else.
    Her NRA, Evangelical, What's global warming go t to do with man? Clearly trying to grab the HRC unhappies ( very sexist) etc is her platform and leaves single tasking McCain to deal with War and Foreign affairs. By His own admission Mccain is not and expert on Economics but thinks by showing up in DC he can solve the problem
    If you have Representatives or Senators who have economics masters or MBA's in Finanace maybe they have something to contribute,technically.
    Actually all they can do is do what they did Oversight, Exec pay, type of protection to Taxpayers, form of investment and how much goes to wall street or main street. Technically the three wise men who cooked this up can run rings round all house and senate members. all.

    September 27, 2008 at 7:16 am |
  2. lindam

    hOW can we have McCain for President when Palen wasn't there to comment on his words. I am Sory Obama won the debate tonight. MCCain id a lier we cannot trust him. He is only trying to win votes. He is not for the Middleclass americans.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:01 pm |
  3. Sam Cahill

    God help us if THIS hockey mom enters the White House.

    September 26, 2008 at 7:54 pm |
  4. Deirdre Rose

    Very scary, indeed and shame on McCain. Watching the Couric interview and once the terror at the thought of this woman in the White House abated, I found myself only mildly surprised that there was no mention of: "USA-America and The Iraq"

    September 26, 2008 at 6:32 pm |
  5. Carol - From New Zealand

    McCain dont forget is a politican. He will use Palin as his scapegoat... doesnt know her, dosent owe her, dosent care...... he will use her as the 'scapegoat' for the republicans election loss in 2008. Remember this is power and politics.

    September 26, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  6. Kaitlin

    Very interesting. I saw Couric's interview with Palin the other day and she didn't seem to actually answer the questions or know what she was talking about...

    September 26, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  7. Shella from San Antonio


    Thank you for your article and the points you touched on when it come to Mccain and the political game he is playing. You said Mccain has turned out to be dishonest, dishonorable and diversionary in terms of the truth about Obama and about the nation’s problems. I feel this is the most honest and real comments that I have read in the last couple of days. Mccain/Palin terrifies me with the thought that these two could be our next president and vice president. I can't see where either of them are ready just based on what we've been exposed to over the last month alone. These lies, flipping back and forth, and the pure mismanagement, and lack of leadership of his campaign has shown everyone just how screwed up we'll be if he is chosen for president. He is showing that he is desperate and out of control with a very bad temper all of which none of us in this country need in a president. He is definitely more of the same and personally I don't want another Cocky, uncaring president in the office. I hope people will not continue to fall for his nonsense, enough is enough!!!!!!

    September 26, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  8. Barbara Sampson

    Sarah I believe you are being used. Please step down now while you still have some dignity left.

    September 26, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  9. Heather,Ca,US

    I don't want to question McCain's mental health, but is he out his mind? She make's Dan Quayle look qualified. It's incredibly scary to think Palin could be VP. As far as I am concerned the media is doing their job. I expect any candidate regardless of party to know the subject matter and the issues. I want someone who is knowledgable and well versed and spoken. The world is watching and I would think that they are looking for someone who is cultured and sophisticated. I don't like Cheney(Darth) but at least he knows what he is talking about.

    September 26, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  10. Son

    Katie Couric helped to expose the fraud that is Sarah Palin–and all of those with egg on their face that joined in the Palin pep rally.
    Prominent conservative Kathleen Parker, admittedly, among the Palin pep squad has now come out to say that Palin's recent interviews
    clearly show that she is way over her head. Parker writes that "it was fun while it lasted" now she is calling on Palin to stop the bleeding
    and step down. Prominent Conservatives David Brooks, George Will, and David Frum have also questioned Palin's readiness to lead.
    The Palin pick by John Mcain was a monumental error in judgment from the Maverick (Gambler). Those who supported this pick should
    be tired of being embarrassed every time their candidate opens his/her mouth. Conservatives, like the rest of us, have had to stomach about 2,800 days (almost 8 years) of inarticulate ignorance. It would be great if they could find a candidate that they do not have to cross their fingers and hold their breath for during interviews and spin for afterwards. This is America and our 1st Amendment freedom of speech right is sacred. However, the consistent abuse of this right is blasphemous.

    September 26, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  11. lampe

    McCain\Palin, is the only ticket, this country can afford to vote for. Biden, has more experience then Obama, hell HRC, had more experience then Obama. But, what did the DNC,choose to do? IT picked a man simply because he was Black, and thought that Americans were tired of Bush and The Repubs, so that thought for sure they had a winner. Little did they know, that they would piss-off half of the Party, with their pick. so now because of not doing what is right, by both The DNC, and Obama,not picking HRC as his V.P. they have haned the White House, back to The Republicans, for at least the next 4-8 years, or maybe longer, if Gov. Palin,runs for POTUS, after they win The White House in Nov. Smart move Dems, I think 3rd graders, would have known better, then to pick a no-body.

    September 26, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  12. mg - Eagle River AK

    You know you should be ashamed for piling on... Actually yes she is more ready than Senator Obman... ( who speaks well) As a new resident of AK her actions have spoken very clearly to me. I am not swayed by your (the media’s attempts to slander) I am as concerned about the experience of the presidental candidates themselves as you are the VP. It is amazing to me that you (the media) haven’t leveled the same energy and caustic sarcasim to Senator Obama. (Oh that might be racist) At least I use his title… you could at least refer to her with respect… that is Governor Palin!!!

    September 26, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  13. Brenda Harris

    Go ahead and confess;as the truth will set you free.
    confession is good for the soul.
    go ahead, we won't rub your face in it.
    we love you all no matter what.

    American don't make a biggggggggg mistake.
    We cannot stand 4 more rears.

    September 26, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  14. kim

    Gosh imagine his embarasment had he suspended his campaign in word only then insisted he would not leave Washington until a 700 billion deal was finished and then actually kept any of his promises and did not show up and the internet add that stated he WON the debate 8 hours before the possible non debate even happened! Is this man senile? Even conservative republicans are calling him a joke and also calling for Palin to step down… Now that would be COUNTRY FIRST!

    September 26, 2008 at 4:23 pm |
  15. Sampy

    I agree with Carl. I am a democrat but I respected McCain for his patriotism and the love for his country. But by picking Palin he has shown how short sighted and self centered this choice has been. He did not have the country's interest in mind. God forbid but at 84 and after recovering from Cancer several times if something is to happen to him during the 4 years in office Sarah Palin is no way capable, qualified, ready to be the president of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! She can't even answer a question from a reporter without beating around the bush! Very unfortunate choice. This is very scary. Unfortunately, the average Joe on the street whose votes could sow the seeds for disaster has no idea what implications this could have on our country economically, politically, and from National Security point of view.

    September 26, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
  16. LYDIA B

    This essay goes to my hart in expressing the fillings that so many foreigners may have about John McCain….
    Watching Larry King last night and hearing his guest (Michael Rock) saying that he starts to fill “sorry” for her (Sarah) after watching her speaking for more than 4 min… I couldn’t agree with him more…
    But watching ABC’s Cathy Curric interview with Sarah Palin let me and all my friends speechless, concerned, and seriously asking ourselves how all this farce is going to end up ?.
    If one keeps adding to McCain’s “maverick” manipulations the latest one, like going to Washington to “save” the world, we wander very seriously what is going on with the American people... and the America we kept cherishing in our harts as the last dream country on the planet….

    September 26, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  17. penny

    McCain is a pathetic, and creepy. No one ever speaks of his mental health. He looks like a psychopath, I just hope GOD SHOWS OBAMA “favor" during the debates.
    There is word out that McCain is out to STEAL the election. Just like Gw Bush. Then he goes to D.C. He is trying to be important he should understand he is impotent. He road on the Titanic, because that is how he will take the US down further. Furthermore, this OLD man is a POW who lived in VIETNAM for 5 years. No one has checked out his mental capacity. He will turn the US into a third world country because he does not have the ability to unite the world. Plus 50% of the other countries respect OBAMA. FURTHERMORE I am praying GOD shows Obama “favor” during the debates. WE do not need another Bush, Chaney, and a very old man in the White House again. Please, We can’t afford any more “INSANITY”..

    September 26, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  18. Camina T. in Arroyo Grande CA

    The Repubs men have used Palin in a way probably more than a few woman detest and will not forget. She was choosen without regard to her intellectual experience and ability to deal with the male dominated national and international government scene and is now being fed to the female media giant on CBS. The Repubs used not only Palin's good looks but her honest pro life beliefs and rural backround and even her family for their own purposes. I hope Palin can get back to Alaska safely and understand it is the wolves not the Repubs who are her friends. Andy, Oprah was again a classy and heartful act to not have Palin on.

    September 26, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  19. Rose from Calif

    McCain could of picked anyone else who was right for the job of V.P. Sarah Palin need more EXPERINCE.

    September 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  20. kim

    Gosh imagine his embarasment had he suspended his campaign in word only then insisted he would not leave Washington until a 700 billion deal was finished and then actually kept any of his promises and did not show up and this add that stated he WOM the debate 8 hours before the non debate even happened! Is this man senile? Even conservative republicans are calling him a joke and also calling for Palin to step down... Now that would be COUNTRY FIRST!

    September 26, 2008 at 3:09 pm |
  21. Gabri Deko

    The bottom line is McCain is not the best person for the Job of the presidency despite whatever the republicans’ hypocrisy pushes for. McCain speaks of experience and leadership, but I’m baffled as to where that leadership is? Placing one-self in situations and attempting to take partial credit for it is not leadership.

    And as for Palin, she should feel lucky because if the same level of scrutiny given to Hillary was giving to her, then we would really see much more of how incompetent she is.
    Bottom line is that, she is neither educated enough nor qualified for the position of Vice President, and the more she speaks, the more her rhetoric and needs to stop. Just stop talking.......

    September 26, 2008 at 2:54 pm |
  22. Jan from Wood Dale, IL

    I missed the Katie Couric interview with Sarah Palin, but I do recall some people rolling their eyes when Palin made the statement regarding Russia's proximity to Alaska. On 9/29/06, the AP reported that American and Canadian fighter planes were launched to intercept a pair of Russian bombers that came close to Alaska while conducting an exercise. The Russians had penetrated the 12-mile buffer zone. In June 2008, both the Washington Post and Washington Times reported 4 Russian Bombers skirted U.S. airspace off Alaska.

    Palin might not have all dates and specifics committed to memory, but at least on this point she seems to be correct. Palin also indicated that she supports Georgia being voted into NATO. I believe Obama supports this position as well. And if Georgia was a member of NATO and was attacked by Russia, then we would have an obligation to help defend Georgia. I doubt either Obama or Biden would disagree with defending Georgia if they were a member of NATO.

    Again, I don't agree with many of Palin's opinions on social issues, but would welcome more people like Sarah Palin who are willing to get down and dirty in order to get things done in Washington. Because as we have already seen from Obama, he's willing to delegate responsibilities to the same people who failed to alert anyone that we were heading into a financial crisis. Had Paulson, Pelosi, Reid, Dodd, and Frank been doing their jobs properly, we would have had more than 7 – 10 days to look at better solutions to the financial problems were currently facing.

    September 26, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  23. Kent, Illinois

    Palin was a choice made by the GOP base...........not McCain. She is the "Hail Mary" thrown by the Republicans. It created excitement. But this has been short lived. Their biggest mistake was to say she was informed on Foreign Affairs. She didn't even need that........she would have been fine without it. Now it will unravel her as a candidate as she tries so hard to be what she is not................doesn't help that she has been freed from "witches". That will not go away...........

    September 26, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  24. Stewart Goldman

    John McCain, he heroic fighter pilot is all about winning......apparently at any cost. As I have written in a previous blog....the question for McCain should be: What does winning mean in Iraq....and at what cost?
    What does winning the Presidency mean to McCain.....and again at what cost?
    What personal sacrifices has he made in these quests.....at what cost?

    Honor ..you earn...lie ...and you lose it.

    His negating his responsibilities to self and country and reaching for the highest office in America by utilizing political manipulations and false accusations is a sad commentary to be added to his career in public service.

    September 26, 2008 at 2:30 pm |
  25. Karl

    Thanks, Carl Bernstein, for crystalizing my suspicions of McCain/Palin.

    McCain wants to ride the "maverick" image, but what I see is "careless and impulsive," particularly after watching his campaign: his desperate choice of character assassination over the issues and his rushing off to Washington like Superman are recent examples. And his rush to invade Iraq is another from the archives, lest we forget McCain's history.

    And the more I hear Palin (please see her most recent interview with (very fair) Katie Couric, the more disgusted I become with McCain's sense of judgment. The debates loom, but it's over. I don't care what he says from here on, I could never vote for someone so reckless and dumb. We already have seen what eight years of that brings.

    My earnest prayer is that other Americans will see the light as Carl Bernstein has.

    September 26, 2008 at 2:20 pm |
  26. stephen hill binghamton ny

    Maybe Tina Fey should stand in for Sarah over the next few weeks. She seems a lot more knowledgable then Pailin. I have negotiated by beer in Canada. Does that make me have Foreign Policy experience?

    September 26, 2008 at 2:03 pm |
  27. Eric Rhodes

    Sarah Palin is a republican puppet , lets get real, I noticed that her spot light has diminished to the point of nothing in the last week other than the photo session with world leaders who more curious than wanting to discuss politics. These politics are used to a hand shake and now get a kiss on the check and a flash of a pretty smile with not substance to relate to we are in trouble.

    September 26, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  28. Saad, NJ

    Very well said Carl. Right on the money and nicely put in perspective.

    I have great respect for Senator McCain as a person and what he has done for our country – I even donated $25.00 to him in the primaries though I wanted Democrats (Biden, Obama, or Hillary) to win the primary and ultimately the White House in hope for a change of direction in our domestic and international agenda.

    But since winning the nomination and especially with his VP pick and for all the reasons you have stated above, I do NOT know what has happened to him. I thought he was a descent man and in case of winning, would not be so bad for our country. Now, I do not know anymore.

    No one man can make or break a nation. Not even the President. However, the two most important traits for an effective President, in my opinion are 1) Charismatic communication skills (Bill Clinton's of the world), and 2) knowledge of 'economic policy' affects in the ever more challenging capitalism environment. Senator McCain used to but not anymore, posses either one of the two. He is a good man but not every good man can be an effective president. And now on top of this, his judgment in picking a VP who has a 42.86% chance of becoming the commander-in-chief if we look at the last 7 Presidents and a 20.93% chance if we look at all the Presidents, speaks of how unfit he has become.

    May god give our country as well as all other nations in the world the ability to follow a peaceful and prosperous path, regardless of who the President is.

    September 26, 2008 at 1:35 pm |
  29. Magnus

    Was it just me, or did Sara Palins interview with Katie Couric give you flashbacks of the interview with Ms. Teen USA South Carolina??? I'm not sure who was more painful to watch, but at least Ms. Teen SC has an excuse: her age. What's Sarah Palins excuse?
    Wow! How embarrassing!

    September 26, 2008 at 1:20 pm |
  30. randy

    macain palin is a bad dream ready to happen, they are circus clowns that are not even funny, it;s stupid. tucker bound who represent both these idiots thinks he;s right but you can tell in his statement that he;s as dumb as he looks, is burning in hell worth this lying and corruption that palin and mccains doing? burning in hell is eternity, so be sure you enjoy you time here on earth because we all know mccain is no mavereck. hes a dried up old prune who is losing what mind and respect he had, and palin is a stupid puppet,,,,, have you listened to her interviews latel;y? she is dumb,,,,,,,,,,,,

    September 26, 2008 at 1:14 pm |
  31. Fay, CA

    This country can't afford a president who makes rash and reckless decisions or one who thinks dramatically inserting himself into situations where he's probably not needed makes him look like a strong leader. If McCain truly believed in "country first" he would've fought harder to keep his original choices of Lieberman and Ridge as possible VP candidates instead of going with Palin whose inadequacies become more apparent and disturbing whenever she's given an opportunity to speak.

    September 26, 2008 at 1:11 pm |
  32. Peggy in Iowa

    Bravo Mr. Cooper. No one has explained him/this action better. Thank you for your writing.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:50 pm |
  33. Pat Canada

    Congratulations Mr. Bernstein on a very truthful and factual report. It is indeed refreshing to finally read a report with a true perception on John McCain. Now, if only, the Republicans and those who still holding a personal vendetta for Hillary Clinton, would put their Country First and vote for the man who can put America back on the right track, give American back the respect and International Image it once held, and give Americans what they truly need and deserve!.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:33 pm |
  34. Dan Stewart

    McCain is a liar, pure and simple. In picking Palin he choose someone grossly under qualified to run this country. This was a purely partisan pick to unify the parties base, not to do whats best for the country. For all the Republicans that will argue against this, the best explaination came from Karl Rove when he discussed the potential pick of Tim Kaine from Virginia:

    "With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished," Rove said. "I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America."

    Rove continued: "So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States? What I'm concerned about is, can he bring me the electoral votes of the state of Virginia, the 13 electoral votes in Virginia?'"

    Insert Palins name in there and you have the truth about her pick

    September 26, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  35. David W, Florida

    This commentary does not place blame or judge Sarah Palin, which is appropriate. This move wasn't her choice.

    If John asked me to run with him, I wouldn't have turned him down either. But I wouldn't have been the best choice for the American people either.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  36. hong

    John McCain has proven throughout this campaign that he is a "yes" "no" individual.I've said many times that McCains hangs his mouth everywhere the soup drops so it is quite easy to trap this animal. Just recently he said that he was shutting down his campaign to go to Washington to ensure that a deal was reached and what happened.--no deal but loud cries for him to proceed with the debates. No deal has been struck and here again John McCain had to eat his words.This is sad But I said On Sept.. 08,2008 that it was over for McCain and all these FLIP- FLOPS have proven my point.Look at the political move to pick Sarah Palin,it has proven to be a disaster,just lok at the CBS interview with Katie Couric-–It was a mess. Turn off the lights,the party is over and stick a fork in both McCain and Palin and keep the black suit close.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:08 pm |
  37. Michele Suito, FL

    It is sad to see how politics can change a man. I did initially beleive in McCain for President but after his choice of Palin I realized that he's not running for the right reasons he's just using anything he can to get to the White House. How irresponsible to pick someone that is so non prepared to be our Vice President and maybe our President if something happens to him? Just because Hillary had such a karma and brought in so many women voters and other americans to trust her doesn't mean that ANY woman would have the same reaction from voters! At the beginning (when nobody knew who Palin really was) it seemed like a good move for McCain and empowered the Republican party but after getting to know Palin I think that McCain is dreading the moment he made this decision.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:05 pm |
  38. Rahni, Connecticut

    Palin is an idiot! Please review Katie Couric interview.

    Rahni, Connecticut

    September 26, 2008 at 12:04 pm |
  39. Presley

    What an amazing perspective.
    This post called out the Palin choice and McCain's erratic and confusing behavior.
    I had a modicum of respect for McCain when I heard how many times he worked across party lines and held a view of him that I could grasp.
    A "persona" driven campaign is right. It can be said both McCain and Obama are doing that but McCain also tries to flip with full on character assassinations of his opponent.
    I don't care how the critics will perceive this post, I'm sure some will see this as another attack on Palin in a back handed way, however, Palin got owned in the Couric interview and McCain got owned by Letterman of all people, last night. Something is amiss.
    I still believe something else is going on in the McCain camp, unrelated to what we the public are witnessing.
    Again, great post.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:02 pm |
  40. Brendan

    McCain might not be a traitor, but he's doing a great disservice by choosing Sarah Palin.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:01 pm |
  41. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Mr. Bernstein;
    I have read that McCain attempted suicide? Is that right?
    On that alone, he would not be allowed into the RCMP in Canada.
    He tends to commit political suicide at times, and VERY recently!
    He only got his maverick 'reputation' after a short time of opposing Bush on climate control, gun legislation, HMO, taxes for the rich right AFTER he had been swift boated in 2000 by Bush supporters. He was being a cry BABY, not a 'maverick'.
    Committe plumb jobs brought him back into the RANKS. He nearly followed Jeffords, but has now agreed on EVERY issue he opposed for that 6 month period in 2000/2001.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:56 am |
  42. Rod Moore

    the Palin pick was just another stunt pulled by John McCain. He knows he picked her because she is a woman. He should be ashamed of himself and barred from being a politician ever again! I think anyone who votes for him just because he has a woman on the ticket should not be allowed to vote. They do not know anything about the policies, nor do they understand politics.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:55 am |
  43. Cindy

    Why don't you tell the truth. You are a liberal and no where near a conservative republican. Be honest!!

    As far as McCain picking Palin...well look at the polls. McCain is still right there with Obama tied in almost every state So no matter what you say, Palin did not hurt his candidacy.

    Plus if you want to talk experience then you better look long and hard at who the dems have in their top spot! He has no experience what so ever and would be taking control of things from day one.

    So where is your logic Carl? You can't down Palin without downing Obama because he is in the exact same boat!


    September 26, 2008 at 11:52 am |
  44. Maureen / Newman, California

    McCain is not placing "Country First". He is placing John McCain first. He chose Palin only because he wanted votes from the EXTREME right. Her extreme, narrowminded views do not reflect that of MAINSTREAM America.

    September 26, 2008 at 11:34 am |