The week served up an embarrassment of riches for the Sunday shows. There were, of course, Denver developments: the Clintons’ make-good speeches along with a stem-winder by Montana governor Brian Schweitzer, and, of course, Obama in the stadium, outlining his ideas as frozen Hillary supporters say he never does. But in terms of attention seized, McCain-Palin “won the weekend.” Whether they won supporters is more doubtful. Judging from the top two Sunday shows, they didn’t impress.
The highlights would be hilarious if they were not staggering. Cindy McCain told George Stephanopoulos that Gov. Sarah Palin is qualified for the vice-presidency because “Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia, so it’s not as if she doesn’t understand what’s at stake here.” Presumably she has stood close enough to Vladimir Putin to have gazed into his eyes and seen through his transparent soul to his inner barbarian.
Cindy McCain, not used to this sort of thing, dodged a bullet when Stephanopoulos asked her about her recent trip to Georgia, saying, “I love doing this kind of work. It’s part of my fiber.” I would like to have known how many humanitarian missions she has undertaken. Has she been to Darfur, for instance, where no Cold War points are to be scored?
Next, Sen. Lindsay Graham, on message, touted Gov. Palin as a corruption-fighter and Fed-buster, declaring that she had opposed the notorious Alaska Bridge to Nowhere when Congress wanted to spent $400 million for it last year, only to face Stephanopoulos pointing out, accurately, that “she campaigned for it in her 2006 race, and turned against it in 2007 only after it became a national joke.” When Graham insisted that she had national security experience in that “she’s been in charge of the National Guard,” Stephanopoulos noted that no less an authority than George H. W. Bush had said that running the National Guard was irrelevant when the governor in question was Bill Clinton, running against him in 1992.
Stephanopoulos bounced back: “What do you say to this Republican delegate from Mobile, Alabama, Todd Burkhalter? He says this, ‘We’re in a global war, we’re in a global economy, so it’s less than honest if someone says that this woman is qualified to lead America right now.’” As Stephanopoulos went tough, Graham went extravagant: “I would say that compared to Senator Obama, she is qualified beyond belief to change the culture in Washington.” (My italics: “beyond belief.” Might I speculate that, consciously, he wanted to say “beyond doubt,” but what erupted was a defensible, subterranean view that the choice of Palin is “beyond belief”?)
Protesting way too much, Graham swiveled, pirouetted, and otherwise took evasive action: “Governor Palin has the characteristics of a leader that can take over on a moment’s notice.” Stephanopoulos kept going: “So Senator McCain wins and, God forbid, tragedy strikes. You’d feel confident, safe and secure a year from now if Governor Palin were president?” Graham tried to catapult out of the corner: “I would dread the day that Senator Obama took the oath and become commander-in-chief…” Stephanopoulos was having none of it: “That’s not what I asked.” Graham attacked Obama’s foreign policy judgment as “terrible” and declared: “Compared to Barack Obama, I think she’d make one hell of a commander-in-chief.”