David Letterman, Smarter than Me

If John McCain has to go back to Washington to help save us all then why can’t Sarah Palin continue to run the campaign in his absence?

This is the question David Letterman asked last night after John McCain not only suspended his campaign but also his appearance on the Tonight Show, only to show up with Katie Couric later that day. Watch:

Despite the fact that Dave is clearly a little bitter, he is spot on. The ticket has two people on it for a reason, when the President is unavailable due to crisis, the VP takes on extra tasks. Granted Palin has been sequestered from the media to the point that entire NYC block was closed off to foot traffic to keep them at bay this week, but she has and should be doing interviews. As VP she should be able to stump like any other candidate and raise McCain’s numbers.

I was so busy shaking my head at McCain’s obvious ploy to avoid being grilled about his party’s responsibility for the current crisis (the current pres is Republican, Congress was majority Republican until the recent election . . .) that it did not even occur to me that once again Palin is being posited as too fragile to do even the most basic things one would expect a candidate to do.

Since this was McCain’s decision, I certainly hope people stop to ask themselves about the decision making skills of a man who would rather suspend his campaign than trust it to his runningmate for a few days while things get hammered out. It calls into question his decision making and his process under pressure. Equally disconcerting is the way that his decision seems to

  1. contradict his insistence on face-to-face “town hall meetings” b/c the American people “deserve to see the candidates together,” since obviously they do not need to see them during a major crisis discussing their plans to save the economy and how their voting records align with, in the case of McCain, and contradict, in the case of Obama, the current administration.
  2. imply a reactionary and reclusive response to negative feedback from the N. American people and the press
  3. undermines his insistence that Palin is qualified – by his own estimate she isn’t capable of handling questions from the press or running a successful campaign in his absence. Whether you take that as proof that she is incompetent or proof that he is sexist, since she has been wowing the press for weeks, that decision is pretty damning

More insidious still is Keith Olbermann’s suggestion that one of the debates will have to be cut and that McCain might just be making sure Palin never has her 1.5 hours of point-and-counter-point with Biden. I honestly don’t think that was in McCain’s mind when he made this decision but I do think the opportunity is there and that they could likely sieze it. And how exactly is denying Palin the opportunity to compete equally for her position against her opponent empowering to any women? conservative or otherwise?

There is just so much about McCain’s decision that smacks of 4 more years and grandstanding cowardice in the face of a real and detrimental crisis in this country that it is hard to unpack. Thanks to David Letterman for giving us one more angle through which to see this situation. As I’ve said before, when your own friends cannot say anything nice about your campaign then what exactly do you represent?


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