Palin: It Only Gets Uglier from Here

Commentators (at least those in the reality-based community) are starting to discuss how John McCain walks back from his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate. Most folks are drawing two anologies from the past: the "Thomas Eagleton" debacle, and the "Harriett Miers" denoument.

Neither is likely, and the Miers situation doesn't apply here. With Harriett Miers, it was the extreme right-wing, social conservative branch of the Republican Party that led the charge to give her the boot — they were not sure she would be as doctrinaire as Scalie, Thomas.

It is this same branch of the party that is most enthusiastic about Sarah Palin. The social conservatives love that she just had a Downs baby and that her teenage daughter is pregnant. Forget about experience, judgment, competence — she's normal, just like us.

And right-wing talk radio blowhards and demogogues are loving the Palin controversies because it allows them to indulge in their favorite past-time: blaming the "media elites" for everything wrong with America. See, that Sarah Palin is a lying, rank hypocrite isn't the problem. That John McCain picked a small town mayor completely unprepared to be President should he die isn't the problem. It's all those smarty-pants elites who just can't stand normal, hard-working Americans — they're the problem.

So, there is no way John McCain tries to walk back his pick of Sarah Palin. And even if he tried, she has all the cards and wouldn't let him — it's clear she is awfully ambitious, and I suspect she wouldn't hesitate to use the leverage of her new allies in the extreme right wing of the party to prevent that from happening.

No, what happens now is that the Republicans revert to their normal behavior when attacked — "Wolverine" mode. Like a rabid, caged animal, they will lash out and attack back, whether justified or not. They will dial up the volume to 11 on every argument. Just shout down your opponent if you have to (see Susan Molinari on Larry King last night). 

See, in Sarah Palin, they have found their 2008 "wedge" issue — their updated version of "guns, gods and gays." The more Sarah Palin is attacked, no matter how legitimate the claims, the more they will attack the attackers as being elitist, anti-women, pro status-quo.

In many ways, it is a re-run of the 2000 and 2004 campaign. But this time, Sarah Palin is the new George Bush. Inexperienced, sure, but she's "authentic" and if you question her in any way, well you're not and you're just a damned elitist. Guarantee that they will try to frame an "Al Gore sighing" moment of condescension.

With luck, enough people will have learned from the past. Perhaps some of the lines in this movie will feel similar to the 2000 and 2004 elections. And if we're lucky, most folks will remember how that all turned out.