Friday, November 7, 2008

Sully vs. McCain vs. Palin

Not to endorse "Trig trutherism," but Andrew Sullivan deserves to be linked for this:
[McCain campaign staff] couldn't admit a mistake because it would have killed their campaign, destroying our impression of McCain's judgment and management skills. So they kept this farce alive for two months, putting the country at potentially great risk to massage their own careers. Now they are doing all they can to dump on her. But the dumpage goes both ways. The McCain camp picked Palin and stuck with her far longer than any people who put country first would have. Every reason why she should not have been picked is a reason why McCain should never have been president.
Now, I am stoutly pro-Palin and believe that she is being unfairly scapegoated. But when Sully says that the first priority of these professional GOP operatives is "to massage their own careers," he hits the nail on the head in terms of what's wrong with the Republican Party.

As a class, Republican political operatives are adept at portraying their cynical careerism as ideological conviction. Thus, ideology becomes a tool of ambition. Rival operatives are attacked as lacking the True Faith, of being the Wrong Kind of Republican. There is a push for conformity, and honest criticism becomes a potentially career-destroying risk. Toadies and sycophants are rewarded; independent thought is excluded.

This is a problem of organizational dynamics. Any organization that rewards and promotes arrogant assholes will attract more arrogant assholes, until eventually being an arrogant asshole becomes a prerequisite for membership. Spend a little time around GOP operatives, and you see how this tendency works. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if Tucker Bounds and Nicolle Wallace are the Republican Party, why would any sane person wish to become involved in the Republican Party?

Furthermore, understand this: A campaign consultant, an adviser, a speechwriter, a manager -- these people get paid the same whether the client candidate wins or loses. Although operatives obviously try to win, because winning enhances their income potential, it is often the case that candidates win despite the advice and actions of their operatives. And a shrewd operative knows how to take credit for victories while finding scapegoats for defeats.

Go back to last year. John McCain raised $20 million in the first six months of 2007, but by July he was broke. Terry Nelson and John Weaver got paid for accomplishing that remarkable feat -- and they didn't resign as long as there was any prospect they could continue to get paid.

By some miracle, Rick Davis managed to revive the campaign enough to win the GOP nomination, but after effectively clinching Feb. 7 (the day Mitt Romney quit) the campaign languished until June, which Steve Schmidt took charge. Schmidt was effective at injecting a combative spirit into the McCain campaign but . . . look, anybody who ever thought it was a good idea to nominate a 72-year-old bald guy just doesn't know anything about politics. To nominate a 72-year-old bald guy who's spent the past 10 years in a bitter feud with his own party's grassroots base? That's just crazy.

The Palin pick has been called a "Hail Mary pass," and the metaphor is apt. You can't look at the exit polls and deny the severity of the GOP brand-damage/Bush-fatigue factor in this election. By the time the McCain campaign made the call to Anchorage, they were already in need of a miracle touchdown, and Palin was it. (See my articles of Sept. 8, Sept. 10, Sept. 15 and Oct. 31.)

Had it not been for the financial crisis and McCain's botched reaction to that crisis . . . well, if a frog had wings, eh? But God only knows how much worse this defeat would have been without Palin.

As far as I'm concerned, the Palin pick was the only good decision John McCain made during this campaign. Any attempt by his campaign staff to make Sarah Palin the scapegoat for their failures is a disservice to truth. Even if you believe the worst about Palin (as Sully does), she wasn't in charge of that campaign. And hockey moms from Alaska aren't what's wrong with the GOP.

The hired help have taken over the party. The Republican Party doesn't need anything as much as it needs to teach its employees something about the basic principles of customer service and value added. If they end up working at Burger King, maybe they'll learn.


  1. You bloody Americans! Leave the woman alone. If not for Sarah Palin, old man McCain would have received 40% of the American people's vote. At least Palin helped to pump up the votes to 46%. Shame on all of you who crucify her. She did not ask to be McCain's running mate. McCain chose her. The least McCain could do is apologise to her for the way she is being pilloried. How come nobody criticised the expensive dressing of Hillary Clinton, Obama or his "best friend" Michelle Obama. America is Hollywood and Hollywood dresses immaculately. Why couldn't a putative vice president spend campaign money to dress well. After all image is important to Americans. Thats how Obama got his votes, through image and presentation. Obama spend $600 million on this election campaign; why can't Palin spend $200,000 on dressing. Has anyone asked how much Michelle and Obama spend on their clothing and hair. As an Asian who admires the Western culture and Western generosity and understanding, I am ashamed for supporting you pathetic people. Shame on all of you who condemn Sarah Palin.

  2. ideology becomes a tool of ambition

    Personally, I'd say it this way: "ideology becomes subservient to ambition..."