Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Can weirdness in McCain campaign pay off?

Could more unsettling surprises from her past be near?


Nothing about John McCain is sedate, modest or cautious. Risk, recklessness and rowdiness are in his genes. Now add his startling VP pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose life has tamer McCain elements of shiftiness and brass-knuckle politics.

If McCain can rise from a scandal-ridden life to become a presidential candidate, why not a controversial, little-known female political maverick from a small Alaskan town?

McCain began adulthood brawling, drinking heavily, gambling and breaking Annapolis rules. He would've been expelled had his grandfather and father, also Navy black sheep, not been admirals.

He crashed four Navy jets, not including his final Vietnam mishap. Back home he embarked on adulterous flings on his first wife, then married one of his paramours, whose fortune has helped create the McCain legend.

In Washington, he sprinkles the "F" word in angry outbursts at colleagues who consider his tempestuousness dangerous. His volcanic temper cowers critics. Senate colleagues rebuked him for becoming a captive of master swindler Charlie Keating.

In selecting Palin, McCain acts impulsively again (he had only one upclose meeting within hours of picking her), gambling she'll stir up votes and distract media attention from crises blamed on the GOP.

However, could more unsettling surprises from her past be near?

She joined the Alaskan Independence Party, which wants to secede from the United States, but quit when it lost popularity. She's now against congressional appropriation earmarks, though while mayor of Wasilla, Ala., she obtained $27 million in earmarks for the 6,700-population city in six years. As the Washington Post notes, in her last year earmarks amounted to $1,000 per resident, whereas Boise (population 190,000) received about $36 per resident in 2008 earmarks.

Palin also favored Alaska's $200 million-plus "Bridge to Nowhere"—then opposed it.

In January, she asked, "What does a vice president do?"—reminiscent of billionaire president candidate Ross Perot's 1992 running mate, ex-POW and retired Adm. James Stockdale, who asked appealingly during a debate, "Who am I? Why am I here?"

Will the investigation into her firing of Alaska's safety commissioner for allegedly refusing to fire a state trooper involved in a messy divorce from Palin's sister have an impact on Republican hopes?

That said, the 44-year-old former beauty queen, outdoorswoman, NRA member, tough politician, all-American mom of five is a lively, formidable gift for a ticket led by a 72-year-old whose excitement has run its course.

Macabre maybe, but don't discount dark thoughts of some peevish, spiteful Hillary Clinton supporters that McCain could die in office and give them Sarah Palin as the first woman president.

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