By Barron YoungSmith, Slate Magazine
All the papers lead with John McCain’s surprise selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate. He shocked election-watchers and scrambled the presidential race with a “Hail Mary pass“—eschewing more conventional choices for the inexperienced, socially conservative, corruption-fighting “hockey mom.” Appearing together in Ohio, McCain lauded her reform credentials while Palin framed her candidacy as an extension of Hillary Clinton’s quest to “shatter [the] glass ceiling.”
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal call it a risky play to revitalize John McCain’s “maverick” image. Choosing Palin undercuts the argument that Barack Obama is too inexperienced, raising questions about John McCain’s age and judgment. But it could pay off: Palin—an NRA member and staunch pro-lifer—is energizing evangelicals and tempting Hillary Clinton voters to defect. An LAT analysis piece worries it’s a sign that McCain relies on shortsighted “gut-checks,” while an early version of the WSJ lead called it a “calculated bet.” It’s likely a bit of both—McCain’s a high-stakes gambler who knows the odds.
The papers all have the same details about McCain’s selection process: He spoke to Palin three times—once at the National Governors Association meeting in February, once on the phone last Sunday, and Thursday morning, when he offered her the job. (On Wednesday, she met with McCain’s advisers at the home of the Hensley family’s foot-soldier, Bob “Call Delgado” Delgado.) The LAT and WSJ raise questions about whether Palin was properly vetted.
The WP, LAT, and NYT also front biographies of Palin. The WP and LAT play up her compelling life story and her reputation for reform—formerly mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 7,000, she made her name by initiating an ethics investigation of Republican king-maker Randy Ruedrich—but the NYT is far more critical of her record. A separate NYT piece looks at an ongoing ethics investigation of Palin, involving pressure to fire her brother-in-law, a state trooper.