It seems the only presidential candidates that treated their running mates with any class were Gerry Ford, Ronald Reagan, Mike Dukakis and George W. Bush.
Recent political history is rife of examples of running mates who willingly tethered their names and political fortunes to presidential candidates, both of the successful and unsuccessful variety, only to have their loyalty and trust repaid with treachery and obstruction in their own presidential campaigns later.
Richard Nixon spent more time and effort plotting against Spiro Agnew than anyone whose name that ever appeared on his now celebrated enemies list. Hubert Humphrey ran against his 1968 running mate in the 1972 primaries. George McGovern stood behind Tom Eagleton 1000% up until he threw him under the bus. Visitors at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center would have a tough time finding Walter Mondale’s name anywhere in the museum aside from a campaign poster. George W.H. Bush didn’t interfere as his closest advisors waged a scorched earth leak-campaign against Dan Quayle. Al Gore, after having to pay politically for the sins of Bill Clinton, came out against his own running in the next election. Ditto Kerry.
And you can now add John McCain’s name to the list of people who reaffirm Harry S. Truman’s cynical adage about friends in politics.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that the 2008 Republican presidential candidate quietly stood by as his own people savaged Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s credibility in the days going into the general election and was reluctant to intervene after the fact, McCain, on ABC’s This Week answered a question about whether he would support Palin in 2012 by touting the credentials of potential rivals for the GOP nomination.
While an early endorsement should not have been expected, the dismissive manner in which McCain replied to the inquiry was nothing short of yelling “wham, bam thank you m’am” to a woman who was subjected to most intense political teardowns in American political history in the course of trying to help McCain achieve his presidential dreams.
Fortunately for Governor Palin, McCain has about as much credibility within the party as the Zimbabwean Dollar does in the world of finance.
Palin’s selection as running mate was the unarguable high-water point of the McCain effort. Enthusiasm for the GOP ticket shot through the rough and led to the Republican National Convention gaining more viewers than the Democrats’ despite the fact the latter was carried on more media outlets while the former had to compete against the kickoff of the NFL’s regular season.
US Senator Saxby Chambliss, an early supporter of McCain’s and by no means a grassroots conservative, credited his big re-election margin in no small part to the energy Palin brought to his runoff effort.
Casting an eye towards 2012, Palin in many ways is in the same situation Agnew was after the Republican ticket’s landslide victory in 1972.
Agnew, who was also detested by the media and loathed by the political establishment, was beloved by the party base and was the favorite to win the GOP presidential nomination in 1976. Even Ronald Reagan could not have stopped him. But Agnew’s past (and it turned out his present as well) torpedoed his future.
The reason why Palin is so popular with the Republican hoi polloi is because she is more like us than any candidate that has been nominated for national office in decades. She’s not polished, not Washingtonian, not of Mayflower lineage, not Ivy League, not eastern seaboard. That’s why the Georgetown crowd treats Palin’s ascension to a spot on the national ticket as if she had won a raffle, having not earned it by being born to the right family or intellectually prepared by the right university. Having contempt for Palin was almost trendy in Democratic and Republican circles despite the fact she had more governmental executive experience than McCain, Obama and Biden together.
Palin’s most egregious sin is that she’s common. Though that is not a bad thing for a party that paid a high price for being perceived as out of touch.
The Republican nomination in 2012 will be Palin’s to lose if she seeks it, with the Alaskan benefiting from 100% name recognition, Obama-like fundraising potential from a horde of small dollar donors and a sizable backlash vote from the Huckabucks, social conservatives upset about the poor treatment she received from both the liberal mainstream and the pro-Romney conservative media.
Republican Palin-haters would be wise to either warm up to her folksy speaking style or continue to allow their haughtiness trump their adherence to capitalistic principles.