1776er | 2008 election loss falls squarely on John McCain’s shoulders


The best political decision John McCain ever made was selecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate.


1776er | May 7th, 2018

In his dying days John McCain is wrestling with himself. He is rationalizing his life and his life’s work. He is rationalizing his biggest failure in life which, in retrospect seems almost unfathomable, his 2008 loss to a first term Senator that nobody ever heard of.

He is doing exactly what Hillary is going to do when she gets the final prognosis.

Blame everybody but themselves for their inexplicable personal failure at the moment of decision.

Neither McCain or Hillary can rest easy with the knowledge that it was THEIR failures and inadequacies and self-delusions that lead to their Hindenburg moment when it all went down in flames.

In McCain’s case he can tell himself: “Rest easy, John; IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT!; It was that incompetent Palin woman; SHE did the campaign in. Not your fault John. Rest easy. Rest easy now.”

In Hillary’s case????

Just a guess: “That’s right Hill, rest easy; IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT; It was….it was… A Vast Right Wing Conspiracy…. It was….it was racist, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic, immigrant hating xenophobes, gun toting, bible thumping, rubes, hicks and a whole basket full of crazy Deplorables ….It was…It was…. JAMES COMEY!… It was THE RUSSIANS! Not your fault Hill. Rest easy. Rest easy now.”

Thing is, history doesn’t give a rat’s ass about one’s dying attempts to ease one’s conscience over the biggest failures of one’s life. History is an objective judge.

Some things for John McCain to think about as he prepares to meet his maker:

Take a look at this Real Clear Politics tracking of the polls in your campaign, John.

Now John, I want you to slide your pointer over to August 29, 2008. You were trailing Obama on that day 47.7% to 43.8%. 4 points, John. 4 points behind and going nowhere fast. You remember what happened on that day, John? You announced Sarah Palin as your running mate that day. What happened next, John? Slide the pointer over to Sept. 9, 2008, John. See that GAP UP in just 10 days, John? How do you explain that, John? That GAP UP?

What happened between August 29 and Sept. 9, John? Well, Sarah Palin stunned the nation with her Sept 3 speech to the Republican National Convention, that’s what! On the night of Sept. 3, 2008 you were trailing that rookie from Illinois by 6%, John. Then on Sept. 9, thanks to the ‘Palin Effect’, you found yourself LEADING by 2.5%, John. Nearly a 10 point swing in one week, John.

Now why did that amazing Palin Bounce happen, John?

After announcing Palin as the presumptive vice-presidential nominee, the McCain campaign received US $7 million in contributions in a single day mostly from the far right. According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey published on September 9, 2008, John McCain had gained huge support among white women voters since the announcement; he had not only surpassed the Democratic Party candidate Senator Barack Obama in white women voters, but also amassed a lead of five percentage points in the Gallup polls. [2]

John Zogby found that the effects of Palin’s selection were helping the McCain ticket since “She has high favorability numbers, and has unified the Republican Party.”

The choice received generally positive reactions from Republicans and conservatives. Victor Davis Hanson said, “the timing and choice were inspired.” Mark Steyn stated he was “happy” over the choice. Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell said of Palin, “She is strong. She is capable. She is articulate,” and suggested opponents should not underestimate her. Independent-Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said that McCain made a “bold choice” in picking a “maverick who has done exactly the same thing at the state level that he’s done at the federal level.”

But then, John, almost from the get go the PDS emerged within the can’t stand to win GOPE. The naysayers emerged. From the usual and predictable sources:

“However, some Republicans did not receive the choice favorably. Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post wrote, “The Palin selection completely undercuts the argument about Obama’s inexperience and readiness to lead … To gratuitously undercut the remarkably successful ‘Is he ready to lead’ line of attack seems near suicidal.” David Frum of National Review: “The longer I think about it, the less well this selection sits with me…. If it were your decision, and you were putting your country first, would you put an untested small-town mayor [sic] a heartbeat away from the presidency?”. Following an NBC interview, Peggy Noonan commented, “It’s over… the most qualified? No.”

Charles Krauthammer, David Frum, Peggy Noonan. Now there’s three winning aces for ya, John.

Your team, like Trump’s team, couldn’t or wouldn’t, give credit where credit was due. To Sarah Palin, the heart, mind, voice and face of the American Middle. Just couldn’t do it. So your team did her in. Undermined and sabotaged her efforts. All it took was for the message of that Palin Bounce and all that it implied to set the schemers IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY toward doing her in, clearing the path for the Mittster or some other reliable Republican loser in the 2012 contest.

Can you remember how you felt standing on that podium with Sarah Palin on that Sept 3 Convention celebration, John?

“Palin’s career in Alaska had shown maverick tendencies similar to McCain’s, and McCain hoped that Palin’s youth, reformist record, appeal to social conservatives, and appeal to disaffected Hillary Clinton voters would outweigh her lack of national and international visibility and experience. One of McCain’s aides privately remarked via an American football metaphor during the announcement: “We just threw long.” [3]

At the 2008 Republican National Convention, McCain was formally nominated by roll call on the night of September 3, following Palin’s vice-presidential acceptance speech. McCain himself appeared onstage at the convention for the first time following her speech, telling the cheering delegates, “Don’t you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?”

A poll taken just after the speech found that Palin was then slightly more popular than either Obama or McCain with a 58% favorability rating. Palin was also a draw with Catholic voters; the poll found that 54% favor Palin and 42% find her unfavorable, a 12% difference, while Joe Biden was viewed favorable by 49% to 47% unfavorable.

Palin also became a “ubiquitous presence on newsstands”, appearing on the cover of both Newsweek and Time, among others. The appearance on the cover of Time was particularly notable as Jay Carney, the newsmagazine’s Washington bureau chief, has been vocally critical on what he has said is a lack of media access to Palin, concerns which were dismissed by the McCain campaign.

The Gold Standard with Evangelicals, John. And with your average Middle American voter.

You made a bold, decisive and brilliant political move, John. The best political decision you ever made. And it worked! You threw long and scored. Put yourself ahead in the game by a touchdown late in the eternal Presidential Election cycle. You threw long and took the lead, John. Thanks to the Sarah Palin Effect. Early in the 4th Quarter you took the lead, John, with Sarah Palin’s help.

From 6 points down to 2.5% ahead in just 10 days, John. Think of it. You had the Big Mo going, John, thanks to Sarah Palin. All you had to do was turn her loose. But you didn’t. YOU, John. YOU mishandled the greatest political asset any presidential candidate could ever hope to have running at his side. YOU, John. YOU did that. YOU blew it, John. Nobody but YOU.

Well, just how exactly did you blow it, John? How did you fumble the game away in the 4th Quarter, John, after playing from behind and grabbing the lead?

You had Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, John. On the goal line. You had the most magnetic, popular, fresh new retail politician in America swinging for the fences. Just hand Sarah the ball on the goal line, John. Super Bowl victory inches away?

On September 24th, 2008, John McCain made the worst play call in Presidential Election history!

How’d that happen, John? Did Sarah Palin do that to you?

No, it was a self-inflicted coup de grace, John. You did this all by yourself.

“From mid-September to mid-October, however, the trend lines were all in Obama’s direction. For example, the RealClearPolitics electoral map went from an Obama 228–163 electoral vote lead on August 20 to a 227–207 McCain lead on September 17 and then back to a 306–157 Obama lead on October 24.” [4]

Here’s how you fumbled it away and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, John:

“In September 2008, the subprime mortgage crisis worsened and precipitated a liquidity crisis; the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was quickly followed by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, sale of Merrill Lynch, and government bailout of American International Group. At first McCain emphasized that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong”, but when questioned on that statement he clarified that the fundamentals refer to the American workforce. He then recast his message into emphasizing that the country’s economy was in “a total crisis”, condemning “greed”, and proposing that a national commission be set up to study the situation, akin to the 9/11 Commission. He later commented on the Federal Reserve loan of $85 billion to AIG by saying, “I didn’t want to do that…and I don’t think anybody I know wanted to do that.” McCain then said that government regulators had been “asleep at the switch” and said if he were president he would fire U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Christopher Cox.

On September 24, McCain announced that he would “suspend” his campaign and seek to delay a debate with Barack Obama scheduled for September 26 so that he could work with Congress toward a reworking of an agreement on the Paulson financial rescue plan. McCain urged Obama to do the same.

McCain’s grandstanding intervention helped dissatisfied House Republicans forestall a bailout plan that was otherwise close to agreement between the White House, Senate Republicans, and Congressional Democrats.

A hastily arranged bipartisan meeting was held at the White House on September 25, where McCain came across as unconstructive and ineffectual to Bush, who felt that McCain had forced him to hold a pointless meeting and then had said nothing at it.

Bush was dumbfounded by McCain’s behavior. He’d forced Bush to hold a meeting that the president saw as pointless — and then sat there like a bump on a log. Unconstructive, thought Bush. Unclear. Ineffectual. [1]

Two days later, McCain announced that he would resume his campaign, and he went ahead with the debate. Some commentators questioned whether the campaign had ever in fact been suspended, as McCain ads continued to play, McCain spokesmen continued giving statements criticizing Obama, and McCain campaign offices remained open, while McCain himself continued to make speeches and give interviews.

Sen. John McCain at economic crisis meeting.
Sept. 25, 2008 (White House photo)

So on September 24th, you suspend your campaign to save the country. You hustle back to DC to force a bipartisan meeting at the White House where your participation is described as unconstructive, unclear, and ineffectual.

A picture is worth a thousand words, John. Sitting like a bump on a log, John. You had nothing to say because, you had nothing to say. How did they put it again? Oh, yeah …. “unconstructive, unclear, and ineffectual”. Like a puffed up buffoon, with nothing to say because you had nothing to say.

Fumble. Unforced fumble in the 4th Quarter. Ballgame. See the polls collapse, John. You could never recover. THAT’S ALL ON YOU, JOHN. All of the collapse at the end of the game, John. It’s all on you.

Not Sarah Palin. All Sarah Palin did was give you the lead that any competent tactician should have been able to hold and expand. And you, John, YOU frittered it all away with dumb calls.

And now John McCain on his deathbed wrestling and tossing and turning in his agony trying to deal with and rationalizing his greatest life failure is laying it on Sarah Palin.

Now suddenly regrets that he hadn’t selected Joe Lieberman. Right, that old Lieberman Effect would have powered him past Obama 10 points in one week and made everybody forget the unfortunate suspension call and the unconstructive and ineffectual buffoonery at the end of the table in that long ago White House crisis meeting.

Well, John, rest easy. Do what you got to do to compose yourself and die in peace.

As for the rest of us, we will let history be the judge of campaign 2008.


Die Hard • John McLame’s final role


* Feature photo: Sarah Palin and John McCain at a campaign rally in Fairfax, Virgina
September 10th, 2008 • photo courtesy Rachael Dickson (this image has been modified)



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