John McCain’s Dan Quayle


Let’s put things in perspective: The United States faces many problems that threaten our way of life, our standing in the world, and the planet itself: two wars, a recession, an energy quagmire, an overheated planet, a health care crisis, unlawful immigration, and a loss of respect around the world.

Presidential candidates and thoughtful Americans agree that this election is one of the most important in American history—the problems are massive, the threats to us are real, the differences between the candidates are great, and our future as a nation may depend on the choice we make for our next president. We need our best and brightest people to lead us into an uncertain future.

In these critical times, John McCain called on Sarah Palin to be his vice-president–a first-term governor of Alaska who he met once before he offered her the job— a cynical display of gender politics—a political gimmick that insulted the seriousness of the times in which we live.

Have you ever experienced something and felt confused: suddenly up was down, right was wrong, sane was insane, and you felt the rug was pulled out from under your experience of life? Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort we feel whenever what we know, value, or believe differs from what we experience.

I felt disoriented when I read that John McCain called Sarah Palin his soul mate. I felt like up was down when Cindy McCain said that Palin has national security experience because Alaska is close to Russia. I felt disoriented when I listened to Republican leaders assert with straight faces that Palin has “good judgment” and is qualified to be president on day one. Suddenly the Republican attacks on Barack Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience became disingenuous.

I think David Gergen, advisor to many presidents, felt crazy too: “But what surprises me so much is that John McCain again and again and again has said the transcendent issue of our times is the fight against terrorism and that we live in a dark, dangerous world. And the most important thing is to have a commander in chief that’s ready on day one. So, here to reach out—and he’s criticized Barack Obama as not being ready—to reach out to Sarah Palin who has no national security experience, no national security exposure, and say you’re my standby and I’m 72 years old and I’ve had some bouts with melanoma….”

I began to feel more aligned with reality when Palin’s mother-in-law—in a moment of candor–said, “I’m not sure what she brings to the ticket other than she’s a woman and a conservative. Well, she’s a better speaker than McCain,” Faye Palin said with a laugh.

I felt a little saner when I read a commentary in the Anchorage Daily News: “We’re not sure she’s a competent governor of Alaska. And yet McCain, who is no spring chicken, has decided she’s the best choice to replace him as president if he should win and then fall afoul of the Grim Reaper.” Sarah Palin?

Americans are not as dumb as politicians think: A Gallup poll shows that Palin is seem as less qualified to be president than any vice presidential selection since Dan Quayle in 1988.

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was kind when she described McCain’s first presidential decision as “a strange choice.” I think it is a reckless and irresponsible act of desperation by a man incredibly immature for his 72 years. McCain put his country last at a moment in history that calls for Americans to put excellence first. I hope for the good of the country that this folly fails.

(Heuerman, Ph.D. is an organizational consultant, former Secret Service agent, and former Star Tribune executive. He lives in Moorhead, MN)