We know that John McCain is perfectly willing to use the economic crisis to advance his political interests, but is he willing to use a 17-year old girl?
In a campaign lurching from cynical tactic to frenzied ploy as fast as John McCain’s, it’s difficult to guess what tomorrow’s political news holds. The senator has now fully committed himself to the kinds of reckless, desperate tactics that have given pause to even steadfast conservatives. How a presidential candidate conducts his campaign is a good indicator of how he will govern his country when in office, and in the conduct of his campaign in the past month we’ve been given a perfect illustration of why John McCain is the worst possible thing for America at the moment.
When a campaign tries to tilt the pinball machine as often as possible, there’s almost no point in trying to guess what strategy will come next. So far these maneuvers almost seem to have been chosen more for unpredictability than political prudence. Not many of us would have guessed that McCain would try to cancel the first debate, and all indications are that it was a risky gambit that did not pay off. The frantic accusations that the New York Times is “not even a journalistic organization” might play well with the GOP base, but I suspect don’t even pass the laugh test among the critical undecided voters McCain is trying to court. He and Palin are rapidly becoming a laughingstock and for once, the media is doing its job, calling out their lies and refusing to defer to the usual false balance that is the central linchpin of the Rovian media strategy. The referees have finally realized that they are being worked, and they don’t like it.
The London Times is reporting on what I think has a very good potential to be the next bizarre twist in this story: A high-profile storybook wedding between Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston.
In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one – the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.
Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”
Johnston was greeted with a handshake and friendly slap on the back by McCain in St Paul, Minnesota, and treated as a member of the family during the Republican national convention when he appeared on stage after Palin’s speech.
The ice-hockey player wrote on his MySpace page he was a “f****** redneck” and stated, “I don’t want kids.” But a McCain insider predicted he would marry Bristol whenever his future mother-in-law wanted. “It’s a shotgun wedding. She kills things,” the source joked.
Assuming any of this is true and that this is even a possibility, it makes it clear that the campaign holds the media and the country in even lower esteem than you’d think. Do they really think that the American people will forgive the fact that this reckless fool failed to put country first in choosing a total incompetent as running mate, just because of a sham wedding thrown together at the last minute? I know Americans love weddings, and we even love to mix our weddings with politics sometimes, but to do this would absolutely reek of cynical opportunism. How would they explain the fact that the date wasn’t set until after McCain tanked in the polls? How to jive the perfectly reasonable requests to keep Bristol out of the campaign dialogue with the massive media coverage necessary to make a wedding the week long distraction the anonymous source is hoping for?
A month ago, I would have thought that the very idea of trying this was ludicrous, but now I’m dead certain that they’re at least considering it. Depending on how spectacularly Palin fails at the debate this Thursday, a wedding might be one of the only ways they have to try to salvage Palin’s terrible favorables. If they do go for it, it will be an object lesson in why it’s a Very Bad Idea to center your campaign around high-stakes gambles. Most Americans will see the rank hypocrisy of Shoving Bristol into the limelight for no apparent reason other than the political one. Nakedly playing political games with people’s lives, especially children’s lives, is beyond reprehensible. If this wedding truly is in the offing, it will be a bridge (to nowhere) too far, even for McCain. It will not so much end his campaign as prove that it is already finished.