Hiding in Plain Sight
JOHN McCAIN selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate 23 days ago. Since then, Ms. Palin has not held a single news conference with the national media. She has answered only a handful of questions from voters and reporters. She sat down for a lengthy discussion with one nonpartisan interviewer, ABC's Charles Gibson, and granted another interview to conservative Sean Hannity of Fox News, as well as a sit-down with People magazine and some interviews with Alaska media. Where Dick Cheney made the rounds of five news shows the weekend after he was tapped by George W. Bush, Ms. Palin has not turned up on a single Sunday program.
Mr. McCain's selection of an inexperienced and relatively unknown figure was unsettling, and the campaign's decision to keep her sequestered from serious interchanges with reporters and voters serves only to deepen the unease. Mr. McCain is entitled to choose the person he thinks would be best for the job. He is not entitled to keep the public from being able to make an informed assessment of that judgment. Ms. Palin's speech-making skills are impressive, but the more she repeats the same stump speech lines, the queasier we get. Nor have her answers to the gentle questioning she has encountered provided any confidence that Ms. Palin has a grasp of the issues.
"Retreat is defeat in Iraq," as she told Mr. Hannity, is a slogan, not a vision for how to proceed. On Russia, Ms. Palin said, "What we have got to commit to also, especially when we talk to Russia -- no Cold War. We have got to know that our mind-set needs to be opportunity for pressure and diplomacy and sanctions if need be as we keep our eye on a country like Russia." What sanctions does Ms. Palin have in mind?
Her answers on issues of domestic policy were hardly more reassuring. Asked what was behind the financial meltdown, Ms. Palin cited "the corruption on Wall Street," with no explanation of what corruption she was referring to. Asked whether the government had made the right call in bailing out Fannie Mae and AIG, Ms. Palin floundered: "Well, you know, first, Fannie and Freddie, different because quasi-government agencies there where government had to step in because the adverse impacts all across our nation, especially with homeowners, is just too impacting. We had to step in there. I do not like the idea, though, of taxpayers being used to bail out these corporations. Today, with AIG, important call there, though, because of the construction bonds and the insurance carrier duties of AIG. But, first and foremost, taxpayers cannot be looked to as the bailout, as the solution to the problems on Wall Street."
Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, who once referred to the media as his base, has himself become inaccessible. He promised to hold weekly news conferences as president but has not held a news conference as a candidate in more than a month. A candidate who stiffs the media on the campaign trail isn't likely to perform better once in office.