Thursday, September 4, 2008

How a baby could decide who's next US president

(if conspiracy theorists are right)

Published Date: 04 September 2008
PITY John McCain. For months he struggled to impose himself in an election that was all about Barack Obama. Now the spotlight has finally shifted to his own campaign, but only to focus on a stream of revelations about his vice-presidential choice, Sarah Palin.
The Alaska governor was guaranteed an audience for her first televised address last night, but nothing she was likely to say could match the fascination with a daily diet of fresh disclosures about her colourful life.

First was the embarrassment over her apparent support for the Alaska Independence Movement, motto: Alaska First, which cuts across the Republican convention's slogan Country First.

Then there's Troopergate, in which the state is investigating allegations that she fired Alaska's public security chief because he did not fire a state trooper engaged in a custody battle with Mrs Palin's sister.

Also in the mix is her addiction to "pork barrel" spending, a practice Mr McCain vehemently opposes: as mayor of Wasilla, she raised £15 million in federal funds for the town, population 9,000.

And then there are the polar bears. Mrs Palin has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Alaska, joined by big oil companies, against the US government, demanding that the "endangered species" status of polar bears be lifted to allow new drilling.

In a publicity gem for the Obama campaign, she has intervened to ensure that a commemorative quarter dollar coin issued this week features not a polar bear but a grizzly.

And then there is "Babygate".

Monday's revelation that her daughter Bristol, 17, is five months pregnant by her ice-hockey player boyfriend, Levi Johnston, also 17, is not in itself damaging, but does undermine her claim to back family values.

More damaging is what it says about Mr McCain and his rush to find a VP. The fact she made the disclosure three days after being nominated, and that Mr McCain began vetting her only the day before she was picked, suggests he did not know of the matter.

The blogosphere is, meanwhile, in a frenzy over speculation that Mrs Palin's fifth child, Trig, born last April, is in fact the son of Bristol.

This speculation stems from the circumstances of the birth. By Mrs Palin's account, her waters broke on 17 April while she was at a Dallas conference. Instead of going to a local hospital, she gave her speech and took an 11-hour flight home, all the while suffering contractions, to have the baby in a local clinic.

It was to quash rumours she was covering for Bristol that Mrs Palin went public with the news of her daughter's pregnancy, pointing out that, at five months in, it was impossible for Bristol to have given birth in April.

In other circumstances, these revelations might be water under the bridge. This "baggage" is no heavier than that of either Mr McCain or, arguably, Mr Obama; the only difference being all the revelations have come at once. But they feed into criticism that she is unsuited to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, the more so with revelations that until last year she had never travelled abroad.

"She has zero foreign experience, zero," said David Gergen, a former White House adviser. "When the Republicans had the assertion that Barack Obama had no experience, they were making progress with that argument. Now they have selected someone with even less foreign policy exposure."

None of that fazes conservatives, who see her as one of their own, with a zeal for reform and a delight in the battle. As mayor of Wasilla in 1996, she reduced her own salary, sacked staff and cut taxes by 40 per cent. Elected as governor on an anti-sleaze ticket, Mrs Palin has enjoyed approval ratings of 70-80 percent.

Last night, Mr McCain's team came out fighting. "This nonsense is over," declared senior adviser Steve Schmidt in a written statement. "The McCain campaign will have no further comment about our long and thorough (vetting] process."

The McCain campaign has also scheduled a news conference to defend Mrs Palin's experience, and released a new advert in key states, an indication that advisers are concerned a flurry of criticism may be taking a toll.

How pressure from Republicans' right wing led McCain to make hasty decision

JOHN McCain's controversial decision to pick outsider Sarah Palin as his running mate stems from an abrupt change of direction forced on him by conservatives in his own party.

Mr McCain had built his primary campaign around a liberal social agenda, hoping to win over centrist swing voters at the November election.

Instead, he appears to have caved in to pressure from conservatives who told him to move to the right or they would not campaign for him.

Unable to gain a polling lead over Barack Obama, Mr McCain has done several about-turns.

He has dropped opposition to the Bush administration's tax cuts for the top 1 per cent of the population, and he has joined conservatives in calling for illegal immigrants to be rounded up and deported.

Most significantly, he has dropped his opposition to the official Republican platform, which seeks to ban abortion.

People this is a pretty interesting article - including public comments - in toto.
To read the rest click here.

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