It showed a certain character when he went with Sarah Palin -- the veep who could help him win -- rather than Joseph Lieberman -- the one he thought would best serve the country. Whether McCain thought that winning was more important than choosing the best person for the job*, or he is just so weak within his own party that her nomination was forced upon him, neither supports his "principled maverick" mythos.
The principles McCain claims to represent are at odds with both Palin's views and his choice to nominate her. McCain and Obama have both been echoing the mantra that Washington needs to change. While nominating a female candidate and Beltway outsider might superficially appear to support McCain's "change" agenda, look deeper and the illusion disappears.
Sarah Palin first ran for mayor of Whatabigmoosie** in 1996, a town with a population of about 9000 people. She won by a margin of about 600 votes to 400. Yeah, she was a small-timer, but what she won isn't as important as how she won it. You would think that a local election like that would be about local issues like potholes, good schools, and why the police have to go out to Leroy's sports bar twice a week. Wholesome, small-town issues being debated by wholesome, small-town men and women. Over mooseburgers. At a hockey fight.
The actual picture is one of a woman who won what was supposed to be a non-partisan position by focusing on the Republican wedge issues of God, guns, gays, and gestation. [source] During the campaign, she claimed she would be Walawala's first Christian mayor, which led the incumbent to later ask just what he was.
Once in office, she immediately fired several key city employees who weren't loyal to her very right-wing agenda, including the head librarian of Watchagonnadoaboutit. The librarian's firing was revoked after a public outcry. But if you can think of a less agenda-driven job than small-town librarian, you have more imagination than me. Exhibited Bushian levels of paranoia and demands for loyalty, she banned city employees from speaking to the media without her approval.
In short, this is a person who puts party above country, who is willing -- hell, eager -- to inflame political tensions for her own gain. Partisan rancor is, by admission of both presidential candidates, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to getting things done. But those political tensions, that divisiveness, seems to be this woman's lifeblood. She has more in common with Ann Coulter than her running mate.
Her record on earmarks doesn't live up to her reformist hype or her running mate's famous criticisms. As mayor of Watutsi, she hired a cutthroat Republican lobbyist to get her a bucket of that sweet cash flowing out of Washington. Her town ended up with as much earmark cash as Boise, Idaho, a city with ten times the population.
Once she became Governor of Alaska, she did say "no thank you" to the Bridge to Nowhere". But that was after she first said "i can has bridj to nowher?", then "kthxbai".*** She only said "no thank you" after making sure she would be able to use the money for other Alaska projects, rather than give it back to the Treasury. What a sacrifice.
Washington: "Here's a bunch of money, but you have to spend it on something stupid."
Washington: "Ummm... actually, we just realized how stupid the stupid thing really was. We're canceling the stupid thing."
Palin: "You must feel like an idiot right now."
Washington: "Can we have the money back?"
Palin: "Just how would that be fair?"
Palin's nomination is the last and best proof you need of the long road McCain has traveled, from the man who would denounce Jerry Falwell as an "agent of intolerance" in 2000 to a man who would choose an agent of intolerance as his VP today. From a man who tried to introduce a climate change bill in 2003, to a man who nominated a woman who doesn't believe in climate change today. From a man who fought with the rightmost wing of the Republican party a few years ago, to a man who kowtows to them now.
To elect McCain now is to elect an empty suit, wholly under the control of the same forces that he himself ran against in 2000, and the same forces that have made the last eight years an unmitigated disaster. The tragedy is almost Shakespearean. McCain's tragic flaw is his own belief that this country needs him, and his willingness to sacrifice everything to make that happen. Without the things he sacrificed, he's no longer the man for the job.
* In his mind, not mine, though I would vastly prefer Lieberman as vice president.
** Whatever. Really, why care?
*** Stolen from Stephen Colbert, then translated into lolspeak to cover my tracks.