I can imagine RN sitting thoughtfully in the chair in the corner of his office, his feet on the ottoman, yellow legal pad on his lap. He’d already have written notes of support to Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain, perhaps dictated a page or two (or ten) of advice for her acceptance speech. He’d be outraged, if not especially surprised, by the brutality of the attacks against her.
At the same time, his mind would drift back to news reports saying that McCain had hoped to pick Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge but had been dissuaded at the last minute by fears that a pro-choice VP would further discourage conservatives. A callow aide might reply what, so conservatives would rather have Sen. Obama? RN would smile a little sardonically and spin his reading glasses in his right hand while tugging on an ear stem with his lower lip. The aide wouldn’t need to say anything. He’s know. Many of our friends on the right would rather be right than President.
Just before noon, the President would go home for lunch with Mrs. Nixon. In his out box, we’d find a clipping (it’s still the old days in this fantasy; RN actually would clip things out of the newspaper — not that he subscribed to the Denver Post, but hey, it’s my fantasy) with the final paragraph underlined in blue fountain pen ink:
The more she is criticized and mocked, the more the red-meat faction will adore her. It will make their case that only the snobs of the chattering class could possibly question the fitness of the hard-charging reformer who is governor of America’s largest state and commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard.
McCain knows how this game is played, after all, and Palin fits well into the winning pattern of Republican vice presidential candidates. The more she is criticized, the more the base loves her — and the more he’s stuck with her.
And he’d have written in the margin: “They’re stuck with her, too.”
RN didn’t go in much for armchair-and-ottoman psychoanalysis. But imagine the frustration of John McCain these last 18 months, dragging his war hero status and 100% pro-life voting record from one end of the country to the other only to be denounced as a liberal apostate because of tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and ANWR. We must’ve heard Sean Hannity say it 100 times.
Securing the nomination nonetheless and preparing to try to win undecideds and independents, his mind first goes to his friend and colleague Joe Lieberman, 1000% solid on national security, one of the toughest, brightest people in politics and one of the most popular independent politicians in the country.
Or he thinks about that big state over there that Obama couldn’t win, the one next to Ohio with the popular ex-governor who literally invented Homeland Security.
But McCain sits in meeting after meeting with aides who show him polls about unenthusiastic Republicans and even delegates. Tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and ANWR. And finally, the blink decision maker with faith in his gut — the born risk taker who blinked T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code when his North Vietnamese captors paraded him before the cameras — reached once again for the sheaf of memos and backgrounders in the folder marked “Palin.”
He reflected on the strong impression she had already made on him, the courage and resilience she had demonstrated in her public and family lives.
And he said to himself, “If this works, she’ll be great. And if it doesn’t, maybe…well, maybe it serves them right.”