James Fallows: Palin “is exactly like… Clarence Thomas”

James Fallows, who writes for Atlantic magazine, made the following comment about McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for VP:

The Palin pick is not like the choice of Dan Quayle. But it is exactly like the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. That is, an unbelievably obvious but potentially effective attempt to jiu-jitsu the standard identity politics of the moment in a way that flummoxes the Democrats. I would spell out the logic but I think it’s obvious and am at a computer for only sixty seconds.

…the comparison should be with Clarence Thomas — with this one interesting difference. Thomas was a shrewd choice not simply because his race made it more complicated for Democrats to oppose him but also because, once confirmed, all evidence suggested to conservatives that he’d be the kind of Justice they were looking for. In Palin’s case, this seems to be a choice that looks forward to Election Day, and not one day beyond that.

I couldn’t have said it better. I would add the following comments.

The Palin pick strikes me as a moderate reward, high risk decision by McCain.

Yes, her selection has served to take the spotlight off the Obama campaign-for now.

But here’s the thing. Obama ended the Democratic Convention on a high. He got a nice “convention bounce” from it.

The GOP’s main campaign tactic has been to attack Obama. The negative campaigning has been overshadowed by Palin and now, Gustav. That’s a plus for Obama, in my opinion.

Meanwhile, the “novelty” of a woman candidate is not really that great. She’s no Hillary Clinton; in fact, she seems like the very palest of imitations of Clinton. Palin’s selection is not even that historic: Geraldine Ferraro was chosen for Democratic VP over 20 years ago. The media is not going to fawn over Palin because she’s a woman.

Indeed, just the opposite may happen. As a new face on the national scene, the media will go full bore to see who and what she is as a person and a politician. Every gaffe and stumble will be magnified under the glare of the media spotlight, and it’s fair to say she’s untested in these circumstances. The pressure on her could be enormous.

My view of public opinion on Palin is, most (non-Republicans) fear she is not qualified. The GOP will need to devote (media) resources to prop up her image. Those resources could have been used to go after Obama.

So yes, McCain is getting a lot of coverage from this, in the short term. But I don’t think the Palin selection raises McCain’s positive ratings (among non-GOP) voters; the effect is probably neutral, at best. Meanwhile, it will have no effect on Obama’s positives or negatives (or at least, none that I can see now).

Bottom line: I think there’s more potential that Palin can hurt McCain, then there is that she will help. All of this remains to be seen, of course, but it will certainly make things a lot more interesting through election day.

PS, this video shows Republican/conservative pundits Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough shaking their heads about the idea of a Sarah Palin VP selection.

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