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Susan Estrich
5 Feb 2016
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Sarah Palin Mattered


For years I've been dining out on the story of the 1988 vice presidential debate, where Lloyd Bentsen literally cleaned Dan Quayle's clock — "You're no Jack Kennedy" — resulting in a huge increase in his own approval ratings and virtually no bump at all for the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket.

Quayle and Spiro T. Agnew have long been Exhibits A and B buttressing the conventional wisdom that people vote for president, not vice president; that having the better candidate for the No. 2 slot is all but irrelevant to winning the election; and that anytime you see one of those "who would you rather have a heartbeat away from the presidency" ads, it's an almost certain sign that the campaign running it is a heartbeat away from defeat.

Most of the time, the interest in the vice presidential nominee peaks in the hours leading up to the announcement. The minute we know who it is, we — the media, the country and especially the voters — lose interest.

So it was for Joe Biden. The run-up to Obama's vice presidential announcement had the media in a frenzy. Far-fetched rumors were flying. Then the announcement was made, and that was that. Sure, Biden. Right. Did anyone vote for Barack Obama because of Biden? Maybe not. Then again, did anyone vote against him because of the Delaware senator? Why would they? A perfect vice presidential selection.

Sarah Palin was another story. Her selection, and this election, may change forever the conventional wisdom about vice presidential nominees. Whether a good choice can help you remains to be established; my Bentsen story may still be controlling on that issue. But it should now be clear that a bad choice — and Palin was most certainly a bad choice — can do great harm to a presidential campaign.

The fact that McCain's top people are talking out of school about Palin's weaknesses is a sign of just how bad a choice she was. She hurt them. She should not escape unscathed. They are clearly angry.

Gov. Palin has denied that she demanded the fancy clothes. It doesn't matter. If she had proved herself to be up to the job, no one would care so much about her clothes.

She has also denied that she was confused about whether Africa was a country or a continent, and about which countries were part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The fact that anyone could believe a candidate for vice president was capable of being that stupid is enough. But if Palin herself proved one thing, in her interview with Katie Couric, in her phone conversation with the Nicolas Sarkozy impersonator, even in her denunciation of her Republican critics as "jerks" and her effort to rehabilitate herself with Greta Van Susteren, it is that she had no business being on a national ticket.

I don't know whether she was just too arrogant to realize she needed help before facing Couric, as her critics allege. I don't know if the fact of the call with the Canadian comedian was a staff error. But it's her voice sounding like an idiot talking to the pseudo-French president. She was the one who couldn't name a Supreme Court case other than Roe, much less point to a single newspaper that she reads. The Palin who whines to Greta that she just doesn't know how the "top echelon" of campaigns work is best off not finding out. If she is the future of the Republican Party, then Democrats can rejoice because it means the Republicans have no future.

Ultimately, the denunciation of the Alaska governor by McCain's staffers calls into question McCain's judgment in choosing her, which is why he had to stop it. A 72-year-old candidate, especially a maverick who has spent his life fighting for principle, might have been expected to exercise greater care in selecting his No. 2. Behind in the polls at the time, McCain made a political decision instead of a principled one, a candidate's choice instead of a president's.

To be fair, he probably didn't know Palin well enough to grasp how hopelessly unqualified she was. She might have been a star in the rough, smarter than anyone could have known, able to rise to the occasion. But she wasn't. She isn't.

It may be that the economy was too big a hurdle for McCain to overcome, even with a more qualified running mate. But the fact that his choice of Palin almost certainly contributed to his defeat is, in the long run, an important lesson of this election. Vice presidents should matter. And the only way they will is if would-be presidents understand the limits of my old Bentsen story. Sarah Palin should ensure that.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



18 Comments | Post Comment
Everything you are stating in your article comes straight from the propaganda storybook created by the left-wing media. You offered no new opinions. All you did was spin off of untrue stories told over and over again to the sheeples from the media. Why don't you really tell us why you hate Palin and are happy she lost? Offer up some real thoughts. In all honestly, I want to know why you and liberal women across the nation hate her so badly that you continue to destroy her reputation and credibility. Why do you want to spin her into an unqualified idiot, just as those around you spun Pres. Bush into one? I really want to know your personal reasons guiding you to continue your defamation of Palin. What is it about her that really gets to you? I really want to know because then maybe I can have insight into other women, who talk just like you.,
Comment: #1
Posted by: Ellen Bronstein
Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:14 AM
Dear Susan,
I agree with the person who asked you why you are so against Sarah Palin, as well as others who disliked her to the point of not voting for McCain because of his choice of her!! She has accomplished everything to which most of us could look forward. Two other v.p choices, men, Agnew and Quaile (sp) were treated almost the same. People kept putting McCain in the grave. People who would not have been able to keep up with him during the campaign.

It took me quite a while to be able to find a way to email you. I hope this reaches you., so I am including a totally different subject below.

This letter is mainly for the article in Tallahassee Democrat Nov ll, 2008 regarding 'For gays, election brought a bitter end'. It makes me wonder how you determine from what news you draw your conclusions.
It is true, that while the California law was in effect that 'marriages' were legal. While it was legal, they should be able to keep their status, otherwise, what is the use of laws in effect.
However, now that the majority of voters have spoken, that should be the end of it.
There are screams against 2 main churches who only encouraged their members to vote to keep the meaning and term of Marriage as it is.
Some states indicated that no legal forms of unions could be included.
That does not exclude 'partners' from going to the lawyer to have papers drawn up to be the caretakers or the hospital visitors or the decision makers for their partners. What they apparently want, is to force businesses and even volunteer groups to include them in their formats whether or not the businesses want to include them.
Check nations that have gone downhill in government when morals publically go down.

HERE IS MY POINT: You said it was false that schools were being forced to indoctrinate students regarding 'gays' and churches being forced to perform such unions. Years ago, a church was forced to keep on the payroll a homosexual who would not change his life, even though the church gave him chances to change. What is the use of being an organization if it is forced to have unbelievers in it. Of course, after that, musical instrumental churches had to go with volunteers.
It has been reported by news media that schools are now having classes in treating 'gay' families decently. Well, it is true. To be fair, why aren't the classes strictly on treating everyone fairly???
It has been reported that a school used a field trip excuse to send first graders to their lesbian teacher's wedding ceremony. When parents complained about their children being used for the propaganda without the parents' permission, they were told that the media had a right to use their pictures as they see fit, because it was a public event. Any other use of the children without parents' permission would have been illegal!! How many weddings invite the media?
I would certainly like to know where you get the idea that forcing a lifestyle on the majority (even on aetheists!) is not a slippery slope!!

As I said above, as to the individuals who are in such situations, I do not have a prejudice against them, because everyone needs to be treated kindly. I even know some such 'choice' people. However, they did not push their lifestyle onto me. I do have prejudice against the activist 'gays'. My beliefs aystem is against that lifestyle. While food and other groups helping the needy in one way or another go wanting because of lack of income, some businesses calling themselves family oriented are sending money to the Gay Games and magazines. Businesses do best by staying neutral or helping the needy or the ill. There is God, Jesus, Holy Spirit. Adultry in any form is harmful to nations and individuals. If one does not believe that, take a look at the murders and the diseases. We seem to be blindly following the avantgarde entertainment programs - heroes swearing of all kinds, heroes having sex with all kinds, usually put down of religion, tho now that may be improving. Sure, they are just the mirror of society, but it is a vicious circle.
This is a letter to Susan Estrich.
I do not blame anyone else for not reading this long opinion.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Sheri
Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:12 AM
Ma'am;...She helped the republican side, and hurt the republican side, and best of all, she kept a lot of republicans home voting with their buts against idealogical republicanism... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:58 AM
I would not vote for Barack Obama because he does not represent my viewpoints whatsoever. Sarah Palin made a vote for John McCain palitable. So if since she is such a political nothing why is she still in the news and why is the press still attacking?
Comment: #4
Posted by: jbaugher
Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:28 PM
I just wanted to say thank you from single mothers. I happened to catch Neil Cavuto the other day when you were on.
I have been an LPN for 24 yrs. and am currently a fulltime college student. I have one son, and even on my wages as a nurse (which on average was about 24K a yr.) I have had to live in one bedroom apartments with my son just to keep a roof over our heads. My last job as an LPN was working at a homeless shelter. During my time there (2001-2005) I saw at least 5 hardworking single mothers a week lose housing. They were not getting child support (we have a very broken child support system folks). By the time we found these families, they had been living in a car for a few days- they were literally bitten from head to toe with mosquito bites.
I am VERY frightened about single mothers with children in this economy. Even for myself, I am about to graduate with a degree in Art Therapy in May 09, and do not know if my student loans will pay for my last semester.
I do however plan on advocating for single mothers. We are desperately under represented because we are too busy surviving.
Thanks for mentioning us on FOX.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Kelli
Thu Nov 13, 2008 5:41 AM
Ms. Palin only mattered to those conservatives who decided because of her to hold their nose and vote for McCain.
McCain never had a chance. He was the weakest candidate the Republican party has ever run. It still took 600 million dollars, campaign finance fraud and acorn fraud to elect Obama. Obama also won despite Biden, who is by far the dimmest bulb in the box.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Charles
Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:38 AM
Susan just illustrates the old saying, that women are often their own worst enemies. Palin was frankly no worse than Obama, who had even less actual experience, but a lot more support and smarter handling. The blueprint on how to wreck a woman candidate was perfected by the extreme left on Hillary (who might not be blameless), and it was continued on Palin. She was hit with trivialities that Obama never had to face or face constantly. Palin did well for someone operating in such a short time frame, with unusual scrutiny and attack not normally given to a VP candidate.

Susan never helped anyone win a Presidential campaign, and her judgement of McCain's campaign shows it. She'd have been a disaster for him as an advisor. Her attacks on Palin should be taken with a big grain of salt.

Comment: #7
Posted by: AL HANDA
Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:56 AM
After reading your column on trashing Sarah Palin, I can only say one thing. You must be very jealous to have written an opinion like that. You certainly do not have the latest facts. Could you be Governor of a state like Alaska? I don't think so. Thank God for people like Sarah Palin.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Thomas Mitchell
Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:54 PM
I find it amazing that you and the press have give Joe Biden a pass when it came to his lack of knowledge regarding who was president of the United States when the stock market crashed when the USA had its economic crises in October. He said FDR was president and that he would have gone on television to talk to the American people over this crisis has hardly been mentioned. Considereing that FDR was not president and there TV was not available, that would have been quite a feat. Kathy C. did not pick up on it and not much was said of these remarks by the press. I have to wonder about Obama's choice for VP. I also have to wonder if Kathy C's not following up on this really showed her bias or she not know that what he said was not correct.

Comment: #9
Posted by: sgarske
Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:34 PM
To Ellen Bronstein above:
In all honestly, I want to know why you and liberal women across the nation hate her so badly that you continue to destroy her reputation and credibility.
end quote
Its a simple answer. Sarah Palin is Pro Life. Since she does not conform to the typical view from feminists, they chose to rip her apart instead.
To Susan Estrich: I am very disappointed with this article. Although I do not agree with you politically I have always enjoyed your columns. But this one, I have to say, was nothing but a rehash of "Bumper Snickers" and sound bite mentality. Clearly you have chosen to take the low road with the majority of your fellow journalists and not put any effort into researching these "bumper snickers". For if you had you would have found the truth and not made such childish remarks.
For some reason I keep hearing you say "Well everybody knows that Sara is stupid..." Repeating the line does not make it so. Do you now suffer from Sarah Derangement Syndrome?
All the best
Comment: #10
Posted by: Kevin
Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:48 PM
Boy you struck a cord with this 62 year old retired professional. I was encouraged to see that the comments to you on the Sarah Palin column are the same as I felt. I don't know why the papers print such garbage as you write. You obviously feel threatened and maybe inferior to Ms Palin. I notice when you talk about an ugly and bitter woman like Hillary you seem to light up with happiness and obviously don't feel threatened. Ms Palin speaks to the average person and we understand her. I can guarantee you that John McKean got many more votes than he would have without her. I for one had decided that I could not vote for him, but after she joined the ticket I did. Was she perfect, not by a long shot, but she was real. I was totally comfortable that she could learn what she needed too in a short while. How hard could it be to become as smart as 99% of our legislators, after all, most of them are just lawyers. I will sit back and wait till people like you have to eat your words. Sarah Palin is not going away, in spite of people like you who make up our biased news coverage. Just have your fun at others expense and continue to attack those that have so much more going for them than you do.
Comment: #11
Posted by: johnny b
Fri Nov 14, 2008 6:50 AM
Yes Obama won and as an American we all should support him in his efforts. But, I am not some avid supporter of Palin but I find your column rather stupid. I don't think you realy want to start on this more experienced issue with Obama being a first time Senator and not even half way through that term. We can keep going on and on about that. If you want to talk about her being stupid hhmm let's see. Biden couldn't even properly define what are the V.P. duties, he didn't even know what article of The Constitution that the V.P. got their powers from. He defined the middle class totally different than his running mate Obama. The hint of his nickname "slow joe" should say enough.
Comment: #12
Posted by: s
Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:52 PM
In reading your column on Govenor Sarah Palin, I see you have bought in to the slander that was and is being spread about her. I would like to know if you have personally met Govenor Palin and can give an honest opinion of your own instead of listening to everyone else. It is distressing to me that another woman would be so vicious in her attacks on another. She was definitely a help to the ticket and had/has many supporters. Tream Sarah is evidence of this. Many of us like her because she does not talk the talk of the "washington elite" of which you are showing that you are and cannot identify with a woman like Sarah Palin. I am from Missouri and we identify with her. YOUR guy won! Get off your soapbox, quit gloating and move on. You have no idea if she lost the campaign for Republicans or not!!!

She does represent many Republicans and I do not think that is a victory for democrats. It is about getting back to the grass roots of the conservatives that I believe most americans are about, even though they lost their footing this go around. I am reserving commet on our new President-elect because we do not know who he is, what he stands for or what he will do. That is a lot more than President Bush was ever given by any of the left. Just remember what goes around comes around.
Comment: #13
Posted by: jturner
Sat Nov 15, 2008 7:14 AM
Susan,I have had a great deal of respect for you through the years but you are WRONG and extremely Vicious in this column.
I am a firm HILLARY person but Obama is the least qualified person ever to have bought this election.He has no experience to compare with Ms.Palin.She is very successful and deserves an apology for this HATE filled article of yours.If this were an honest election Hillary would be President elect and you know that for a fact!!
I voted against Socialism and his nothing resume.I voted for McCain/Palin to save this country. Sarah speaks differently but she is as bright as his hope and change matra. You need to get a perspective Susan.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Deanne
Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:03 PM
Susan - I am a conservative who usually enjoys reading your column for it's fairness. You are the sort of liberal I respect. Which is why I found this particular column so disappointing.

Whatever your opinion of Sarah Palin's qualifications, there is no question that her treatment by the media during this election was a low-point in the history of American journalism. Unfair doesn't begin to describe it. Hatchet job does. Her every word was subjected to ridicule while Barack "58 states" Obama and Joe "Roosevelt on TV" Biden got a big, shiny free pass. Did anyone ever ask what the Obama family's wardrobe cost? Did anyone ever ask Biden to list Supreme Court decisions? What papers he reads? Did anyone ever call him out for all the factual errors he made in the debate? Free pass. Over and over.

As a feminist, you should feel pride in Palin's accomplishments, regardless of ideology. I can't help but feel that if Palin were a man, the attacks from women on the left would have been less vicious. Which proves Camille Paglia right, feminists on the left are not interested in the advancement of women in general, only women who share their secular/pro-choice point of view. Shame.
Comment: #15
Posted by: Grayson Jordan
Wed Nov 19, 2008 8:37 AM
This coming from a supporter of a guy who doesn't know how many states there are? Really?
Comment: #16
Posted by: Michele
Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:39 PM
Nice article for a Grade A hypocrite. But meanwhile with your January 28, 2009 "An Inspiration Derailed" article about Caroline Kennedy you quote "I wanted Caroline Kennedy to serve in the Senate not because she deserves the job more than any other contedner - doubtless, there are others who have worked harder to be there - or because she knows the issues better. I wanted her to serve because her very presence on that floor, the presence of a woman who has throughout my life been larger than life, might inspire so many other girls to dream the sort of dream that our country's future depends upon." Oh, so only Democratic women who are unqualified are O.K. to be in a major political seat? What a jerk you are.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Peter
Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:25 AM
That an ignorant, completely unqualified opportunist like Palin could get the nomination at all is so frightening.
That so many people can't see her for what she is, is even more so.
I never thought I'd see the end of America in my lifetime and it's breaking my heart.
OH..there'll be a country here in 20 or 30 years. It'll probably even still be called 'The United States'. It won't be though. It's also unlikely it'll be a place most of the population is truly happy about.
Comment: #18
Posted by: GeorgeC
Wed Apr 13, 2011 10:21 AM
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