On August 29, John McCain introduced Sarah Palin as his running mate. Almost immediately, she was drawn back into virtual seclusion. That speaks volumes about Palin’s readiness for the job, and about McCain’s confidence in her readiness. Fully 19 days have elapsed, or nearly a third of the time remaining before Election Day, and Palin continues to be under wraps. Finally, the McCain campaign announced, for the first time ever Palin will answer some questions from voters (but not reporters) at a townhall meeting with McCain.
Zounds! What a democracy we’ve got in America, where even a vice presidential candidate eventually has to field a few softball questions from the public.
Since she joined the Republican ticket, Palin has been seen by the public only in carefully staged events at which she reads a prepared speech – the same one, over and over. Until this week she had campaigned only with McCain at her side. While mocking reporters, she has held no press conferences and given only a single, carefully controlled interview to a single journalist. During the same period, as The New Yorker’s Steve Coll noted, Joe Biden has been fielding questions from all comers.
During [Palin's] media purdah, Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice-President, gave fifty-four interviews or press conferences.
There are about fifty days left until a national election of unusual consequence; perhaps there is still time for journalists to fully vet what McCain did not.
It seems increasingly unlikely that Palin will expose herself to serious questions from reporters’, given her glaring lack of expertise – as well as how much she has to hide. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, put the matter in terms of ethics rather than expediancy:
Davis said that Palin would agree to an interview “when we think it’s time and when she feels comfortable doing it.” He also said she is “not scared to answer questions.”
“Why would we want to throw Sarah Palin into a cycle of piranhas called the news media that have nothing better to ask questions about than her personal life and her children?” Davis said, adding: “Until . . . we feel like the news media is going to treat her with some level of respect and deference, I think it would be foolhardy to put her out into that kind of environment.”
If it’s foolhardy to keep Palin away from nearly all questions for at least one third of the very short period the public has to assess her as a candidate, then wasn’t it foolhardy to choose her as a running mate in the first place?
Whose democracy is this, anyhow, the public’s or the candidates’?