Not Even a Woman Can Win It For McCain

F riday saw a brilliant move by John McCain in choosing Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska, to be his running-mate. Theoretically, if you look at the polls which had McCain close to the Obama-Biden ticket before this announcement, his appointment of Palin ought to make up for all his deficiencies. Palin is young. She’s female. She’s attractive; she’s got some celebrity, having been the runner-up in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant; She’s also wins our sympathy: she has one son off to war in Iraq; her youngest, born this year, has Downs Syndrome.

So I’m not surprised, to hear, while on holiday in France with English friends, as I have been hearing for the past two weeks, how, in their view, McCain has the American Election sewn up; They think that Obama will never overcome the racial prejudice of people who, unlike me, don’t live on the East Coast; that the blue collar voters just won’t go for a 47-year-old black guy who speaks like a rockstar but is thin on experience and substance.

Well, thank God, an American just joined us here on the Riviera. “You must be mad” he told our group. “There is going to be an Obama landslide in November.”

I inhaled.

I’ve been saying this for fourteen days — and no, it’s not because I’m drunk on the rhetoric of the Democratic convention. I recognize scripted political speeches for what they are.

But unless you are American or you have lived there for a long time (for me, it’s been eleven years) it is almost impossible to describe the disenchantment we feel about the George W. Bush era. He and his cronies have brought us to our knees, not just economically but spiritually. It wouldn’t matter who stood to follow Bush, I don’t think any Republican stands a chance in November.

I am prepared to wager that the polls have gotten the closeness of this race wrong (they’ve been wrong before) and that, Palin or no Palin, this is Obama’s moment.

Before 9/11 Americans did not fear in the way we fear now: we fear for our economy, for our safety, we worry who we can trust.

This wasn’t how things were when I arrived here.

In 1997 America was a country, in which, as Joe Biden put it so evocatively last week, people believed if they worked hard enough they could achieve anything. They certainly believed that if they worked hard enough they could tell their children “it’s going to be ok.”

I may not be American, but I grew up with parents who told me that anything was achievable if you just tried hard enough. So, like everyone around me, I have felt the change in the air of late, seen the worried brows reflect the dire economy and never felt so disappointed.

I’ve watched the bewilderment as people read the newspapers and learn we invaded the wrong country; seen the concern when we learn that, as Barack Obama put it, Osama bin Laden is still alive despite billions spent on a war with a country he’s not even in.

So, now, no matter how hard I work, I can’t tell my sons “It’s going to be ok.”

This is why, when Obama says he stands for hope, many people (myself included) do not hear this as political rhetoric. For them, and for me, it is real.

What isn’t real is John McCain’s beauty pageant appointment of Sarah Palin. This is the same McCain who recently recommended his wife appear in a topless beauty contest. So Palin’s appointment is just transparent chess-playing politics. And in the long-term I don’t think it’s going to work. Why?

Because as Barack Obama pointed out last Thursday, it wasn’t so much his achievements that took him to the Democratic presidential candidacy, but the American voters, who have signaled they are ready for a change. They’ll still be around in November, and with Hillary Clinton, now gracefully out of contention, there’s 18 million more of them. V

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