After reading this report on the presidential and vice-presidential candidates' health by Dr. Lawrence K. Altman in Monday's New York Times, I was jolted once more into a frightened understanding of just how reckless and cynical was John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running-mate. While the medical information remains incomplete--Altman's article calls urgently for more complete records for all the candidates, but particularly in the case of John McCain--enough of the Republican contender's has been made public to alarm any thinking person. In addition to his age, McCain's history of malignant skin cancer should be enough to require from him a vice-presidential choice who is truly capable of stepping into the office of the presidency at any moment.
Sarah Palin is apparently not even to be trusted with a serious, probing interview or a press conference. If this is the case, how in God's name can she be entrusted with the most powerful office in the history of the world? For reasons that are inexplicable even to ourselves, my wife and I sat through a rerun of last weekend's Saturday Night Live, which started with a mock press conference with Tina Frey playing the part of the VP nominee. Standing in the wings, the real one--playing the "good sport"--insisted that this was "not a real depiction of the way my press conferences might have gone." "One of"? "Might have?" She has not held a single one, and has been protected obsessively from all but the most Palin-friendly media.
I have to say that I found the whole performance at best adolescent, if not childish. From the (unrelated) "fart-face" skit--please!--to the mock news desk scene that included Palin, the level of humor was depressingly juvenile, and the parts she was entrusted with were pathetically small. The sight of the vice-presidential candidate sitting behind the news desk dancing with her arms whilst other performers did the song-and-dance work that the piece required was definitely not the least bit demonstrative of her performance skills, or even particularly of a sense of humor. She seemed not to get that she was encouraging the audience to laugh at, rather than with her. They say that humor is the best medicine. If this is the prescription the McCain campaign has to offer, I'd rather take my chances without swallowing it, thank you.
Last night, I watched the first part of the biography of Lyndon Johnson, up to the point where JFK was shot and killed, and Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One in a hastily gathered ceremony. Though his presidency was eventually marred by the tragedy of the Vietnam war, he was surely one of the great presidents in what he managed to achieve for the poor and disadvantaged. I was unable to watch his swearing-in, however, without thinking about Sarah Palin, and what McCain's election and subsequent disability or death would mean for this country. Obama, of course, is at a different kind of risk, one that I deeply dread in the atmosphere of barely supressed violence fostered by the Republican campaign. In that dire event, I would trust Sen. Biden to rise to the occasion.
(There is a follow-up on Dr. Altman's report, by the way, in the form of a lead editorial in today's New York Times. I trust that that this issue will receive greater attention and more thoughtful response in the days to come.)