The gloom of Hurricane Gustav was promptly blown away by the arrival of Sarah Palin, the running mate of John McCain, at the Republican Convention in St. Paul. The partisan delegates seemed genuinely thrilled by her acceptance speech. But developments of the past week across the country remind me of an historic truth of politics. Almost fifty years ago, Harold Macmillan, then British prime minister, was asked what he thought was the greatest obstacle to political achievement. “Events, dear boy, events,” came the reply from Macmillan. His words seem to have a powerful resonance in the US presidential campaign today.
The historic nature of Palin’s nomination and her galvanizing effect on the Republican faithful cannot be dismissed. But new revelations about herself and her family almost every day are impossible to ignore either. Some of these are acknowledged. Others are contested. Complaints of exaggeration and distortion abound and threats of legal action fly. Republican advisors are irritated at the questions raised about Palin’s selection by McCain, her qualifications and her views. In the face of persistent questioning by Justine Webb, the BBC Washington correspondent, a senior McCain advisor, Carly Fiorina, seemed angry, calling Palin’s treatment by the media ‘sexist’. With a Democratic presidential candidate of mixed white-African lineage and a female candidate for the vice presidency on the Republican side, race and gender cannot be far from the debate. More