Elsewhere on this site, Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten wonders in all seriousness whether John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate is “a disastrous stumble or a monstrous gaffe?”
The reaction of conservative evangelical leaders suggests a third option: Truly inspired.
In a CBSNews.com interview earlier this month, Southern Baptist heavyweight Richard Land said John McCain’s choice of a running mate would be crucial to conservative evangelicals who have their doubts about him.
“I think that the vice presidential choice that John McCain makes is probably the most important choice he’s going to make in this entire campaign,” Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Aug. 8. “Because he has no room for error, no margin for doubt. If he picks a pro-choice running mate, it will confirm the unease and the mistrust that some evangelicals–and don’t forget this, social conservative Catholics–feel about McCain.”
So who did Land think McCain should choose?
“Probably Governor (Sarah) Palin of Alaska, because she’s a person of strong faith,” Land said. “She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there’s a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She’s strongly pro-life.”
“She’s a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she’s a woman. She’s a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who’s a Southern Baptist.”
Land got his wish Friday when McCain chose Palin as his running mate. If Palin’s presence on the GOP ticket inspires white evangelicals and pro-life Catholics to put their full weight behind McCain’s candidacy, it could prove disastrous for the Democrats.
In 2004, President Bush’s re-election was sealed with the support he got from white evangelicals and Catholics. Bush won nearly 80 percent of the white evangelical vote and 52 percent of the Catholic vote — including 55 percent in the key swing state of Ohio. A recent Time magazine poll showed that nearly 60 percent of Catholic voters consider themselves pro-life voters.
As megachurch pastor Rick Warren told the Wall Street Journal, the abortion issue is just as important to evangelicals. “A lot of people hear (about a broader evangelicla agenda) and they think, ‘Oh, evangelicals are giving up on believing that life begins at conception. They’re not giving up on that at all. Not at all.”
Evangelical leaders were elated Friday.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council:
“Sarah Palin clearly addresses the issues so many conservatives are concerned about. It balances out the ticket,” said Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council. “She’s also really a checkmate for the Democratic Party because folks who were looking to make history for Barack Obama can make history by voting for John McCain in seeing the first woman elected to the vice-presidency. It was a very strategic move by John McCain.”
Dr. James Dobson, Chairman of Focus on the Family, who has said he could not support McCain, expressed support for McCain’s choice Friday.
“Gov. Palin’s commitment to the sanctity of life is not just a political position. She was advised to abort her fifth and youngest child when it was learned he had Down syndrome. She refused. That’s bravery and integrity in action,” Dobson said in a statement.
“Gov. Palin’s views align with Sen. McCain’s own stated position that human life is precious and must be protected – and that gives us confidence he will keep his pledges to voters regarding the kinds of justices he would nominate to the Supreme Court and the way he would conduct our nation’s domestic and international affairs. This selection by Sen. McCain is a very encouraging sign for his campaign.”
Pro-life advocates and website were buzzing Friday about McCain’s choice.
“Sarah Palin is the whole package. There couldn’t be a better vice presidential pick,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an influential pro-life PAC. “By choosing the boldly pro-life Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has taken his stand as the one true, authentic pro-life ticket.”
Authentic and historic. The Democrats have the first presidential ticket to include an African American. The Republicans now have the (*their) first presidential ticket to include a woman.
The fact that this particular woman is “boldly pro-life” and “a person of strong faith” who led her high school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes should inspire conservative evangelicals and Catholics.
(p.s. The Post’s “Capitol Briefing” blogger Ben Pershing points out another factor in Palin’s appeal to evangelicals: Her support for the teaching of creationism in public schools, which created a bit of a stir when she ran for governor in 2006.)
* How could I forget Geraldine Ferraro, Walter Mondale’s 1984 running mate? My mother will be very disappointed. Thanks for catching my mistake, readers.