"What is wrong with these people?" was the nigh-upon-universal reaction among conservatives at the GOP convention this week. Liberal reporters inquired of conservative journalists, Republican delegates, right-leaning janitors, free-market short-order cooks, even the guys walking around in elephant suits: Will Sarah Palin drop out? What about the Eagleton Option?
For those who don't know, the Eagleton Option refers to Thomas Eagleton, George McGovern's first VP pick in 1972, who was forced to withdraw because allegations of mental illness.
A hybrid of myth and deceit peddled by the chattering bandersnatches of the Democratic Party's backup communications offices at MSNBC and other press-release transmission belts of the Obama campaign, the whole pseudo-story was surely the brightest flare in the bonfire of asininity in St. Paul this week.
Of course, it was hardly the only journalistic will-o'-the-wisp unleashed from the media bog. The claim that Palin was a Buchananite - and hence an acolyte of a "Nazi sympathizer" according to Florida Rep. Robert Wexler - was not true. The claims she cut funding for pregnant teens, that she was a member of the more-goofy-than-scary Alaska Independence Party, that Trig Palin - her special-needs baby - was really her daughter's: these were all bogus. As for the even more disgusting smears peddled at the Daily Kos and one blogger at The Atlantic - smears that drove much of the prurient investigation into the Palin family's privacy by more reputable sources - they were as untrue as they were repugnant.
But it was the Eagleton canard that spoke volumes. First, just as a matter of reportorial fact, as opposed to Keith Olbermann clicking his ruby-red slippers and wishing it were so, the idea that the rank and file of the GOP wanted her gone before her speech was distilled nonsense. Now, it's plain hilarious.
In the wake of Palin's performance Wednesday night, there's vastly more support among conservatives for flipping the McCain-Palin ticket to the Palin-McCain ticket. Send McCain to attend the funerals and cut the ribbons! Put the lipsticked pit bull at the lead of the Alaskanized GOP sled!
One good barometer of conservative support: Rush Limbaugh, who is rumored to kick his cat across the room in rage when he hears the name "McCain," now calls the Arizona senator "John McGenius."
For good or ill, going forward, Palin is easily the most popular Republican in the country, at least among people inclined to vote for the GOP. That may not last, of course (she has many trials ahead), but the instant decision of Beltway blowhards to push the Palin-as-liability fable says a lot about how little they understand much of the American electorate.