Ross Mackenzie

OK. So how about a single word to describe John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running-mate?

Sensational. If he becomes the next president, he may well look back and see this decision — this long Statue-of-Liberty pass downfield — as winning the game for him before Labor Day.

What’s so terrific about Gov. Palin?

How much time do you have? She’s a young, articulate, can-do-it-all mother of five. Got into politics at 28 running against tax increases. Four years as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, give her more executive experience than Messrs. Obama and Biden combined — in addition to her executive years as governor. A reform-minded Alaskan (the state’s first female governor and, at 44, its youngest) who threw out the (Republican) bums.

Anything else?

She’s a change agent who is a finger in the eye of Obama’s vacuous “change” mantra. She also does crucial things for Republican success Nov. 4:

— As a woman, she peels away at least some of the Hillary feminists disenchanted with Obama-Biden. They wanted the Democrats to offer the first African-American and the first woman for vice-president. Now Sarah Palin, a Republican, is the only woman among the Big Four.

— Obama belied his commitment to change by going with Caroline Kennedy’s recommendation and choosing — in six-term Senator Biden — one of D.C.’s tightest, most ingrown insiders. McCain, who has rattled the cage of the status quo for most of his political life, reached for his running-mate to the governor of a state as far from Washington as one can get — and to the former mayor of precisely the heart-of-America small-towners Obama oddly insists cling to their religion and their guns because they are deeply “bitter” about their lot in life.

— Not only did Republican Sarah Palin throw out corrupt Republicans in Alaska. She also declares straight up that she is a conservative both “fiscally and socially.” So her selection stresses the division between the two tickets: the Republican emphatically conservative, the Democratic (consisting of the Nos. 1 and 3 farthest-left members of the Senate) mired in the fever swamps of liberal Democratic orthodoxy.

Doesn’t this polarization of both tickets reflect a troubling polarization of the electorate?

Perhaps. But two points. First, self-described conservatives in the electorate outnumber self-described liberals by about 2-1. That’s why the forthrightly conservative ticket usually wins. So McCain’s selection is politically sound.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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