Memo to McCain: Don’t waste Gov. Palin

Wall Street Journal deputy editor Daniel Henninger has a must-read today on what McCain needs to do to maximize the reform skills and experience of Gov. Palin:

Once Mr. McCain picked Mrs. Palin as his running mate, he demoted “experience” and elevated a government “reform” message. It was the right thing to do. Presidential voters are ambivalent about Beltway-marinated senators like Mr. McCain and Joe Biden. John McCain’s edge is his famous reputation as a reform maverick. So far, though, he is not casting his reform message in large enough terms.

Washington is arguably at its lowest ebb in the public mind since before World War II. Join that fact to Sarah Palin’s personally gutsy and professionally strong reform credentials, and Mr. McCain has the chance to offer voters a reform presidency in historic terms.

Yes, the Obama campaign is trying to hang the Bush presidency around his neck. Mr. McCain knows — and should give — the answer to that: Voter disgust with Washington goes far beyond George W. Bush.

In the 2006 off-year election, voters threw out the Republican bums and turned over control of Congress to the Democrats. In an odd thank-you, the Democratic Congress earned the lowest approval ratings ever recorded in opinion polls.

This decline is not part of the normal ebb and flow of politics. The fall, the malfeasance, is deeper. It’s bipartisan. It’s endemic. The most acute comment on what Washington has become — and what the American public knows it has become — was a federal judge’s Sept. 4 sentencing statement for convicted Beltway favor-meister Jack Abramoff.

Standing before federal Judge Ellen Huvelle, Abramoff said, “So much that happens in Washington stretches the envelope, skirts the spirit of the law and lives in loopholes.” Agreed, said Judge Huvelle, who hammered Abramoff with an additional 48-month sentence, more than prosecutors had asked. She said simply: “The true victims are members of the public who lost their trust in government.”

Forget the Tina Fey SNL mockery and all the marginalia being written about Sarah Palin now. She did four real things in Alaska that make her fit for anyone interested in a reform presidency.

She took on: her party’s state chairman, her party’s state attorney general, GOP Gov. Frank Murkowski’s tainted gas pipeline project, and then she supported a GOP candidate who ran against Alaska’s “untouchable” GOP congressional earmarker, Don Young.

One way or another, each episode involved severing the sleazy ties that bind public officials to grasping commercial interests, something even the Democratic left purports to favor.

It isn’t just Washington and Juneau. You could open the nozzle on the same reform fire hose to wash the public-private slime out of the capital hallways of New York, New Jersey, California, Illinois and onward.

You say Sarah Palin doesn’t have enough “experience” to run Washington? Washington is barely fit to be run.

Make sure to read the whole thing.

The conventions are over, the race is all knotted up, and it’s time to get serious and stay that way. Senator McCain’s got a lot of tools to use in his arsenal against Obama, some of them mentioned in my previous post, but – as Henninger points out – probably one of the most effective weapons McCain has to fight against OBiden is his outstanding running mate, Gov. Palin, for reasons Henninger writes about and more.

Team McCain-Palin needs to move beyond the stump speeches and start getting more specific with the American people. We poljunkies have a good grasp of what a McCain-Palin ticket can do for America, but the average Joe who doesn’t spend every waking minute with his eyes glued to news channels, websites, and blogs may not … and that’s where the ads, the talking head shows, the townhall meetings, the debates, etc will all factor in. This election shouldn’t be about 5 second soundbites but instead real solutions.

McCain-Palin have a consistent record of reform, leadership, bucking their own party when they think it’s necessary, and thinking outside of the box to come up with solutions and not just for the here and now but in an attempt to avoid bigger problems in the future. Team OBiden cannot credibly make the same claim. With six weeks to go, it’s time to drop the complaints about lipstick and start majorly hammering that message home via surrogates, spokesmen, prominent supporters and – well, the candidates themselves.

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