So far Sarah Palin takes the following attacks off the table:
* Terrorist friends (what is Palin’s position on plastic explosives?).
* Crazy pastors who say offensive things.
* Upright family values (it’s private, fine, except that they’re marching the young couple around the convention and the McCain campaign won’t shut up about it).
Then there are the many ways that Palin enhances the perception that electing McCain essentially means a third term for George W. Bush.
* McCain’s decision itself: hasty, poorly though out, politically motivated.
* She serves the extreme Christianist fringe.
* Palin abuses power, fires employees for inappropriate reasons, replaces them with Michael Brown cronies (repeatedly as both mayor and as governor) then, in true Bush style, stonewalls the investigation and smears the investigators.
* Hates pork in words, loves it in practice.
* Cuts taxes in Wasilla and increases spending, leaving a city that had a balanced budget with more than $2,000 of debt per resident.
* Vindictive, intolerant of minor criticism, keeps a permanent enemies list.
* Lies about insultingly obvious things that practically dare the press to call her on it. So far she has falsely claimed to have won a Miss Congeniality prize at a beauty pageant, she denied any contact with the anti-American fringe Alaska Independence Party (multiple sources confirm that she attended their convention in 1994, she sent a video address this year and her husband was a longtime registered member), she claimed that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere when her gubernatorial campaign was predicated on supporting it. The McCain has repeatedly, flagrantly lied about the vetting process (the latest fallback position: Palin filled out an extensive, probing questionnaire. That must be GOP-speak for ‘due diligence’).
To sum up, Sarah Palin nullifies John McCain’s most productive lines of attack and reinforces the narrative that hurts McCain the most. In exchange her presence adds a dulling buff to his maverick image (it’s hard to overstate the mistake that she made in emphasizing the Bridge story on day one). On the whole the only imaginable reason why Palin would make a good pick is if every other possibility was worse. That may be the case, but if so, what that means for the GOP is almost too depressing for words.