John McCain’s Palin Problem


John McCain might love America, but he clearly has little regard for Americans.

That’s the message he sent when he picked Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate. True, the VP job doesn’t require much heavy lifting, but it’s the potential for promotion that makes McCain’s selection so momentous. At 72 years of age and with a history of health problems, McCain had a responsibility to choose his understudy responsibly. He flubbed it.

This is not about Palin and her readiness for prime-time speechmaking. It’s about McCain’s fitness to be president. The choice of a running mate is the most telling decision a presidential candidate makes, and McCain made his impetuously, almost flippantly.

He wanted his Senate buddy Joe Lieberman to run with him, but that wouldn’t have suited his party’s angry right wing. He had not even met Palin until this year and didn’t discuss her nomination until five days before the announcement. With his nominating convention looming, McCain had to rush her through a cursory background check.

McCain would have given more thought to picking out another house than he did to picking Palin. Such recklessness reveals a stunning lack of judgment and shows what little respect he has for the American public. His responsibility was not just to find a running mate who appeals to the Republican base, but to select someone capable of stepping into the Oval Office as president. He failed that test.


The medical profession has a useful rule: First, do no harm. Congress has no such rule.Wanting to look like they’re “doing something,” it’s common for Congress to introduce bills that make things worse. Such is the case with a bipartisan bill in the Senate to “fix” the problem of unreliable, fraud-prone electronic voting machines.

These computerized systems are infamous for miscounting and manipulating votes. Most of them provide no verifiable paper record of how voters cast their ballots, requiring us to have faith that the computer is tallying accurately. Voters all across the country have learned the hard way that such “faith-based” voting is not to be trusted, and they’ve forced many districts to scrap the machines in favor of systems that provide a paper trail.

Voters are also pushing for a national law to restore ballot integrity. Unfortunately, Sens. Diane Feinstein, a Democrat, and Robert Bennett, a Republican, have responded with a “reform” bill that’s as fraudulent as the machines. Instead of requiring a paper record of every vote, their bill bows to the manufacturers of electronic systems, allowing one computer to verify the accuracy of another, with no human eyes permitted to see the actual votes.

The Feinstein-Bennett bill poses as reform without delivering it, effectively giving federal sanction to paperless electronic voting machines.

Come on, senators, this is not that hard a problem to fix. To restore integrity to the American vote, require paper ballots (or at least a paper record) for every vote cast. That’s it. For more information, go to


Among the media and political elites, there has been an anguished outcry against Sen. Barack Obama’s call to end the Bush tax giveaways to people making more than $250,000 a year. Wait, they wail, that’s us! We’re not rich, we’re the middle class! Give us our tax breaks!

Sen. John McCain-who married into a vast inherited fortune and ardently supports continued tax breaks for the rich-rushed forth to claim that some people are “poor” even “if they are billionaires.” The difference between billionaires and bus drivers, Republicans say, is a matter of mere attitude, not of income and assets.

Time to get a grip on reality. What would you guess is the median income for American families? Is it $250,000, or even $100,000? No. It’s $50,000, meaning half of our households struggle to make ends meet on less than that. Indeed, those pulling down more than $250,000 a year are among the wealthiest 2 percent of American families, enjoying incomes five times greater than the typical family.

But . . . but . . . but . . . the offended pundits and politicos stammer, we live in Washington, D.C., where it takes more money to be rich. Actually, not that much more. The median family income in D.C. is $83,000 a year.

A quarter-million bucks a year certainly doesn’t put you in the same ZIP code as billionaires, but neither are you living in the same financial world as your bus driver. Obama’s tax policies are rightly focused on benefiting America’s real majority. Why should the richest 2 percent of families be getting tax breaks?

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit His latest book, with Susan DeMarco, is Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow.