As I sat in anticipation of McCain’s address tonight, I had to revise my opinion of Sarah Palin, taking into account her address last night and some of the interesting news that’s come to light recently. Originally, I took Palin to be someone I would disagree with, but respect. That is no longer so. Palin was remarkably charming and chummy last night, but her manner failed to offset what every news source I read or listen to (including Palin herself) is telling me: McCain had no idea what he was getting into when he chose this woman.

Not only, as I previously posted, do Palin’s policies contradict McCain’s on the iconic issue of gas taxation, but she is the arch-conservative that McCain has striven to distance himself from. Yes, McCain needs to appeal to the far right base, but if he wishes to take moderate votes–after all, it’s not the right that will swing towards Obama–he needs to hold true to the Lieberman characterization: McCain as not your stereotypical conservative. 

Palin, however, is a reactionary. To start small, she wants to swap evolution for creationism in schools, which is a violation of our separation of church and state, and intensely anti-American. Sunday school? Fine, it’s your religion. Public School? Not okay. Our nation was founded for freedom of religion, and we help ensure that each person is free to follow his or her personal beliefs by providing secular schooling. Religious values should be taught at home and at church, not at school.

According to Time, Palin tried to ban a bunch of books at her local library for having inappropriate language. Not only is that entirely inappropriate behavior for a mayor, but she proceeded to threaten to fire the librarian “for not giving ‘full support’ to the mayor.” She also fired (wrongfully, it seems) a large number of department heads upon her election, generating great dislike among her own people. This provides a troublingly straight pathway towards Troopergate (also here) during the same term. Palin quipped last night that “being the mayor of a small town is sort of like being a community organizer. Except with actual responsibilities.” However, it appears that she didn’t take those responsibilities too seriously.

There’s also the proclamation that the Iraq War is a “task that is from God.” That is, in fact, the exact translation of the word jihad. The New Yorker could have a good time with that. I also note that she seems to have a shaky grasp of God’s injunction that mankind be good stewards of the Earth (Genesis 2:15), as noted in this statement reported by the Associated Press:

In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it “God’s will.”

Perhaps she mistook “dress” for “fashion design.” Maybe she just never read the bible.

Lastly, Palin has shown herself ready and willing to sacrifice her family for this campaign, in that her daughter is being forced to marry the unfortunate guy with whom she had a one night stand. Did anyone else feel sorry for the two kids sitting up there in the spotlight? My guess, on seeing their faces, is that neither one of them wanted this, neither of them had a choice (either about keeping the child or getting hitched, which takes the moral integrity from the snapshot), and none of the three is going to be happy.

Obviously, the abstinence only policy hasn’t worked.

The one conclusion I can draw from this is that McCain did not vet his running mate. When your campaign admits to using a hurricane as a distraction from disclosures about its nominees, you have a huge problem. Moreover, when you choose a running mate whose views oppose your own (even after you have made the customary shift towards conservatism that comes with a national campaign), you may well be accused of what, four years ago, we called “flip-flopping.” Obama has held true to his stances and offers voters a stable platform with consistent policies and well-defined goals. With someone like Palin on the ticket, McCain can’t match that, and he has just proven to the nation that he makes costly, avoidable mistakes. I do not expect his campaign to recover from this one.