Wall Street on G.O.P.: Markets Boo McCain’s Veep Choice
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Alongside last Friday’s announcement that the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, would be John McCain’s running mate, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 170 points. Stocks have shown weakness ever since.
While there are many factors that move markets, a looming electoral contest between a tax-hiking Democrat versus a nominally pro-growth Republican surely weighs heavily on market psyche. It says here that the markets concluded last week that whatever Senator McCain’s true economic views, on Friday he handed the election to the anti-growth candidate with his selection of Governor Palin.
Indeed, while various conservative columnists have excitedly written of disaffected Hillary Clinton voters that will be won over in concert with a now placated conservative base (the obvious paradox there remains unexplained), the fall in share prices perhaps speaks to the loss of economic libertarians (including this writer) and other conservatives who see Mr. McCain’s blatantly political move as evidence showing how unserious and unprincipled he actually is.
Put simply, if he’ll suggest with a straight face that someone with a thin political resume about whom he knows very little is the most qualified person to replace him in the event of tragedy, wouldn’t he also talk up tax cuts with similar vigor despite a modern record showing hostility to same?
Seeking to make lemonade out of lemons, one pro-Palin op-ed noted a “maverick” Alaskan politician who risked “her political career by protesting ethics violations.” That sounds good at first glance until it’s recognized how very political the “risks” were that Mrs. Palin took.
Sure enough, as the mayor of a town that until last Friday 99.9% of Americans had never heard of, it was politically astute for Mrs. Palin to take on Alaska’s corrupt political establishment to clear her path to Juneau. In her coming-out speech Mrs. Palin alerted voters to her opposition to the much reviled “Bridge to Nowhere,” but as a Washington Post story showed on Monday, her “opposition” to the bridge was far more nuanced than she originally disclosed.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, conservative commentator Fred Barnes lauded Mrs. Palin’s selection for bringing “desperately needed diversity to the Republican ticket.” Put more bluntly, conservatives will now engage in gender politics without regard to actual merit or ideas in order to get elected. What’s that they say about what happens when a Democrat runs against a Democrat?
Worse, in another Wall Street Journal op-ed, a McCain senior policy adviser, Nancy Pfotenhauer, ascribed chauvinism to those skeptical of Mrs. Palin’s experience, all the while suggesting we should be impressed that Mrs. Palin “has never shied away from challenging the influence of big oil companies.” It used to be that Republicans embraced oil companies for giving consumers what they wanted, but if conservatives can suddenly embrace gender rhetoric about “18 million new cracks” on the glass ceiling, why not the anti-business rhetoric that is also part of the opponent’s playbook?
If Mrs. Palin’s “toughness” when it comes to Big Oil is ignored, what’s gone unanswered is that if Mrs. Palin was in possession of such a wise mind when it came to oil, and with oil a very large campaign issue, why up until now did Mr. McCain not actively seek Mrs. Palin’s allegedly sage council on this most pressing of issues? Furthermore, why didn’t Mrs. Palin have a senior position in the McCain camp all along to serve as his “energy czar”?
If Mrs. Palin’s experience or lack thereof for the nation’s highest office can be ignored in the way Obama partisans would like his similarly thin resume to be forgotten, the question when it comes to Mrs. Palin becomes one of judgment.
Both campaigns have done the politically correct thing in saying news of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy should be a private matter, but Mrs. Palin’s lack of mentioning her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy last Friday makes that an impossibility. That is so because the omission was political in nature.
Indeed, if they were in fact engaged before the news was leaked, why didn’t Mrs. Palin trot out future son-in-law, Levi Johnston, he of “I’m a f—in redneck” fame, when she introduced the rest of the family? Morality aside, is the shotgun announcement of marriage wrapped in the wonders of life’s sanctity not just another rank political act by Mrs. Palin and the McCain campaign to save the former’s political skin? With adoption everywhere an option, is Mrs. Palin showing good judgment in sanctioning marriage to a snowboard and dirt bike aficionado previously unmentionable who likes to “shoot some sh-t and just f—in chillin’ I guess”?
If with the vice presidency in mind Mrs. Palin will countenance marriage by her daughter to someone who’s merely “in a relationship” but states flatly, “I don’t want kids,” how can we trust her to rationally choose a future Fed chairman, Treasury secretary, or with sound mind decide whether or not we should send troops to Georgia? If Mrs. Palin will play politics with both her daughter’s and her grandchild’s lives, what other principles might she shed with political gain in mind?
Back when Bill Clinton got in trouble over Monica Lewinsky, there existed somewhat of a consensus that he showed shocking disrespect for the Oval Office. Seemingly everyone agreed that the latter should be majestic and free of tawdry assignations.
In putting Sarah Palin potentially one heartbeat from the presidency, Mr. McCain has for all his great service to this country shown an impressive disrespect for the same country’s highest office with this cynical gimmick. In doing so, he’s arguably handed the election to Mr. Obama given the number of voters likely embarrassed by his choice.
Sadly for the economy and stock markets, Mr. McCain’s bad politics make clearer the path for a known redistributionist to win in November over a candidate whose true beliefs were made more opaque with this most shocking of selections.
Mr. Tamny, editor of RealClearMarkets and a senior economist with H.C. Wainwright Economics, is a senior economic advisor to Toreador Research and Trading.