McCain chooses to sex up his campaign

What do you do when youâÄôre a 72-year-old bald presidential candidate and your shrinking stature is just not as impressive as it used to be? Simple: place a younger, better-looking woman on your arm. The âÄúmaverick,âÄù spouting a message of change and posturing himself as a reformer, makes a call right out of the Bush playbook: forget the issues. Focus on personality and paltry cultural matters. Rather than choosing from a pool of more qualified, battle-tested political veterans, John McCain took the low road, pandering to our lowest political common denominators: faith, guns and sex appeal. McCain âÄî slightly hunched over and seemingly struggling just to stand âÄî is a less-than-inspiring figure. What better to draw our eyes away from his decrepit exterior than a former beauty queen? Despite the blatant pandering inherent in this selection, it seems to be working. USA Today and Gallop reported that Palin gave the McCain campaign a boost in the polls, swinging over 10 points in their direction since the Republican National Convention. Forget that she is the greenest of our governors. Forget that she has no foreign policy or military experience. SheâÄôs hot. Hotness is not supposed to be a presidential qualification, but in image-conscious America there is no question that looks go a long way. Imagine, for a moment, if you wrapped the political beliefs and experience of Sarah Palin in the shell of an old, gray-haired man. Would the interest in her be so great? Her appeal is tightly tied to the feminine allure she exudes so effortlessly. She represents our nationâÄôs prescribed importance of appearance in political success. Gov. Palin has proved a most effective distraction. Since her selection, the media has caught Sarah fever. The McCain campaign welcomes the mediaâÄôs scrutiny of Palin. This takes our attention away from the failed policies of the Republican Party, framing this debate in the cloak that republicans feel most comfortable: cultural combat. McCain is not stupid. He recognizes the small-town, evangelical base that got Bush elected twice. With his selection of Gov. Palin, he clearly takes aim at this portion of the electorate. Recharging the base with her rural, maternally soothing manner, Gov. Palin appeals to the Bush voters that have always seen McCainâÄôs conservative credentials as suspect. With a pregnant daughter, a baby with Down syndrome and plenty of pictures of Palin field-dressing large animals, I fear there is enough tripe and balderdash to divert our attention from such issues as healthcare, our failing economy and war. It is now up to the Obama camp to shift this debate back to pertinent policy issues and away from petty cultural ones. I sometimes doubt the media or the American public really care to listen. Please send comments to [email protected]