Senior Correspondent

( – When there is no incumbent running for president, the first decision either major party nominee makes is choosing his or her running mate.

Some are sharply criticizing Sen. John McCain’s surprise selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be the Republican Party’s vice-presidential choice calling it a “shotgun wedding,” and a longshot, “Hail Mary pass,” intended to shore up Sen. McCain’s low approval among evangelical Christian voters, and to possibly siphon support from disaffected White Democrats and women who supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s failed candidacy.

Sen. McCain introduced Gov. Palin at a rally in Ohio the day after the close of the Democratic convention. “It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary (Clinton) left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” Gov. Palin said.


But since her own “take-no-prisoners” acceptance speech, full of personal jabs at Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama’s experience Sept. 3 in St. Paul, Minn., Gov. Palin has made few public appearances and had not granted any press interviews, at Final Call presstime. Democrats claim she is not being allowed to talk to reporters so she can be tutored on unfamiliar national and international issues.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said otherwise. Mr. Davis told Fox News Channel Sept. 7 that Gov. Palin won’t give an interview until she feels “comfortable” giving one. Adding that she wouldn’t give any “until the point in time when she’ll be treated with respect and deference.”

The 44-year-old has been governor of Alaska for less than two years. Prior to that, she served as mayor of tiny Wasilla, Alaska, a town of fewer than 10,000 people. Her selection shocked much of the political establishment, and it undermined Sen. McCain’s attacks on Sen. Obama’s alleged lack of national and international experience. In addition, Democrats insist, the choice undermined his promise to choose a running mate based on that person’s fitness to possibly take over as president.

Even members of her own party and family questioned Gov. Palin’s experience. The Republican president of Alaska’s state senate, Lyda Green, said she thought it was a joke when someone told her the news. Sen. Green said, “She’s not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?” Gov. Palin’s mother-in-law said, “I’m not sure what she brings to the ticket other than she’s a woman and a conservative,” both criticisms logged in published media reports. Ms. Palin’s mother-in-law later backtracked, saying she supported Gov. Palin.

Sen. McCain praised his choice’s background. “She is exactly who I need. She is exactly who this country needs to help me fight–to help me fight the same old Washington politics of ‘me first’ and ‘country second,’ ” said Sen. McCain.

Gov. Palin is a prominent member of Feminists for Life and has described herself as “pro-life as any candidate can be.” Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, described Mr. McCain’s selection as extraordinary and as a “shot directly into the heart of the evangelical movement.” Mrs. Palin is also an active member of the National Rifle Association.

But Democratic women, and even former supporters of Sen. Clinton’s presidential campaign question the McCain campaign strategy. “Let me tell you. When everyone starts thinking about the real issues, you know, it’s not gender, it’s the issues that are important to women. And when you look at the issues important to women, I don’t care if you’re on a corporate board, or if you’re a poor woman in the projects. The issues that are important to women are the issues that Obama will address and we know that McCain will not address those,” Yvonne Braithwaite-Burke, former California Congress member and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) told The Final Call.

Democratic women and supporters of Sen. Clinton’s campaign should figure out, “When are they going to dry their tears and get with the program,” filmmaker Spike Lee told The Final Call.

“The program is to defeat McCain and the Republicans in November. And I think that, to me, it’s very spiteful to put all this dissension in the air and say ‘I’m voting for McCain because Obama didn’t do this for the Clinton people,’ and all this other stuff. I mean, we’re here to become unified to beat McCain and the Republicans so we don’t have another four more years of the previous eight,” Mr. Lee said.

Women and Democrats are obviously beyond simple gender politics, according to BET founder and prominent Clinton supporter Bob Johnson. “It doesn’t do any good to look in the rear-view mirror. What I’m looking at is the rousing, soaring speech Hillary Clinton gave, and completely endorsed, unequivocally, Obama, and urged all of her supporters to say: ‘Support Obama, not because of me, not because of Obama, but because you believe in the things that we both stand for that are critical to the future of this country.’ And that’s all we need to talk about between now and Nov. 4, and get Sen. Obama in the White House, the first African American President.”

Gov. Palin is also at the center of several personal family and public controversies. She faces an ethics investigation in Alaska known as “Troopergate.” She is accused of firing Alaska’s public safety commissioner after she allegedly improperly pressured him and he refused to fire her former brother-in-law, an Alaska state trooper.

Sen. McCain announced the Palin selection on his 72nd birthday. He is attempting to become the oldest American elected to a first term as president, and after four previous bouts with cancer and with other health concerns related to his five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, his selection of a running mate is critical, Democrats insist. Mr. McCain’s choice is far more unsettling than Sen. Obama’s choice of former presidential candidate and Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a veteran member of the Senate and a foreign policy expert, said some analysts.