Exterior. Night. A foggy airfield.
Mike Bloomberg gets out of a car, followed closely by John McCain, right hand in the pocket of his trench coat.
Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin emerge from the rear of the car. A campaign aide escorts Huckabee in the direction of an airplane. McCain takes letters of transit and ballot submission forms from his pocket, handing them to Bloomberg, who turns and walks towards the hanger.
MCCAIN: If you don’t mind, you fill in the names. That will make it even more official.
BLOOMBERG: You think of everything, don’t you?
MCCAIN: The names are Governors Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.
Bloomberg stops dead in his tracks, and turns around. Both he and Palin look at McCain with astonishment.
PALIN: But why my name, John?
MCCAIN: Because you’re getting on that plane.
PALIN: I don’t understand, what about you?
MCCAIN: I’m staying here with him ’til the campaign is safely won.
McCain’s intention suddenly dawns on Palin.
PALIN: No, John, no. What has happened to you? At the convention we said –
MCCAIN: At the convention we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then and it all adds up to one thing. You’re getting on that plane with Huckabee where you belong.
PALIN: But John, no, I, I –
MCCAIN: You’ve got to listen to me. Do you have any idea what you’d have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten we’d lose, our careers would be dead, and your daughter would be a national joke along with the economy. Isn’t that true, Mike?
BLOOMBERG: I’m afraid that the situation will insist.
PALIN: You’re saying this only to make me go.
MCCAIN: I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us both you belong with Huckabee. You’re a part of his strain of conservatism, the thing that keeps it going. Besides, you really should have gone for Ted Stevens’s Senate seat, if you want to reform things. You’ve got a good heart and the right intentions, but you’re not ready for the national stage. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it.
MCCAIN: Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and no later than November fourth.
PALIN: But what about us?
MCCAIN: We’ll always have St. Paul. We didn’t have, we’d lost it, until you didn’t trip over yourself against Biden. We got it back last night.
PALIN: And I said I would never leave you, and the American people, also.
MCCAIN: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too, my friends. Where I’m going you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Sarah, I’m pretty good at being noble, and it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of this campaign amount to a rice paddy full of beans in this crazy world. It’s a dangerous time, and frankly you aren’t ready. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now…
Palin opens her mouth, searching for the proper words, finding none. McCain puts his hand to her chin and raises her face to meet his own.
MCCAIN: Here’s looking at you, kid.
Huckabee returns, escorting Palin to the plane, but not before turning to the Arizona Senator.
HUCKABEE: Welcome back to the fight. Now I know our side will win.
Bloomberg and McCain are left alone.
BLOOMBERG: Well I was right. You aren’t a social conservative.
MCCAIN: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
BLOOMBERG: I suppose you know this isn’t going to be pleasant for either of us, especially for you. You still know nothing about economics; I’ll have to say so.
MCCAIN: As soon as the plane goes, Mike.
Suddenly a speeding car comes to a stop outside the hanger. Chief McCain advisors Steve Schmidt, a Karl Rove protÃ©gÃ©, and Charlie Black, who noted that a terrorist attack would help the campaign, emerge.
SCHMIDT: What is the meaning of this? Why don’t you stop her?
BLOOMBERG: Ask the Senator.
MCCAIN: She’s out. I was willing to kick her off the campaign, and I’m willing to do the same to the both of you.
Black runs towards a run to recall the plane. McCain shoots quickly at him and Schmidt, and both crumple to the ground, ending their time on the campaign, and letting McCain be McCain.
A member of the press runs up.
BLOOMBERG: Sarah Palin’s been removed from the ticket.
REPORTER: But who will replace her?
Bloomberg pauses and looks at McCain, who returns his gaze with the eyes of a maverick.
BLOOMBERG: Round up the usual suspects. (The reporter leaves) Well, John, you’re not only not serious about social conservatism, you’ve rediscovered your inner maverick.
MCCAIN: Maybe; it seemed like a good time to start.
BLOOMBERG: I think perhaps you’re right.
Bloomberg rips up his attempt to rewrite New York City laws and run for a third term as mayor, dropping it into a trash basket which he then kicks over. He walks over and stands beside McCain as the plane takes off.
BLOOMBERG: It might be a good idea to disappear from the campaign for a few days, with actual reason this time. I have a lot of experience with financial affairs, and I could be induced to arrange help.
MCCAIN: I could use some help. But it doesn’t make any difference about Wall Street. We still need to get ourselves back on track.
BLOOMBERG: And I’m the guy who knows how to do it.
MCCAIN: You’re the guy?
MCCAIN: Mike, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful administration.
The two walk off together into the night. Fade out.
Some of you may be wondering whether we have eaten a bad batch of mushrooms and are having flashbacks from ‘Nam. The truth of the matter is, we could not have found a better – or more necessary – course of action for John McCain to regain some semblance of legitimacy than to somehow convince Sarah Palin to go home to Alaska. (As for the Casablanca scene serving as the way to suggest such an action, that’s because we tend to make both of the parties uncomfortable, and so we have to find other ways to amuse ourselves.)
Sarah Palin may be a fine governor. She may be good people. But everybody SHOULD now realize, or at least have reason to think they should, that she is no legitimate pick for Vice President of the United States of America. Anybody who is not simply a partisan bickerer must now see, as time has gone by, that she’s neither a prudent nor a practical choice, as McCain is freefalling in the polls and Palin is acting more like a lead weight than a parachute.
Our bottom line is, for the sake of the presidential race and for the sake of the United States more generally, Senator McCain needs to drop Governor Palin from the ticket and replace her with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. Yes, socially conservative Republicans will not like it, but they’ll get over it if they realize that this is a matter of saving the campaign; if they contrast a McCain/Bloomberg presidency with the possibility of an Obama/Biden administration. Indeed, even apart from that, everyone should realize that Reagan was the most unique of candidates who managed to entwine social, fiscal, and foreign policy conservatism in a single man. McCain, while an honorable man, is not one to embody the big tent, and the addition of Palin to the ticket, much like his earlier visit to Falwell’s Liberty University, does not make him one.
Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek has recently argued that the addition of Palin to the ticket was “fundamentally irresponsible,” and we find it hard to disagree, for everyone involved (surely she must not like being even more of a national joke than most politicians are, and must have realized that her daughter would be too.) Her incoherence in her television interviews aroused fears only somewhat aroused by her relative cogency in her debate with Biden. Nobody should deny that being a mother or fighting state corruption are hard and necessary things, but they may not be what these difficult times demand. We like Sarah Palin – indeed, the slightly more liberal of the two of us may like her more – but she does not belong on a national ticket. Not now, at least; we are quite serious when we suggest that Ted Stevens’s Senate seat could be just the place for her, once she’s through with the governor’s mansion.
The move would also show that McCain truly puts the country first, by nominating somebody with real and relevant experience, and he would have that somebody with a great economic mind in Bloomberg. If McCain wants to be the maverick with sensible solutions, here’s his chance. It’s not just the same old story, it may be a fight for love and glory, and it’s definitely, for his campaign if not for the country, a case of do or die.