Maverick's Tragic Flaw
by Kathleen Parker
My husband called it first. Then, a brilliant, 75-year-old scholar and raconteur confessed to me over wine: "I'm sexually attracted to her. I don't care that she knows nothing."
Finally, writer Robert Draper closed the file on the Sarah Palin mystery with a devastating article in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine: "The Making (and Remaking) of McCain."
McCain didn't know her. He didn't vet her. His campaign team had barely an impression. In a bar one night, Draper asked one of McCain's senior advisers: "Leaving aside her actual experience, do you know how informed Governor Palin is about the issues of the day?"
The adviser thought a moment and replied: "No, I don't know."
Blame the sycamore tree.
One does not have to be a psychoanalyst to reckon that McCain was smitten. By no means am I suggesting anything untoward between McCain and his running mate. Palin is a governor, after all. She does have an executive resume, if a thin one. And she's a natural politician who connects with people.
But there can be no denying that McCain's selection of her over others far more qualified -- and his mind-boggling lack of attention to details that matter -- suggests other factors at work. His judgment may have been clouded by ... what?
Science provides clues. A study in Canada, published in New Scientist in 2003, found that pretty women foil men's ability to assess the future. "Discounting the future," as the condition is called, means preferring immediate, lesser rewards to greater rewards in the future.
Drug dealers, car salesmen and politicians rely on this affliction and pray feverishly for its persistence.
The Canadian psychologists showed pictures of attractive and not-so attractive men and women to students of the opposite sex. The students were offered a prize -- either a small check for the next day or a larger check at some later date.
The men made perfectly rational decisions, opting for the delayed larger amount after viewing the average-looking women. You know where this is going. (Women, by the way, were rational no matter what.)
That men are at a disadvantage when attractive women are present is a fact upon which women have banked for centuries. Ignoring it now profits only fools. McCain spokesmen have said that he was attracted to Palin's maverickness, that she reminded him of himself.