It's basically this, as noted by Andrew Sullivan:
"In picking an unknown, untested, half-a-term woman governor from Alaska to be his running mate, John McCain is following in a long line of reckless men who have rolled the dice for a beauty queen. Except in this case, McCain is taking one of the biggest, boldest gambles in modern American political history," - Dan Gerstein, a former adviser to Sen. Joe Lieberman.
Shouldn't there be at least lip service paid to the idea that whether "the gamble" works is less important than. y'know, the good of the country?
This isn't a slight against Sarah Palin, who seems as or more intelligent, and certainly more authentic, than most of the names that were kicked around on the Republican side. And maybe McCain and his team are absolutely certain that she has all the attributes of someone who very easily could be called upon to lead the country, as well as (for Republican purposes) what her views and mindset are across a large number of policy areas. But that's somewhat hard to credit when it's announced that they barely know each other.
No, it's pretty surely a pick exclusively about politics--picking off Clinton-supporting women who aren't primarily guided by the issues, exciting the dispirited rank-and-file Republicans, reinforcing the pro-drilling (the one thing we know Palin favors) campaign promise, whatever. Which itself should be really troubling, if you think about it. The consideration is whether it will pay off for McCain, not what the consequences might be for all of us. For that matter, there's very little sense of what areas of policy Palin has expertise or even interest in and could take an active role for in her vice-presidency. Sullivan puts it this way:
For me, the more I think about it, the more this pick is about McCain's contempt for Obama. He really seems to think that Palin is as qualified as Obama to be president.
My only qualification to this is that the other party McCain shows contempt for with this choice is the American public. At best, he has "an instinct about her" that she will be both an effective leader and one consistent with his principles, should the need arise (not, obviously, a huge hypothetical given McCain's age and health history). At worst, he simply doesn't care--and he doesn't think the voters will care either.
My first reaction to the pick was that Palin's selection seemed like something you'd see on television--as a plot contrivance in a reality show or a lousy, soon-to-basic cable movie about politics. Right now, it's closer to sadness and even dismay that the McCain campaign seems to think we're dumb enough that it might "work" for their political purposes.