McCain embraces affirmative action

If actions speak louder than words, then whether Republican presidential nominee John McCain says he supports and/or opposes affirmative action is irrelevant.

Conservatives denounce the practice as promoting under-qualified or unprepared people ahead of more qualified alternatives just for the purpose of diversity. Yet that is exactly what McCain is doing with his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.

"It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America," said Palin at a Saturday rally in Dayton, Ohio. "But thankfully, as it turns out, the women of America aren't finished yet, and the voters will shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."

Though the McCain campaign touts Palin as the answer for women eager to finally shatter the ultimate glass ceiling, nobody is arguing that she is the most-qualified person for the job — not even her own mother-in-law.

"I'm not sure what she brings to the ticket other than she's a woman and a conservative," said Faye Palin. "Well, she's a better speaker than McCain."

By McCain's own logic, his vice presidential pick is "dangerously inexperienced" for the job, but Cindy McCain claimed on Sunday that Palin has national security experience because "Alaska is the closest part of our continent to Russia." No joke. I guess that kind of qualifies me to be governor of Pennsylvania.

Her religious fundamentalism and ideology aside, Palin appears to be a smart, tough and relatively accomplished politician. But she's no Kay Bailey Hutchison, Madeleine Albright, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Dole or Olympia Snowe. And she's certainly no Hillary Clinton.

That's why this transparently political and superficial choice — far from ready for prime time, yet literally a breath away from the presidency — is an insult to voters who care about more than just paying lip service to women's rights.

In April of this year, McCain opposed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which sought equal pay for women. He voted against an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act in 2000 which would "provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex." And in 1994, he wrote and ushered through the Violence Against Women Act. No, wait — that was Joe Biden.

McCain voted against requiring health insurance companies to cover birth control and against requiring that sex education be scientifically-accurate. He doesn't know if contraceptives prevent the spread of HIV. The list goes on and on.

There's nothing wrong with taking a risk when your campaign is in a rut, but trying to pass it off as advancing the plight of women is disingenuous and anything but straight talk.

Juan Melli is's associate editor. McCain embraces affirmative action