This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 29, 2008 - Twice, in 1988 and again in 2000, former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth, D-Mo, was considered as a running mate on the national Republican ticket, one time for each President Bush. Twice he was not chosen.
"I must say my enthusiasm was never there," he said Friday. "When 41 (the first President George H.W. Bush) called an hour before he announced he'd chosen (Sen. Dan) Quayle in 1988, I said, 'Thank you.'"
But whether interested in the job or not, Danforth, a Republican pillar and a respected American statesman, was interested in Friday's announcement of the selection of Sarah Louise Heath Palin, governor of Alaska, to be running mate for Sen. John McCain, the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party.
Danforth said he doesn't know Palin and what he knows about her is what he's read in news publications or heard from broadcasts. "My first response," he said, "was 'Huh?'"
But the gender politics aspect of the selection interests him keenly. "Obviously, a woman on the ticket is a major event," he said. Palin is the second woman ever to be on the ticket. The first was Geraldine Ferraro, who was on the Democratic ticket with Walter Mondale in 1984.
Ferraro summarily was run out of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign earlier this year when she declared Barack Obama would never have been considered a viable candidate, were he not black.
Danforth said that Clinton's battering of the glass ceiling and her enormous popularity with women had serious consequences in this campaign. "It is a big thing," the selection of a woman, Danforth said, "especially this year."
But Danforth believes of greater importance the fact Palin has worked in a world that is politically and geographically just about as far away from the District of Columbia as one can get and still be in the United States. "There is a lot to be said for choosing someone outside of Washington," he said.
"This is going to be an election of sharp contrasts," Danforth said. "What Republicans are going to say is the Democratic ticket is Washington-centered, that its promise is, Washington can do a lot for the country.
"Her selection provides a contrast," he concluded. "It is an indication that the Republican Party believes the future of America is not to be found inside the Beltway."