Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was just as thunderstruck Friday as many Americans were by Sen. John McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

Using words like "bizarre" and "startling," Eshoo said McCain's surprise pick for vice president shows that the GOP is a "panicked party" right now. It also reminded her of Sen. Barack Obama's acceptance speech Thursday on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

"He hit McCain squarely on temperament and choices," said Eshoo, "and you see today the baffling, baffling choice in terms of his judgment for the person who would be a heartbeat from the Oval Office."

Republicans swarmed cable news broadcasts Friday afternoon, spinning the choice of Palin as a bold stroke that restores McCain's faded maverick image, endears him to fundamentalist voters, appeals to women and blunts Obama's power as a once-in-a-lifetime candidate.

But it's hard to see how the McCain camp can justify the selection of Palin in the key area of national security, an issue that's been the center of gravity for his campaign.

With the country facing, in McCain's view, multiple international crises that threaten America's existence, from Islamic terrorists to Iran and Russia's recent muscle-flexing in Georgia, he now asks voters to accept the premise that a two-year governor in a sparsely populated state, someone whose knowledge of foreign affairs appears to be paper-thin, is ready to become commander in chief if McCain, 72, should fall ill.


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"In plain English, I think it's a disaster for them," Eshoo said.

San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, who joined Eshoo in Denver as a member of the California delegation, said Palin is "a strange pick."

"If he thinks that that pick is going to draw women who supported Hillary Clinton, I think he's terribly wrong and made a huge mistake," said Gordon.

Women won't just vote for someone because they're female, he said. They'll look at the issues, including Palin's strong pro-life stance.

The Insider tried to reach several Republicans for their perspective on Friday.

Catherine Brinkman, a Republican who is running for state Assembly in District 19, did not get back to us. Neither did Greg Conlon, who is challenging Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, for a seat in Congress.

Our attempt to reach Karen King, chair of the county Republican Party, was a window into the state of the local GOP. Although the headquarters lists a separate fax line, the main number for the party office gave off a fax signal every time we tried it Friday afternoon.

When we called the fax number, just for kicks, we got a voice message for a local photography business. And an e-mail to the address listed on the Web site was kicked back as undeliverable.

So we return to Anna Eshoo. We asked for her thoughts on the prospect of a vice presidential debate between Palin and Sen. Joe Biden. Eshoo said she thinks Palin will be hoping to come down with a migraine so she can bow out.

"She'll be mental lint by the time he finishes with her," Eshoo said. "There's no 'there' there. I think he'll be a gentleman, but this is not a contest between the two of them."