The term "Seward's Folly" refers to the United States' Secretary of State William Seward's decision to purchase the Alaskan territory from Russia in 1867. At the time, Seward's decision to buy the land was regarded as a terrible one by many critics in the United States — hence, the term "folly."
Seward's Folly resulted in the purchase of
6,000,000[approximately 586,000 - good catch, IA] square miles for $7,200,000 US Dollars (USD) — only a few cents per acre. Though public opinion of the purchase was generally positive, it was the words of several critics that gave "Seward's Folly" its name — most notably, The New York Tribune's Horace Greely, who claimed that Alaska "contained nothing of value but furbearing animals, and these had been hunted until they were nearly extinct. Except for the Aleutian Islands and a narrow strip of land extending along the southern coast the country would be not worth taking as a gift."
However, in the 1890s, large quantities of gold were discovered in the Alaskan territory, which made critics of Seward's Folly change their tune and praise him for his foresight. Unfortunately, William Seward never got to see "Seward's Folly" acknowledged for the great accomplishment it was, as he passed away in 1872, before the gold reserves had been found.
The term "McCain's Folly" refers to Republican Presidential candidate John McCain's decision to select little-known Alaskan governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. At the time, McCain's decision to pick Palin was regarded as a terrible one by many critics in the United States — hence, the term "folly."
McCain's Folly resulted in the vice-presidential nomination of a woman with a remarkable record in public service as a clean government champion who took down the entrenched, corrupt Alaska Republican Party machine. In addition to her impressive record in Alaskan government, Palin brings an astonishingly wide-ranging personal background: marathon runner, moose hunter, beauty queen, sports reporter, mother of five, high school basketball star. Though public opinion of the selection was generally positive, it was the words of several critics that gave "McCain's Folly" its name — most notably, Charles Krauthammer, the ninnies at the National Review and jilted McCain groupie Lindsey Graham who "push[ed] so hard for Mr. Lieberman — Mr. McCain, Mr. Graham and Mr. Lieberman are longtime 'traveling companions' — that he vexed some of the other advisers."
However, in the general election, Palin's modest origins, principled leadership, and substantial accomplishments will likely help McCain with a wide variety of voters: disgruntled conservatives, midwestern union workers, and mainstream women. Palin's performance on the campaign trail may make critics of McCain's Folly change their tune and praise him for his foresight. Unfortunately, John McCain is advanced in age, and may never get to see "McCain's Folly" acknowledged for the great accomplishment it was, or to see Sarah Palin elected President in a landslide.
John S. McCain. The S is for Seward.