It’s time for the distinguished members of the Republican Party to publicly put their country over their politics. (That’s you, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger and James Baker III.) It’s time (Arlen Specter, Sandra Day O’Connor and Olympia Snowe) to say aloud what you no doubt whisper in privacy: that the selection of Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice-presidential nominee is a dangerous and unacceptable choice.
Don’t be fooled by how unexpectedly well Palin did in the vice-presidential debate. She remains the limited woman she was before being exhaustively prepped for this final exam. No matter how quick a study she is, she simply doesn’t possess the informed broad perspective or grasp of details she would need if–worst-case scenario–she became president. John McCain should be urged by his fellow Republicans to remove her as soon as possible from his ticket.
Students of history often ask how it happens again and again, that good men and good women keep silent when they should have spoken. The answer is sometimes ignorance, fear or personal ambition and sometimes simply yay-team loyalty. But surely (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christine Todd Whitman, Chuck Hagel) you are smart enough, safe enough and successful enough to declare for the world to hear that McCain needs to divest himself of a choice that’s beyond the pale and beyond Palin.
Perhaps you could start by conceding (Richard Thornburgh, Richard Lugar, John Warner) that Palin is energetic, attractive and personable, plus competent enough–and this does take competence–to be governor of a small state while raising five kids. She also shows great flair when she delivers a speech prepared by the best in the business, full of shrewd zingers and noble sentiments. In her debate with Joe Biden she revealed an impressive capacity to memorize her talking points and then–with poise and confidence–to repeat them. What wasn’t revealed, because the format didn’t accommodate probing follow-up questions, was the depth of her knowledge–or the lack thereof.
Palin’s confused and often incoherent one-on-ones with Katie Couric have already demonstrated her distressing limitations when she tries to wrestle, unscripted, with serious matters.
So praise her tirelessness in pulling who-knows-how-many all-nighters to prepare herself for the demanding debate. Praise her short-term memory, her hockey-mom folksiness, her performance skills. Praise her talent for answering only the questions she wants to answer. And maybe even praise, if you must, her wish to broaden the powers of the vice president.
But don’t forget what you know to be true about Palin.
For all of you certainly know that Palin has little grasp, or none, of the complex, compelling issues of our day. You’ve all heard enough to recognize that while her expert handlers can cram her with information on foreign policy, healthcare and the economy, these chunks of information seem to float around in her head utterly unanchored by any context or historical understanding.
You know that she is unequipped to be one melanoma away from the presidency. Isn’t it your moral obligation (George Shultz, George Pataki, George H.W. Bush) to speak out now?