10/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Media Must Raise, Not Lower The Bar For Palin For Thursday's Debate

Right now, as we speak, Sarah Palin is dropping off the radar... intentionally.

The governor is being sequestered at one of the seven estates in the McCain family stable, a rancho in Arizona, where the Republican presidential aspirant and his top aides are going to begin a systemic brainwashing that is supposed to produce a somewhat more articulate, politically savvy Sarah Palin for the Vice Presidential Debate against Joe Biden on Thursday, October 1, 2008.

Already the lemmings, sorry, pundits and journalists, are lowering the bar for sad Sarah to crawl across.

New Yorker Cover 10/08  

Her recent performances have been derided by the media, have been the source of calls by Republican pundits like Kathleen Parker for her to step aside, and have been the fodder of Saturday Night Live, where Tina Fey got big laughs by memorizing the candidate's Katie Couric ramble and dropping it into her parody during last Saturday night's opening sketch. Even the latest edition of the New Yorker sports a cover mocking McCain's V.P. pick.

The spin of the week that seems to be rising from the press corps is that all of this mockery and slamming of Sarah works in her favor for this week's VP debate.

The bar has been dropped so low, regurgitates [insert your talking head here] from the talking points of some Republican operative who has been putting this buzz out there, that Sarah has little more to do than not fall directly on her face, or giggle hysterically when someone asks her if Gore V. Bush is a supreme court case or the name of a porn actor.

Let's raise the bar.

If Joe Biden puts on the kid gloves Thursday to avoid looking "mean" to poor Sarah, then he is no less sexist than the old white men who decided to drop her into the race in the first place.

He should treat her no differently than if his friend and colleague Joe Lieberman was standing over there, or Tom Ridge, or Christine Whitman, or even the gal who works down at the Capitol Laundry and made it through two rounds on Jeopardy!

To keep this debate from being a sham, he has to be fair, but get tough enough to showcase Palin's weaknesses.

Last Friday's presidential debate may not go down in the annals of these contests as one of the greats for quips, but it was a hotly contested, no-holds-barred exercise that clearly demonstrated for all to see the character of both Barack Obama and John McCain, if nothing else.

Governor Palin will need to stand up and give her contest with Biden everything that she has got, even if it isn't very much.

In that famed tape of her discussing the treatment of Hillary Clinton, she said that a female candidate should do no less. So I'm going to raise the bar to the level that she set it at.

Is it any wonder that the Republican spin machine is working hard to make her modest accomplishment of not screwing up a point of victory? It is a mirror of the spin that the Obama camp did, and should not have done, to cover bets in case Obama did not shine against the more "experienced" foreign policy expert McCain.

Obama not only held his own, but McCain, as I pointed out in a prior blog, laid an egg on foreign policy when his only real proposal was to create a democratic League of Nations, the Fantastic Four of politics beating up on bad guys and having lunch with Batman and the other Super Friends in the bat cave.

Anyone who hits the stage here has earned, by election or by pick of those elected, the inalienable right to be fed to the wolves. The governor probably has shot one or two. While the Republicans are going to complain that it is their media cousins returning the favor, sad Sarah can implode all on her own.

This not a historic match-up like Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier. It is more like Ali and Little Orphan Annie.


The Governor of Alaska will take her mayoral term and her half-term as Alaska's Chief Executive and Russian early warning system and enter the ring with Joltin' Joe Biden, who has helmed two of the most powerful committees, Judicial and Foreign Affairs, in the United States Senate.

A pivotal figure in the 9/11 hearings, Biden oozes so much gravitas that he could probably lend Mrs. P. a cup if she came next door from her lectern and asked.

Some pundits are advising the McCain campaign to let Sarah be Sarah, the affable, sweet-yet-tough hockey mom whose refreshing spunk and common sense will show up those rascals in D.C. and the always-biased liberal media elite, the bogeymen of the right-wing chat set.

In the war room of the campaign though, that will not set well. They will want to cram Palin's head full of factoids to make her look smarter standing toe-to-toe with Biden. They will brief her on campaign talking points to make sure that she does not accidentally agree again with Barack Obama, and flush all of that quality sniping that McCain has been doing about Obama's inexperience down the drain.

It is all putting cue cards under the nose of a pig, to mutilate the old adage that has become the "Where's the Beef" of 2008.

You can fill the governor's head full of wonderful talking points about pork barrel spending, have her deliver with delicious irony tomes about the inexperience of Obama, and pull out the batons for that patriotic yarn that right-leaning voters love about the duty to spread freedom to the freedom lovers of the world.

At the end of the day, though, a time period that Mr. McCain likes to harangue voters about, my friends, inarticulate is still inarticulate.

Mrs. Palin is a lovely woman, and may even be a very able governor for her state, but, if the recent interviews that the McCain campaign has allowed her to do are any indicator, she is ill-informed, inexperienced in life outside Alaska, foreign affairs, and the national economy. Even Mr. Scott could not use the U.S.S. Enterprise's transporter to beam her the light years across the galaxy that she would need to catch up upon to be ready for the Thursday night debate.

In a United States where George W. Bush has driven the ship of state on to an iceberg turned loose by global warming, the media's failure to hold Sarah Palin up to the same standards as any other vice presidential candidate, particularly as she is the back-stop to the man who would be the oldest first-termer in modern history, would be an act of gross irresponsibility.

If Sarah can't stand up, then she should sit this one out.