There's an old joke about a guy's wife walking in on him in bed with another woman. When confronted, the guy denies it, saying: "who are you going to believe, me or your lyin' eyes?" It's with the same degree of reality-denying hubris that Sarah Palin strides into tonight's debate, as if any snarky remarks or any degree of post-debate spin can undo all the babbling, the lies, and the childishly amateur evasion when she simply doesn't have the knowledge or experience to answer a direct question.
They can piss and moan about gotcha journalism. Trick questions. Nobody busted her. Not Charlie Gibson. Not born-again journalist Katie Couric. Sarah the Moose Killer outed herself, not by choice, but simply because that's who she is. A small timer who tried to inject her brand of gooey charm and folksy nonsense into an arena where the future of the world hangs in the balance. A minor league ballplayer with dreams of the big show but none of the talent.
But still that doesn't stop the news chatter. How will she do? How will it play? Will she trip up? Will she recapture that Klondike charm that so endeared her to the nitwit base? Will Biden get too tough and make it seem like he's picking on her? Nothing like a little reverse sexism to start off the most important vice presidential debate in recent history.
They can and will analyze this all night long. But it doesn't matter how she does tonight. It's not a football game in the sense that, on any given Thursday, any candidate can out-debate any other candidate. We don't have to wait for the results to see who she is. It's absolutely clear who she is. A campaign gimmick. A petty bureaucrat with a voice so shrill it could shatter glass who's been swept up in a wave of self-delusion to think she belongs where she is. Now, the McCain campaign is, I'm sure, already declaring victory so they can trot out the "she's a maverick" line of bullshit they had at the convention and run with it again, as if it could whitewash the last few weeks and give them new legs. Or maybe they've just boxed themselves into a corner where dumping her would've proven too risky so they're stuck, and just hope to get through this with as little bloodletting as possible so they can try to revive their faltering campaign as the Obama tidal wave rolls in against them.
Maybe she'll get through it tonight without looking like a fool. Maybe she'll get off a couple of over-rehearsed cutesy remarks and hold up a big foam finger, look to camera and shriek: "I'm going to Disneyland!" It doesn't matter. It's not the best four out of seven World Series. It's the Super Bowl. It's already been played. And she's already lost.