11/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sarah's Sentences

The New York Times has a feature called "The Conversation" in which two of its star writers, David Brooks, their Republican-leaning columnist, and Gail Collins, their Democratic-leaning columnist, dialogue in print about the presidential race. In reaction to the intense public focus on Sarah Palin and her performance in the Vice Presidential debate - 70 million viewers saw it on television -- the two writers also had a conversation - with two vastly different points of view in their separate columns.

Mr. Brooks, a literate writer by any standard - his columns are often characterized by prolific references to erudite books - at first wondered in his column on Palin, "Was this woman capable of completing an extemporaneous paragraph -- a collection of sentences with subjects, verbs, objects and, if possible, an actual meaning?" But then, he concluded, "By the end of her opening answers, it was clear she would meet the test. She spoke with that calm, measured poise that marked her convention speech."

Ms. Collins, an equally literate writer - before becoming a columnist, she was a member of the Times editorial board and was the first woman ever appointed editor of the newspaper's editorial page - lamented in her column on Palin, that the Governor's "answers were murky in the extreme," and that her "intelligence and toughness may wind up buried under the legend of her verb-deprived ramblings."

The final arbiter of Sarah Palin's rhetoric was Tina Fey, whose impressions of the Alaska Governor on NBC's Saturday Night Live have become almost, if not more popular than the candidate herself. In a sketch that lampooned the debate, Fey portrayed Palin as she had in two previous outings - lampooning the interview with CBS's Katie Couric, and an imaginary joint press conference with Hillary Clinton - as a sentence-mangler of the first order.

See the actual debate. Read the transcript - without her undeniably effective visual image - and you'll find that Sarah Palin cannot parse a sentence.

Mr. Brooks, it's time to get past your party loyalty and return to your erudition.