11/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Biden vs. Palin: What Joe Needs To Do

Dear Joe,

Exposing Palin's disqualifications will be difficult. For she will deliver from memory non-toxic, formulaic "answers" crafted by her handlers, deliver them along with an occasional stiletto wrapped in carefully rehearsed Reaganesque good humor. And the PBS moderator, frantic to demonstrate her impartiality, won't press Palin when her practiced response evades the question. Your test is to pry her loose from her lines and then underscore the emptiness or sinister implications of her stated views without appearing condescending or a lout.

Here is how to do it.

First, as soon as possible, take on the perfectly stupid "experience" issue as it has been framed to date by noting that Presidents don't administer anything; they make basic policy choices from the buffet that their inevitably squabbling advisors spread before them and they appoint the people who execute their policies. That is why Palin's claim that she has actually "run" something while you and Obama have just made speeches is irrelevant. The relevant question is whether she has the judgment and understanding to make wise policy decisions and the character not to appoint cronies and sycophants.

Second, say without rancor that you have studied the few things that Palin has said about foreign policy in particular and they have given you the impression that she has not thought deeply about the issues or even been interested in them until now, but that her instinct seems much like that of McCain's, namely to rely on armed force as a principal means of getting what the country wants in the world. But you would be happy to be proven wrong.

Your next move flows directly from the first two: You need to state a number of questions you would like to see Governor Palin address, since [you will say] they will help you and the American people get some general sense of whether she has the knowledge, understanding and maturity essential for making policy for the nation. You will have to slip them in, one at a time, when you have the mic. Here are a few questions that could bring Palin out of her porcupine's croutch:

1. "If you had been President instead of Jack Kennedy at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, would you have resisted the majority of your advisors when they called for bombing or invading Cuba?
2. Should we threaten to attack Russia if it again invades Georgia's territory or if it fails to withdraw immediately the troops that are there now?
3. How many wars should we be prepared to fight simultaneously?
4, If North Korea goes ahead with its threat to re-start its nuclear program, should we attack North Korea? Suppose our South Korean allies are opposed to such an attack?
5. Suppose North Korea agrees to verifiably dismantle its nuclear installations in return for normalization of economic relations, an invitation to its supreme leader to visit the White House and Hollywood, and a Presidential declaration that North Korea is no longer part of the Axis of Evil. Would you support that deal? Suppose Iran did the same?
6. Do you think it was a mistake for us to arrange the overthrow, back in 1953, of Iran's only elected government? Do you think we would have the same problems with Iran if we had not done that?
7. Do you think we can address effectively problems like epidemic diseases, energy shortages, global warming and terrorism without having close cooperative relations with Russia and China, even though they are not Democracies?

You will probably manage to slip in only a few of them, Joe, but even a few should do the trick. Ask the moderator to press for an answer. If she doesn't, then the next time you get the microphone, ask Palin directly to answer and offer to waive a bit of your time so she can. If she ducks the questions, that's fine. If she attempts to answer, an army of post-debate spinners will not be able to obscure the fact that when Senator McCain placed Governor Palin a possible heartbeat away from the Oval Office, he revealed that for him, at this stage of his life, imagined political self-interest trumps the national one.