11/08/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Sarah's Favorite Drink Recipe: This One'll Get You Hammered

You will need:

1 - One part bitterness and anger
2 - Three parts freefall economy
3 - A pinch of xenophobia and racism
4 - A smattering of key allies in the press
5 - Add peculiarly compelling personality to taste
6 - For the active ingredient, add the word "Terrorist"

Drink this and I promise you will get drunker 'n Todd on the Fourth of Joo-ly!

The right ingredients, at the right time, mixed together by a ravenously ambitious leader without any moral compass, can and will produce something extremely toxic and dangerous.

For weeks we've watched an empty-headed poser try to compete on the national stage and fail miserably. But now that this future she hasn't earned is slipping from her talons we are witnessing something far more troubling, far more lethal. Sarah Palin is summoning the ghosts of a very dark past when she throws around words like "terrorist" to a frustrated crowd of mostly white supporters, fueled by fear and desperation, terrified that the life they've always known could be disappearing into vapor before their children's eyes.

One wonders, if their opponent was a white man, if she and her partner would be choosing this particular line of attack. Barack Obama, an African-American man (emphasis on "African") with the Arab sounding name (emphasis on "Hussein") presents a perfect target for a perfect audience and their imperfect leaders. You see, the word "terrorist" isn't heard discreetly in America. It's heard as part of a cacophony of sounds: planes flying into buildings, roadside bombs, Arabic threats, and the cries of innocents.

Sarah Palin and John McCain know that they can't do anything to assuage your fear of the faltering economy so they replace it with a different fear. They call up images of bombings and "those who would seek to destroy us," and put a face in front of you to hate. With charm and a smile ("the heels are on, the gloves are off") they stand silently as you spit blood ("Treason!" and "Kill Him!"), counting on the fact that your fever will spread. And if that virus needs a further contagion, they have people like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly to make it airborne.

Leadership requires an understanding of those one wishes to lead. It also requires an understanding of the difference between a crowd and a mob. Most importantly, it requires the heart and mind to transform one into the other. One leader might move his countrymen and women to accept, assist, or engage in unfathomable horror, while another might move the same nation to greatness.

The McCain campaign wants to talk about character, so let's talk about it. Character is illuminated by decisions made in a crisis. We're watching the candidates make their decisions in the midst of the worst crisis in a generation. Those decisions define their character. The choice we make in response will define ours.