Women will decide this presidential election — so say the political experts. We vote in greater numbers than men and when we even marginally abandon our Democratic-leanings, Republicans win.
The big question is whether Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's two X chromosomes and morning-anchor mien will be the thing that drives women to the McCain-Palin ticket this November.
Palin personifies the over-scripted, jab-laden, plasticized rhetoric of the modern presidential campaign. One might even say she was born to the sound-bite. But you get the impression that all she's got to offer is about two lines on each issue, parroting what she's been told or what has been written for her.
In Palin's now well-dissected interview with Charlie Gibson of ABC News, her answers were shallow and at times barely cogent. On Iran's nuclear ambitions, Palin said three times that she wouldn't "second-guess" Israel if it attacks Iran to eliminate its nuclear facilities.
This is probably the most significant national security issue the next administration will face, yet her answer was devoid of the slightest depth.
On our sputtering economy and how she would diverge from President Bush's economic policies, she said: "We have got to make sure that we reform the oversight also of the agencies, including the quasi-government agencies like Freddie and Fannie, those things that have created an atmosphere here in America where people are fearful of losing their homes."
If she wanted to discuss the foreclosure crisis, Palin could have talked about an end to predatory lending practices or the need to assert regulatory authority over the investment banking sector.
If she wanted to talk about Freddie and Fannie, Palin could have referred to them properly as "government-sponsored enterprises" and described the way they used lobbyists to keep their capital ratios dangerously low.
But what she said instead was nonsensically broad — just a platitude really and a mangled one at that.
On Iraq, Palin has conflated what happened on 9/11 with going to war there. Is she really still confused about this?
What we have heard from Palin scares me. I want the first woman vice president to be up to the job regardless of her party.
I may not be a fan of anyone in Bush's inner circle, but I know that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is prepared to be vice president. I know that Bush's former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman could do it. There are a number of women on the Republican bench who are able, but Sen. John McCain chose someone who is — to say it bluntly — not smart enough.
I'm not a school snob. You don't need an Ivy degree to be qualified as vice president. Bush has an undergraduate degree from Yale, an MBA from Harvard, and yet he's one of the dimmest bulbs to live in the White House. But it took Palin six years at six different schools to finally secure an undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Idaho.
That's indicative of someone who either can't cut it in the academic world or doesn't want to. Either way it's a problem for a potential vice president.
Palin reminds me of Bush's pick of lightweight Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Those on the ideological right such as former Bush speechwriter David Frum and conservative activist Linda Chavez knew that Miers didn't have the intellectual chops for the job and harangued the administration until she withdrew.
This time, there are no anti-Palin ad campaigns coming from the political right. It apparently cares more about who sits on the Supreme Court than who sits one-malignant-melanoma away from the presidency.
It is not partisan to say that a vice presidential candidate needs to understand this complex, dangerous world with nuance and depth. Palin doesn't. And it is up to women to vote her back to Alaska, where she can see Russia but thankfully not attack it.