About 20 years ago an ambitious young salesperson called trying to get me to buy her company's services. When, after a few painful minutes of listening to her canned talking points I pressed her with, "please tell me exactly why your company is better than the one I currently use," she incredulously replied with a bit of girlish charm, "oh c'mon, don't be difficult!" Her name was Sarah Palin. I'm kidding. But it might as well have been, because they both studied the airhead playbook.
The fact that Sen. John McCain chose the Alaska Governor as his vice presidential running mate doesn't in and of itself automatically make her qualified for the job, nor does it miraculously turn an airhead into an egghead. That he made a boneheaded mistake doesn't preclude us from exposing all her obviously glaring warts.
Which brings us to tonight's debate. There's been a lot of conjecture about what Sen. Joe Biden's strategy will be to avoid appearing condescending and/or sexist. And that's patently offensive to those of us with a brain. The bar has seemingly been set so low for Palin that Biden and moderator Gwen Ifill must treat her with kid gloves or reap the public-relations shitstorm that Republicans will rain down on them.
But let's get one thing straight: Palin's running for the second highest job in the nation. Leader-of-the-free-world in the on-deck circle. A heartbeat away from the presidency should something happen to the 72-year-old cancer surviving McCain. She's supposed to be brilliant. Knowledgeable about both domestic and foreign affairs. Possessing solid judgement. Able to string together a direct answer in three or four coherent sentences. She's not some damned beauty queen whose vacuousness we're supposed to tolerate through the question-and-answer part of the pageant simply because we love her in a bathing suit. She's not supposed to sound like some stammering 10th grader in a "my dog ate my homework" moment. She's not supposed to unconvincingly bluff through difficult questions like an 80-year-old Jersey grandma at a $2 Atlantic City poker table.
There can be no "aw c'mon, don't be difficult!" moments tonight. There can be no free passes. No slack cutting. We cannot allow Palin to get away with sounding like a woefully unprepared and unqualified airhead just because she is one. If she appears inexperienced, uninformed and out of her league tonight it'll be because she is, and not because of some absurd charge of sexism. Just remember, the only people who've lowered any bars here are her Republican handlers who are now chillingly aware of her massive deficiencies. The rest of us will still be holding her to the highest standards.