The issue started with a column by conservative Kathleen Parker in The National Review. Her thesis is that recent interviews have shown the Alaska governor is "out of her league" and should leave the GOP presidential ticket for the good of the party:
As we’ve seen and heard more from John McCain’s running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn’t know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions warrant her promotion.
Yes, she recently met and turned several heads of state as the United Nations General Assembly convened in New York. She was gracious, charming and disarming. Men swooned. Pakistan’s president wanted to hug her. (Perhaps Osama bin Laden is dying to meet her?)
And, yes, she has common sense, something we value. And she’s had executive experience as a mayor and a governor, though of relatively small constituencies (about 6,000 and 680,000, respectively).
Finally, Palin’s narrative is fun, inspiring and all-American in that frontier way we seem to admire. When Palin first emerged as John McCain’s running mate, I confess I was delighted. She was the antithesis and nemesis of the hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood — a refreshing feminist of a different order who personified the modern successful working mother.
Because of Paker's opinion piece, others in the mainstream media are starting to wonder if she is hurting John McCain rather than help him.
Alexander Burns and David Paul Kuhn of Politico wrote yesterday:
Tony Fabrizio, a GOP strategist, says Palin’s recent CBS appearance isn’t disqualifying but is certainly alarming. “You can’t continue to have interviews like that and not take on water.”
“I have not been blown away by the interviews from her, but at the same time, I haven’t come away from them thinking she doesn’t know s—t,” said Chris Lacivita, a GOP strategist. “But she ain’t Dick Cheney, nor Joe Biden and definitely not Hillary Clinton.”
There is no doubt that Palin retains a tremendous amount of support among rank-and-file Republicans. She draws huge crowds, continues to raise a lot of money for the McCain campaign, and state parties report she has sparked an uptick in the number of volunteers.
Asked about Palin's performance in the CBS interview, a McCain official briefing reporters on condition of anonymity said: "She did fine. She's a tremendous asset and a fantastic candidate."
But there is also no doubt many Republican insiders are worried she could blow next week’s debate, based on her unexpectedly weak and unsteady media appearances, and hurt the Republican ticket if she does.
Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine wrote yesterday:
Now that confidence seems gone, replaced by cockiness — which is just insecurity on steroids. With Charlie Gibson the waters were smooth if shallow; with Katie Couric she seemed forever at risk of drowning in her own syntax. But if she's growing less surefooted with each passing day of cramming, who can blame her, when the highly experienced Republican pols around her don't seem to trust her to talk past her talking points. Talk about undermining your brand; if she was picked as the Outsider Original Maverick with the experience and courage to help clean up Washington, you can't argue that she's not giving interviews because the press is so mean to her. She's ready for a cage fight with Nancy Pelosi but won't sit down with Campbell Brown?
But maybe the problem isn't Palin herself but the campaign handlers. She is a successful politican by her own right. It wasn't by chance that she became governor of her state, she earned it through the political process. She has shown to have tremendouse fortitude in dealing with countless smears, e-mail hackings, attacks om her religious beliefs and baseless attacks on her family matters.
What the McCain campaign should do is to give her the best pre-debate education of the issues it can. Get her up to speed on foreign affairs and domestic problems. But don't craft the answers for her. Let her develop what she is going to say in her own voice. In other words, on Oct. 2, let her be Sarah Palin.
If she's going to be criticized for her answers (she will, MSNBC and others will dissect them syllable by syllable) she might as well give her own thoughts, and not the spin of the campaign. The McCain campaign should unleash her. She can handle Biden on her own. From what we have seen, when allowed to be herself, she can do quite well.