Mea (sorta) culpa: Why I Won't Be Writing Anything More about Sarah Palin:

What has surprised me most (and depressed me some) about my recent postings(here, here, and here) questioning Sarah Palin’s qualifications to lead the country was the vehemence of the reaction from commenters. I’ve made many suggestions and comments here on the VC over the years that some have considered wrongheaded and obtuse – in fact, I pride myself on that a bit – but I’ve never before been called a “putz” (let alone a “complete putz”!), a jerk, a “leftoid,” or a moron. There’s something about the subject that seems to bring out a bit of a nasty streak in people.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this is one of the very reasons that I disliked the Palin choice in the first place: because it threatened to become a distraction. McCain-Obama has the makings of a great contest, a real turning point election in which we get to decide important questions about the direction we want the country to take. Both candidates, in my opinion, are plausible presidents – something that could not be said (in my opinion) for most of their opponents in the primaries. I was delighted when it became clear that these were the two who would be squaring off – I like elections in which I can be reasonably certain that whether my guy wins or not, the republic’s in good hands, and I felt that way about this one. They’re very different visions, of course – that’s the point – and I do have my preference; but I thought the debate would be a constructive one, the country would choose to go in one direction or the other based on important differences among us about which direction is the right one to take. And off we’d go.

But then along comes the Palin thing, and now we seem to be arguing about fundamentally irrelevant things – like about whether the mayor of Wassilla, AK did or did not ask the school librarian to ban books (and which books they might be), about how many colleges the Governor of Alaska has attended (and the relative value of a University of Idaho vs. a Harvard Law education), about the virtues of small-town life, about hunting, and snowmobile racing, and whether the Governor of Alaska did or did not improperly interfere with the state police to remove a trooper she didn’t like, and about a thousand other things like that. If you had asked me early last week, those all would have struck me as pretty insignificant, in the greater scheme of things, and entirely irrelevant to the 2008 election. But now they are relevant, alas – McCain has made them so. Whatever you think of Sarah Palin and of her qualifications, surely we can all agree on one thing – that until McCain nominated her, the vast majority of the American people didn’t know the first thing about her, and that now we only have six weeks to get up that curve, and we will be soaking up a huge amount of information about her because we do need to know who she is if she is to become Vice President.

That is a distraction. That has absolutely nothing to do with the important stuff on the table this time around. Both sides seem to agree (and I agree with them) that the country is in a rather serious mess – that we’re losing our edge, wasting our money, and falling behind. I agree – I’m glad everyone seems to be in agreement about that. What to do about it is pretty complicated – and we’re not getting anywhere talking about Sarah Palin all the time.

But the more I thought about that, the more I realized that I was as much at fault as anyone. After all, my own postings about her qualifications had started the whole brouhaha, and it is unseemly for me to complain about the distraction that is Sarah Palin, and then to contribute to the distracting discussion. So, mea culpa. This is the last you’ll hear from me on the subject.