She's out of her depth, and we hold our breath

October 13, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER | SUSAN REIMER,susan.reimer@baltsun.com

In the early days of The Movement, as we ground-zero feminists were calling it then, we tried without much success to explain to the white men who were running things how affirmative action was supposed to work.

"You don't run out and hire the first woman or the first black person you find on the sidewalk and call it a day," we said.

"You spend the extra 10 minutes and the extra 10 bucks recruiting and interviewing until you find a woman or a minority who has the qualifications to do the job.

"Trust us," we said. "They are out there."

That's not what John McCain did when he chose Sarah Palin.

I imagine him in a fit of his famous pique, after getting word that the conservative Republican base would not permit him to pick his friend Joe Lieberman or his other friend Tom Ridge as his running mate, saying through clinched teeth, "Fine. Get me that girl from Alaska."

Now women like me find ourselves cringing.

Not because of her NRA, right-to-life or evangelical politics. Not because she abused her power when she tried to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the Alaska state police. Let's leave all that aside for the moment.

We are cringing because one of our sisters is dying like a bad comic on open-mike night, and we can barely stand to look.

We are watching one of our own under the klieg lights, and that overwrought sense of empathy that is a woman's gift and curse is causing our mouths to go dry and our stomachs to tighten.

Whatever your politics, you are rooting for Sarah Palin not to, as Queen Latifah said on Saturday Night Live, "cry, faint, run out of the room or vomit."

Some conservative commentators, including George Will and Kathleen Parker, who were smitten when McCain announced her as his running mate, are now recalling those early reviews and concluding that she hasn't got the chops for the job. And not just for the job of president, God forbid.

They don't think she is smart enough to be vice president. They think she is inexperienced to the point of being dangerous.

Ouch.

I watched Sarah Palin debate Joe Biden and I had to remind myself to breathe. I kept waiting for the screeching tires and the busting glass.

Seventy million television viewers - 20 million more than watched the first presidential debate - tuned in, and it wasn't to hear her thoughts on Wall Street oversight. Like NASCAR fans, they were waiting for the car to slam into the wall.

Before the debate was over, I felt like I was watching Legally Blonde III: The Campaign, during which spunkiness triumphs over substance again.

Palin likes to play the Joe Sixpack Everyman card, and there is no doubt this multi-tasking mother of five knows more about what is going on in the average American family than any of the men on either ticket. She gets it because she lives it.

Women are saying this is the reason they like her. She is one of us.

But I don't want anybody like me to be vice president.

I want an Ivy League education. Maybe a Rhodes scholarship. How about a law degree or an MBA or a divinity degree? I want military service or a career in corporate or government leadership or in the diplomatic corps.

These are really scary times, and I want leaders with solid-gold resumes. I want intellectual heft. I want somebody way smarter than me.

I am not elitist, I am nervous. And I don't want as vice president a car-pooling mom who runs a state like a part-time job and who can't find her way from a subject to a predicate.

I want somebody who can do more than find 50 ways to use maverick in a sentence. I want somebody who can actually pitch in and help the next president find his way out of wars on two fronts, a recession and a health care crisis - just for starters.

And if her televised interviews and her debate performance are any indication, Palin's not up to the newly defined role of vice president as co-general manager of the country, even if she is taking a Cheney-like role in attacking Barack Obama as a terrorist.

Her chirpy meandering through the issues reminds me of Cher in the classroom debate on television violence in the movie Clueless:

"Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value."

As if.

We are in the middle of an economic meltdown that could very well sink the Republican ticket all by itself, and all I can think is that if McCain loses, everybody is going to blame Sarah Palin.

If that happens, it could be a lifetime before a woman is on a national ticket again, and whether or not she is fodder for good Saturday Night Live skits will be part of the vetting process.

Maybe we will get lucky, and if McCain loses, everybody will blame Tina Fey.

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