The vice-presidential candidates debate is the featured drama on television Thursday evening. A record number of viewers are predicted. News analysts describe the upcoming event as if it were a prizefight: In this corner, the wily veteran Joe Biden, and in that corner the underdog newcomer Sarah Palin. Can Palin survive the bout, or will she fall to a knockout blow from Biden?
Pundits predict disaster for Palin. They say she was floored by questions from two news anchors in warm-up matches. Charlie Gibson glazed her eyes with a quick query about The Bush Doctrine, and Katie Couric shook her up with a left hook about McCain’s record as a reformer. “Saturday Night Live” comedians portray her as a dumb Alaskan housewife who can see Russia from her kitchen window and a witless goofball disturbed by all the foreigners she saw at the United Nations building.
Just three weeks ago Palin entered the national political scene as a breath of fresh air in a smoky, stale, arena of same-old, same-old politicians. Half the population immediately fell in love with her, and the other half, for no rational reason, loathe her.
Thursday evening will be “the moment of truth” for Palin. Is she for real, or just a meteor that flashed across the political sky for a few weeks? Is she an air-head, or is she a woman of uncommon substance and integrity? Is she a product of political hype, or a real human being with depth of character?
None of us really know. Not yet. But we are about to. That is why the Thursday night debate carries such dramatic interest. Palin will of necessity enter the arena by herself, no longer tied to handlers who have coached and instructed and protected. For the first time in this political campaign, Sarah Palin will be relying totally on herself.
What will she do? Will she be the Alaskan Sarah Palin touring the lower forty-eight, or will she try to be a urbane, knows-all-the-answers candidate crafted by political hacks? Are we going to see an honest-to-God real person, or are we to witness just another politician following the same tired old path?
Please, Sarah, answer our prayers and be real. You don’t have to know the name of the president of Georgia, not now. Be honest. Rely on the inner integrity that has brought you to this place in history. Strength of character is the only real qualification for the presidency. Do you have it, or don’t you? We are about to find out.