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September 01, 2008



Jonathan, I enjoyed this post and share your views up to a point. What I'm about to say is not very P.C., so let me preface it by saying that I give Sarah Palin a lot of credit for rising through the ranks from PTA mom to Governor to the national stage, while simultaneously raising a large, active family according to the values she and her husband hold. I do not agree with many (or any) of her known positions, but I respect her integrity and admire her progress to date, which seems to have been accomplished on her own terms.

OK. That said, this latest family drama leads me to wonder whether Palin--or anyone in her position--can really "do it all." Granted, women have fought hard for the right to try, and Palin could be viewed as proof of their success. But the stakes are pretty high here. Everyone is saying "Hands off, it's private, family problems are off limits," but I think that approach lets Palin off the hook too easily. Her daughter's pregnancy may be her family's business, but it's not just her family's welfare that must be considered when Palin takes on the huge burden of running for Vice President. On the other side of the equation, the country has a legitimate--possibly even paramount-- interest in knowing that the candidate can do the job. I think it is entirely reasonable to ask whether a woman who claims to put family first (I'm not questioning her sincerity, just pointing out her staunch adherence to "family values") can really meet the enormous demands of the office she seeks and still be there for an infant son with Down syndrome, a pregnant, newlywed teenage daughter, a son in Iraq, and a couple of others in between? A "token VP" might be able to do it, but in these difficult post-9/11 times, and given McCain's age and health history, not to mention Palin's very low position on the presidential learning curve, we need a lot more than a token. We need a fully committed, 100% engaged VP whose energy is focused on the job at hand.

You get my point. I think this may be a case of an ambitious young woman biting off more than she can chew. (Her acceptance seems almost as impulsive as McCain's selection.) And even if Palin eventually proves equal to the task, in my mind the presumption at this point is against her. With so much on her plate from the outset, it is just not credible to argue that she can handle it all at the level of competence that the VP job demands in the modern world. I don't think voters or the press should have to tiptoe around this question solely because it's considered impolite. Frankly, I would be equally skeptical if McCain had chosen a young male candidate with Sarah Palin's complicated family life and minimal experience. In Palin's case, why should we simply accept, unquestioningly, that she can juggle all the balls at once (a) because she says she can and (b) because she hasn't screwed up yet in Alaska (that we know of)?

Simply put, I wish Governor Palin had postponed her national aspirations until she was better known and her kids were a little older--like her professed role models, Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton. Because she chose not to do so, all the circumstances of her life that bear on her ability to serve should be open to scrutiny, including the competing demands of her family.

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