Friday, October 03, 2008

The Pit Bull

It seems Sarah can memorize her lines after all.

Who knew?

The bar was set shockingly low for Sarah Palin at last night's debate, and with good reason. For a week she had been beaten senseless night after night by that hard-hitting colossus of investigative journalism, Katie Couric, whose basic ninth-grade civics questions left Palin flummoxed, either stuttering incoherent sound bite fragments or simply remaining silent.

McCain's own people were worried. What if she couldn't answer a simple question, like, "what are the three branches of government?" or "how many justices are there on the Supreme Court?" - or that her mangled answers would make W's soundbites ("I know how hard it is to put food on your family") sound like the Gettysburg Address?

I think we can all agree. Sarah Palin exceeded our expectations on these meager criteria. She can indeed walk and chew gum at the same time.

But more than that, she seemed to enjoy the bloodsport of the thing, even though most of the blood in the ring up to that point was hers. She spoke directly to America. She looked into the camera and betrayed not a shred of fear.

Only a person with a narrow, rock-steady worldview could show that kind of poise and self-confidence with so little to back it up. It was surreal, and unsettling - terrifying, even - to see her happily sparring with "O'Biden," as she referred to Joe Biden at one point.

For his part, Biden was calm, pleasant, and self-controlled. He understood the stakes and was not about to be caught in the national spotlight beating the intellectual daylights out of a sweet, pretty, aw-shucks-ain't-I-cute North Country hockey mom with a pregnant teen-aged daughter and newborn Down-Syndrome baby boy waiting back home. With blood in the water he circled but did not go in for the kill.

But all this begs the issue: Did Palin demonstrate any qualifications for high office other than bluff and swagger? Did she demonstrate mastery of any real material that a president might need?

Hell, no.

But she showed up, and looked good, and didn't cower in a fight for which she was woefully unprepared. She got in the ring with an apple-cheek smile on her aging-beauty-queen face and read her lines like a pro.

In another time, a happier, easier, former time in America, Sarah Palin might just have been able to pull it off. From where I stand, she might have even been able to out-Bush the master of make-believe, W himself.

Palin may not know a thing about the world, and she may have no idea what the Supreme Court is for, and she may think Thomas Jefferson wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, but she does know this: a pit bull brings down its prey by clamping onto the jugular vein, never looking back, and never letting go.

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