I wouldn't have thought that it was possible, but I have to admit that I feel sorry for Sarah Palin.
It's true that I have dramatic disagreements with her political philosophy, and it's certainly true that I fervently hope that she and her running mate John McCain lose the election. But I still can't help but feel a twinge of sympathy for her about the way she's been treated.
Not by the press.
By the McCain campaign.
My guess is that they put the hard sell on her to join the ticket: It would energize the Republican base. It would help attract women voters. It was her duty as a loyal Republican and a patriotic American. And even if the Dems won, she would gain national exposure and become a household name. What did she have to lose?
I'm thinking that the answer to that question is: Her political career.
For a couple of weeks after the convention, the campaign kept her wrapped up like a mummy -- she made lots of speeches (OK, she made one speech lots of times), but her handlers kept journalists away from her as if they were would-be assassins.
The they threw her to the wolves.
The Charlie Gibson interview was a disaster for Palin -- but hey, it was her first try, surely the McCain people would get her into shape for the next interview, right? She had tragically (or, perhaps, comedically) muffed the question about how being Governor of Alaska gave her foreign policy experience, so you just knew that the McCain folks would, if nothing else, make sure that he had a snappy answer to that question. And yet, when Katie Couric asked Palin the same question, her answer was even more head-shakingly embarrassing than her response to Gibson had been.
The only explanation I can come up with is that the McCain people, after giving Palin the bum's rush to get her onboard, have basically left her to, in the immortal words of John Ehrlichman, "hang slowly, slowly twisting in the wind." Ehrlichman used that charming phrase as a suggestion for how the Nixon administration should reward the loyalty of FBI Director L. Patrick Gray, as a way of diverting Watergate-scandal attention away from the Nixon inner circle. And whatever else you might say about Sarah Palin's comedy-inducing interview performances, you have to admit that they've helped divert media attention from her charisma-impaired running mate.
The problem for Palin is that she's become an object of ridicule. For the rest of her life, it will be impossible for her to give a speech without half the audience wondering if they're listening to Sarah Palin or Tina Fey. She (Palin, not Fey) probably figured that, even if the Republicans lost, she would come out of the race with national stature, increasing her power at home in Alaska, and creating the possibility that she might compete for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Instead, she's become a self-contained parody, a one-woman comedy routine. Although the Republicans like to call her "the most popular governor in America," I think that she'll have a hard time winning re-election in 2010. In fact, unless the residents of Wasilla will have her back as Mayor, I think that her political career might be over.
With the VP debate only a couple of days away, it seems that the campaign is finally giving Palin some serious coaching, so hopefully she won't make a complete fool out of herself on national television.
Then again, hopefully she will.