Strip away all the side issues (and there are many, and they are important), and the essence of Sarah Palin is this: She is an extraordinarily gifted political performer. And she knows nothing — zippo — about the national and international issues with which any national political figure needs to be conversant.
Which brings me to the latest on the increasingly public mud-slinging between the Palin and McCain camps, written up in loving detail by the Politico’s Ben Smith. Given her freakish and unwarranted self-confidence, it’s not surprising that she believes she could talk her way out of the mess she’s in if only her handlers would let her. And given her long string of boneheaded (and worse) statements, it’s not surprising that the McCainiacs just want her to shut up.
It is nothing short of astounding that Palin’s supporters, according to Smith, point to the Katie Couric interview as something that was mishandled by the McCain forces. We all saw Palin babble about how Alaska’s proximity to Russia has given her foreign-policy experience — a softball do-over from Couric, given that Palin had had time to think about it after answering Charlie Gibson’s identical question the same idiotic way. We all saw that she couldn’t even say what she reads, leading to the not-unreasonable conclusion that she doesn’t.
If Barack Obama wins on Nov. 4, it’s going to be a long winter for the Republican Party. Among the party’s many problems is that Palin has signaled she intends to be a player. Given that she has what’s left of the Republican base in her thrall, and that she is a huge negative among everyone else, Palin, for Democrats, may be the gift that keeps on giving.