Could Palin possibly leave the ticket?

Despite growing calls for her departure, even by conservatives, a stubborn John McCain will probably keep her.

Published September 30, 2008 11:05AM (EDT)

There can no longer be any doubt: Sarah Palin is absolutely, positively not qualified to be commander in chief, and she doesn't belong on the Republican ticket. I can't imagine her being ready for a 3 a.m. call on a national security emergency; I can't imagine her fielding one on an economic emergency, either – the possibility Paul Krugman convincingly framed Monday morning.

Her stunning ignorance about Israel, Iran and the Bush Doctrine in the Charlie Gibson interview almost three weeks ago was frightening, but the dim way she answered virtually every question Katie Couric asked last week was even more chilling. I singled out her delusional-sounding rant about "if Putin rears his head" over Alaska, but Jeffrey Goldberg pointed to something arguably more awful: her clueless answer to a Couric question about what happens when democracy doesn't yield results the U.S. likes, as in the case of Hamas in Gaza. Here's what she said:

"Yeah, well especially in that region, though, we have to protect those who do seek democracy and support those who seek protections for the people who live there. What we're seeing in the last couple of days here in New York is a president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, who would come on our soil and express such disdain for one of our closest allies and friends, Israel ... and we're hearing the evil that he speaks and if hearing him doesn't allow Americans to commit more solidly to protecting the friends and allies that we need, especially there in the Mideast, then nothing will."

So we're going to protect Hamas? Don't tell our friends in Israel. Palin clearly had no idea what Couric was talking about. Ever since, she has continued to gaffe her way through the campaign: On Saturday she said she'd go after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan – even though that's against the McCain position, and McCain had to contradict her publicly. Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria says it best: All too often, when Palin opens her mouth, what comes out is "gibberish."

Rebecca Traister writes persuasively about a recent outbreak of misplaced Palin pity among liberals – the New York Times' Judith Warner, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, the New Republic's Christopher Orr have all expressed sympathy for the sinking VP nominee. I'm with Traister; I'm not feeling it. Palin "didn't blink" when McCain asked her to join the ticket, didn't think twice, because she's a supremely self-confident woman with a limited worldview, impressed with her own greatness and not terribly curious about anyone else. She reaps what she sows. I'm with conservative Kathleen Parker and Zakaria: I believe Palin would be a menace as commander in chief, and she's got to get off the GOP ticket.

I don't expect that to happen; McCain is too stubborn, and having been prevented by the Christian right from choosing a relative moderate like Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge, it's hard to imagine him bucking them now. McCain risked his entire reputation for integrity with his cynical choice of Palin, and he'll have to live with the consequences. One consequence is the loss of respect by many journalists who once admired him. As Zakaria puts it: "For John McCain to have chosen this person to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible. McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, it is simply not true." But McCain's reputation isn't the worst casualty of the Palin choice; if he's elected, the consequences will be more dire for the rest of us.

UPDATE: I hadn't seen the latest Couric-Palin-McCain interview when I wrote this. What a disaster. Asked by Couric about the criticism from Republicans about whether she's "ready," a smily, lip-licking Palin cut her off: "Not only am I ready but I am willing and able," she exclaimed, and she went on to talk about her experience as Wasilla mayor and governor. She and McCain tag-teamed questions about her mistaken Pakistan answer, with McCain dismissing the whole situation, I think because she'd been at a pizza parlor? Really, it really made no sense. I don't even understand why McCain was there with her, like a cranky chaperone. It was just awful.

And don't trust a liberal on this one. On CNN Ed Rollins agreed: "It looks like a father taking care of the daughter…she had to go back there with Katie and prove to everybody she can handle it." Boy, Republicans have to be dreading the Thursday debate, huh?

By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections