GADFLY: The Cold Hard Truth about Sarah Palin 

Please... excuse... me.... while... I... tiptoe... through.... the... minefield...that ...has... become.... saying.... virtually... anything... less... than... adulatory... about... Sarah... Palin.

Whew! For a second there, I thought I was a goner when I even admitted the possibility that something less than fawning could be said about the GOP's second banana (by which I am , by no means, referring to anything phallic). Hush my mouth! You've got to hand it to the Republicans, though. They have managed to figure out how they can use Palin's gender as both a sword and a shield.. She's allowed to throw a punch (even if it's below the belt), but please respect her dainty glass jaw (which has been blown---and that is not intended to be a Monica reference---from the same batch as the ceiling she's surmounted).

They have immunized her from any scrutiny by the media (just as she was apparently immunized from any serious scrutiny by McCain before he chose her), and they have innoculated her with antibodies that will fight off anyone who tries to attack her, which, in their newly created universe, means anyone who isn't sufficiently deferential and obsequious to their new "Queen of Mean."

The amazing thing about this figurative moat the GOP has dug around their president-in-waiting, is that so many folks seem to be taking it seriously. As a result, people who are used to critically scrutinizing candidates for public office, indeed whose duty it is to do so, are quaking in their boots, fearful that they will be tagged with the dreaded "S" word (and I don't mean "snarky"). The worst of these, I'm afraid, are Obama and Biden, who are falling all over each other to see which one can go easier on Palin. I'm actually afraid Biden may start the vice presidential debate by kissing Palin's ring (if not something else).

Anyone who wants to interview her, it seems, has to sign some kind of oath forswearing questions any more probing than "what's your recipe for moose burgers," and has to show evidence, upon entering the interview room that they are actually wearing kid gloves (and who better to do all that than the toadying ABC "journalist," Charlie Gibson, who's scored the first crack at this delicate flower). It has gotten so silly that I understand the GOP is considering filing a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the word "lipstick." Their justification: lipstick, when used by anyone other than the person (female only, of course) who applies it to herself (physically or metaphorically) is automatically hateful and venomous and infringes on the one and only rightful user's license. And let's not even talk about fish references.

Who says personal issues, or family, are off the table? The Republicans certainly don't believe that, given the way they've attacked Michelle Obama or other members of Obama's family. And remember how they attacked Teresa Kerry in '04, or, for that matter, how Bush attacked McCain's family in the '00 South Carolina primary? Why isn't it fair game to go after Palin's house husband (he prefers "First Dude" which tells you everything you need to know about him) for his membership in a political party that espouses the secession of Alaska from the union? Or, why it isn't fair game to ask Palin herself why, in a world of diminishing resources, four children weren't enough, and why, at the age of 44, she subjected her child to the known risks of a pregnancy with a substantially increased incidence of genetic defects? Isn't judgment always an issue for a candidate?

Give me a break! When you pride yourself on being a pit bull (and whether or not you try to hide that with lipstick), you have to get used to being treated as dangerous, to being reined in by animal control officers, and yes, occasionally even to being "put down" (and I mean that in a figurative sense). You're not even entitled to your first bite, like most dogs are. The circus atmosphere surrounding this apparent savior of the GOP ticket has gone beyond absurd. If the press and the public (and especially the Democrats) don't do the job of seriously examining who this flash in the pan the Republicans are trying to foist over on us really is, then we'll deserve having her be a "heartbeat from the presidency."

Remember, the last person elected as a vice president who had been a municipal executive and a governor of a state for less than two years also broke a "glass ceiling. " He was the first Greek-American to achieve such a high elective office, and was, er, under investigation when he was added to the ticket as Nixon's "hatchet man." Spiro Agnew, I mean. What is it they say about the effect of not learning the lessons of history?

While I don't think "Flailin' Palin" will even survive on the ticket to election day, I am implementing a contingency plan of praying (something I am really not used to doing). I do earnestly entreat any and all deities that, should the GOP succeed in fooling the American public (or worse, stealing this election), like it has so many times before, her sponsor should turn out to be neither as senile nor as sickly as

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