Magazine article Newsweek

The Editor's Desk

Magazine article Newsweek

The Editor's Desk

Article excerpt

Byline: Jon Meacham

Let us stipulate this right off: Sarah Palin won her debate with Joe Biden. She won, it is true, by not imploding, but a win is a win. Though the polls have given the evening to Biden on substance, Palin, after her unimpressive interviews with Katie Couric of CBS, had the fate of the presidential election in her hands in St. Louis. If the governor had made a serious mistake (something worse than resurrecting General George McClellan and posting him to Afghanistan), she could have destroyed the Republican ticket's chances. In the event, she did not, and the focus is now likely to return to Barack Obama and John McCain in these last weeks.

But we should not move on from Palin so quickly. In our cover essay this week, I argue that Palin's populist positioning is risky for the rest of us. She has said, as has the McCain campaign, that it is time "Joe Six-Pack" took possession of the vice presidency. It is good politics to run as a hockey mom who is going to reclaim the office for the masses (a curious cause, to be sure, since I do not think the masses have been clamoring for it, but there we are). It will, however, almost surely make for poor governance.

I am not writing from a knee-jerk liberal perspective. I disliked much of the mainstream media's reaction to Palin in those first days this summer: it was too fevered, and there was speculation about Palin's family that was out of bounds. I admire John McCain (and I admire Barack Obama). But the vice presidency of the United States in any age, but especially in an age of terror, should not be a slot for the proudly mediocre. I asked Karl Rove to refute me; his essay follows mine, and also looks ahead at what McCain must do in the few weeks that remain. Jonathan Alter sat down with Biden after the debate, and Howard Fineman points out that whoever wins will have few options and many problems come Inauguration Day. …

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