Fair Questions for Sarah Palin

By Jim Wallis 09-17-2008

After Sarah Palin was selected by John McCain as the Republican vice-presidential candidate, reporters asked me whether the pick was desperate, brilliant, or risky. I said, "yes." Only time will answer the question about the wisdom of McCain's choice. But soon after the announcement, the firestorm began. I said that it was a double standard to criticize this mother for running for high office because she had five children, including a special needs child and a pregnant teenage daughter. Unless we are also going to ask men (fathers) the same question, we should not ask it of a working woman who decides to run for political office. Families in public life certainly need to take good care of their kids, but that is a mutual and family responsibility, not just for the mom.

And then some media started going after Palin's faith and church. One night I watched Keith Olbermann of MSNBC say something like "Sarah Palin goes to a church where they speak in tongues, believe in the Rapture, and think you can pray away the gay." Please Keith, you may not understand religion, but don't offend evangelicals and Pentecostals who either like Palin's politics or don't, but see nothing wrong with their religion. Palin was a curveball to the Obama campaign, which at first had no real idea as to how to respond. But while they made many mistakes, they didn't resort to the attacks on her family and faith that some in the media did.

But now Republicans are crying crocodile tears and accusing anybody who questions Palin's record, experience, or readiness to lead as part of the liberal cultural elite that is just out to get ordinary people like Palin and the rest of us. Yesterday I spoke to a newspaper columnist, a committed Christian, who knows he will be attacked as anti-Christian if he focuses on the political facts of Palin. Is she the reformer she claims to be? What is her knowledge of the world, of foreign policy issues, of the complicated relationship between the use of diplomacy and force in conflict situations? Do her statements and positions on energy and economic policy comport with the facts and with what is needed to make major changes in direction on both? And most of all, does her experience, knowledge, and perspective give her the judgment, competence, and prudence to become the next president of the United States should something happen to the president?

Those are entirely fair questions for Palin, Joe Biden, John McCain, or Barack Obama. They are about the facts, the issues (not the personalities as I discussed in my last post), and the leadership qualities (which is different) needed to govern the country.

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