Some say the Republicans successfully have lowered the bar for Sarah Palin, but that presumes that the bar is adjustable. It is not. The vice-president has to be able to assume the presidency at a moment's notice, and for that, the bar tonight could not be higher. This debate is not to be graded on a curve. The two candidates are on equal footing, and they are to be compared as equals. This is not about choosing a king or queen for a prom. It's not an entrance exam for a prep school. It's not about being able to get through a canned media event without drooling.
Eight years ago, we were told that it was okay to have a president who was inexperienced, unaccomplished, and not particularly bright- he could surround himself with experts; he wouldn't be running the country on his own. What we learned was that Republican experts are often venal, corrupt, cynical, dishonest, and dangerous. Beyond that, they often just don't know what they're doing. A president needs to know what she or he is doing. A president needs to be smart enough and wise enough to appoint subordinates who know what they are doing. Subordinates who can be trusted.
So, the questions tonight are not whether Sarah Palin can get through a debate without making an utter fool of herself, and whether Joe Biden can get through a debate with Sarah Palin without laughing in her face. The questions are whether either of these two candidates is ready to be president, which of these two candidates would make the better president, and finally and most importantly, what it says about the heads of their tickets to have chosen them as their running mates. But for the few dozen people in this country who actually are qualified to be president, only a complete idiot would say they want someone "just like me" to be vice-president. And Palin is such a person- a complete idiot. People with functioning brains want more from their leaders. People with functioning brains want their leaders to be smarter, wiser, more informed, and better than they are.
While watching tonight's debate, keep in mind that one of these two people could end up across a negotiating table from Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, or Wen Jiabao. One of them may end up with the nuclear codes and the ability to launch wars. One of them may have to attempt to lead us through an economic crisis, or the aftermath of a natural or unnatural disaster. One of them may be appointing Supreme Court justices. Your lives, the lives of your children and grandchildren, and the lives of all your families and friends may rest in one of these two people's hands. That's the bar.