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Newsweek Columnist: Palin Should Spend More Time With Family

Following conservative columnist Kathleen Parker’s call last week for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to step aside as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria is adding his voice to the din.

In the wake of Palin’s disappointing performances in several nationally-televised interviews, Zakaria writes:

Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president. She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start. The next administration is going to face a set of challenges unlike any in recent memory. There is an ongoing military operation in Iraq that still costs $10 billion a month, a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is not going well and is not easily fixed. Iran, Russia and Venezuela present tough strategic challenges.

Zakaria blisters Sen. John McCain’s choice of running mate in his column as “fundamentally irresponsible.”

McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, it is simply not true.

The McCain campaign increasingly finds itself between a rock and a hard place.

While a growing chorus calls for Palin to withdraw, a competing school within the GOP — led by The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and former Massachussets Gov. Mitt Romney — argues for the campaign to let Palin off the short leash it has thus far kept her on. Romney described the thinking this morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: the more she talks to the press, the better she will get.

As Kristol argues in his column in The New York Times today:

With respect to his campaign, McCain needs to liberate his running mate from the former Bush aides brought in to handle her — aides who seem to have succeeded in importing to the Palin campaign the trademark defensive crouch of the Bush White House. McCain picked Sarah Palin in part because she’s a talented politician and communicator. He needs to free her to use her political talents and to communicate in her own voice.

I’m told McCain recently expressed unhappiness with his staff’s handling of Palin. On Sunday he dispatched his top aides Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis to join Palin in Philadelphia. They’re supposed to liberate Palin to go on the offensive as a combative conservative in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday.

That debate is important. McCain took a risk in choosing Palin. If she does poorly, it will reflect badly on his judgment. If she does well, it will be a shot in the arm for his campaign.

In the debate, Palin has to dispatch quickly any queries about herself, and confidently assert that of course she’s qualified to be vice president. She should spend her time making the case for McCain and, more important, the case against Obama.

The New York Times reported last week that in negotiations on the debate’s rules, the McCain campaign pushed to make them more favorable for Palin, by shortening time limits for answers and restricting back-and-forth exchanges between her and Sen. Joe Biden.

Despite the campaign’s efforts to lower the public’s expectations for Palin, they couldn’t be higher. If she had already demonstrated a minimum level of preparedness for the job, those expectations would be lower. But with Tina Fey’s dead-on satire of Palin becoming a fixture on Saturday Night Live, Palin desperately needs to turn in a solid performance in Thursday’s debate.

If the caricature becomes the public’s dominant view of the vice presidential candidate, she will likely become a drag on the ticket — if she hasn’t already.

The McCain campaign has reportedly sequestered Palin at the GOP presidential nominee’s compound near Sedona. Ariz., for some intensive prep work. McCain, reportedly an avid gambler, bet his candidacy when he rolled the dice on Palin.

If Palin doesn’t — at a minimum — hold her own against Biden during the debate, that toss may well come up snake eyes.

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