A reader writes:

I've been reading your blog for years and consider it one of the best and most objective political blogs on the web.  I truly admire your expertise and understand many of your criticisms of Palin and McCain's vetting process.  But enough is enough.  Your comments during Palin's speech were beneath your integrity.  There was no need to poke fun at her family, especially her baby, and compare her speaking skills to that of a high school student. 

Despite your doubts, she is on Obama's level.  There is no question about it.  Not only is this woman a fine orator with confidence and poise, but she also had the guts to shake up the corrupt political establishment in her state.  Obama should get credit for passing ethics reform, but has that reform really made a difference?  Palin passed an ethics reform bill as Governor but actually took action against her own party.  She kicked out a corrupt incumbent Governor, fired the Attorney General, and forced the head of the Republican Party to resign, who was also fined.  That takes guts.  When did Obama ever accomplish something similar?

Regarding the budget surplus in Alaska, there is no question that the oil revenues have contributed to it, and that the state has a major problem with earmarks.  But Palin has made significant budget cuts.  In 2007, she used her veto power to make the second-largest cuts of construction in the state's history, amounting to nearly $250 million. I also agree with her refunding of the surplus to the citizens of Alaska.  Shouldn't the residents share in the state's wealth and not just the Government?  Didn't you also advocate an oil tax as Palin has done?  Her work on energy and especially with pipelines will also be a plus in this election for the Republicans.

One small point: I did not make fun of her baby. I was appalled at the way he was used as a political prop. On the larger issue, I'm sorry but she is, alas, not even close to Obama's level. Yes, I am an elitist in as much as I would like the president of the United States to be halfway educated and have more than eighteen months experience in a state of 700,000 people. Of course she can give a good speech written for her. She was a sportscaster. Public speaking is one thing she knows how to do. But as for the guts to take on the GOP establishment, please. They were in her way. It doesn't take guts to shake a corrupt and dead tree when it's the only way to advance up the ranks as swiftly as she has. She used classic populist boilerplate to gain power and has subsequently showered oil money on Alaskans. As I've written, I hope fairly, I don't think her record in the eighteen months she has been governor is that bad at all, although it's not that hard to be governor when your main task is figuring out what to do with a massive surplus.

Look: I don't know much about her, and neither does anyone outside Alaska. But I've learned a lot these past few days and I am alternately underwhelmed and alarmed. I do know that she proposed nothing of any substance as a policy proposal Wednesday night and has no record of any interest in foreign policy or economics apart from the oil sector. Maybe she will show greater knowledge or skill in the coming days and weeks. A blog is a process. I will keep my eyes open. Stay tuned.

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