I'm high-powered, put Dwight Howard to sleep...

The prevailing idea is that Palin was pushed by cynical Republicans who were trying to achieve some mix of the following--a siphoning off of Hillary votes, an electrification of the base, and a shot to the McCain campaign. All of that's true, but there's another oft-understated factor--male conservatives thinking with the wrong head. Jane Mayer is a literary hero of mine for her work on Bush and torture. Her relatively brief take this week on the Palin selection process is nowhere near as Herculean, but it's still revealing. That's because it subtly and effectively lays out the thinking of a certain type of pundit. Here are the reactions of several conservative writers who met Palin in Alaska:

From Bill Kristol:


...as early as June 29th, two months before McCain chose her, Kristol predicted on "Fox News Sunday" that "McCain's going to put Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, on the ticket." He described her as "fantastic," saying that she could go one-on-one against Obama in basketball, and possibly siphon off Hillary Clinton's supporters. He pointed out that she was a "mother of five" and a reformer. "Go for the gold here with Sarah Palin," he said. The moderator, Chris Wallace, finally had to ask Kristol, "Can we please get off Sarah Palin?"

From Fred Barnes:

During the lunch, everyone was charmed when the Governor's small daughter Piper popped in to inquire about dessert. Fred Barnes recalled being "struck by how smart Palin was, and how unusually confident. Maybe because she had been a beauty queen, and a star athlete, and succeeded at almost everything she had done." It didn't escape his notice, too, that she was "exceptionally pretty."

From Bill Kristol:

I've only met once but I was awfully impressed by--a genuine reformer, defeated the establishment up there. It would be pretty wild to pick a young female Alaska governor, and I think, you know, McCain might as well go for it." On July 22nd, again on Fox, Kristol referred to Palin as "my heartthrob."

From Jay Nordlinger:

In an online column, he described Palin as "a former beauty-pageant contestant, and a real honey, too. Am I allowed to say that? Probably not, but too bad."

From Rush Limbaugh:

Rush Limbaugh, the radio host, praised her as "a babe."

From Bill Kristol:

"I don't know if I can make it through the next three months without her on the ticket."

The Mayer piece made me feel like I was watching an assemblage of herbs getting played by the local hot chick. Conservatives rightfully inveigh against the liberal tendency to ban all admiration of the female form. Let's put that aside--Sarah Palin is hot. But let's not get it twisted--these pundits aren't wrong for noting Palin's physical beauty, they're wrong for counfusing that beauty for some sort of political qualification.

In politics, being hot is like a scoop of ice cream on poundcake--the ice cream is nice, but it isn't an ingredient in the cake itself. Furthermore, to the extend the metaphor, a majority of the electorate (women) have spent their lives watching dudes discuss ice cream, when the agenda is pound-cake. They aren't confused. They aren't pleased.