A major reason Sen. John McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate was for her toughness in taking on her state's lawmakers, the oil industry, and anyone getting in her way. So, why is the GOP campaign so fearful that it refuses to get her out before reporters in a full, freewheeling press conference?
Even the conservative National Review magazine wonders why Palin is being kept away from reporters except in highly controlled venues.
Palin's so-called interview with Fox's Sean Hannity was a joke. No surprise that cheerleader Hannity asked only home run ball questions and was almost reverential toward her.
ABC's Charlie Gibson asked tougher questions, but Palin responded mostly with campaign-style answers and stayed out of trouble.
Before Katie Couric of CBS, Palin goofed by saying she would have to get back to the anchor to give any examples of McCain's reform activity in Congress. Palin was clearly stumped.
It reminded me of President Dwight Eisenhower's answer at a press conference before the 1960 election when asked to give any ideas Ike's administration got from Vice President Nixon. Ike responded: "If you give me a week, I might think of one." Nixon's presidential campaign had to choke on that unintended zinger.
Sen. John F. Kennedy's campaign was delighted to get confirmation from Ike that he couldn't instantly come up with any Nixon idea. Nixon, after all, had been in office for eight years.
Talking to Couric, Palin also sounded as if she were on Saturday Night Live when she extolled her experience by being a next-door neighbor to Russia and Canada. Couric was not confrontational at all, but a flustered Palin could only mutter "reporters" as she struggled to come up with a logical response.
In Palin's highly structured campaign, the vice presidential candidate received an almost laughable lesson in foreign policy when she was squired around the United Nations to meet and greet a few leaders. Her meeting then with Henry Kissinger, now 85 years old and still apparently lusting for headlines to prove he isn't a has-been, was equally humorous. Palin looked like a college student at Kissinger's feet.
Who knows whether Palin might give a good account of herself in a wide-open press conference? However, McCain's campaign seems too worried to find out or let Palin be Palin. They insist she is tough enough to take on Big Oil but not, apparently, Campbell Brown.
Her best test may come in the debate with Democratic Sen. Joe Biden. You know Biden's advisers have warned him about being condescending toward Palin or looking at all smug with his obviously stronger experience in Congress, especially in foreign policy.
Senator McCain surprised even many in his own party by turning to Palin. As a candidate who is campaigning as one who "puts country first," it is high time he let voters see her under pressure. Why is he holding her back, and why isn't she demanding to be unleashed on her own?