ST. LOUIS On the one hand, Sarah Palin says that "gotcha journalism" is a very bad thing, but on the other hand, she has told reporters, "You can even play 'stump the candidate' if you want to."
I'd like to vote for "stump the candidate."
I hope both Palin and Joe Biden get asked very tough questions at their debate Thursday night, if only to provide the American public with entertainment.
Let's be open about it. As I have pointed out before, most people watch political debates for the same reason they watch the Indy 500: to see who crashes and burns.
And it has always been so. Remember the Lincoln-Douglas debates? Sure you do. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debated seven times in 1858 for a Senate seat, and today those clashes are hailed as everything debates should be.
But as debate historian Joel Swerdlow has written, at the time, "the Lincoln-Douglas encounters were popular mostly because they were excellent theater and not because what was said was particularly wise or revealing."
And who really wants wise and revealing? Wouldn't we rather see a debate where the participants are crushed and humiliated?
Clearly, as the candidate with less experience, Sarah Palin is a little jumpy. She is already talking about how she is just a "normal Joe Sixpack American" and if a bunch of journalists (like that known tough guy Katie Couric) want to make her look bad, so be it.
Still, I suspect Palin's debate preppers have provided her with some all-purpose answers for Thursday night just in case. These could include:
1. "Bounces off rubber and sticks to glue."
2. "I know you are, but what am I?"
3. "OK, so I may not know where Waziristan is, but I can see Russia from my roof."
4. "Drill! Drill! Drill!"
5. "I don't know the answer to that, but if you give me your address, I'll have my husband snow machine over to your house and punch you in the nose."
6. "How those hair plugs working out for you, Joe?"
7. "How should I know? I am not Sarah Palin, I am really Tina Fey."
8. "Sure, I said, 'Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States,' but at least I didn't plagiarize it."
9. "The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. Oh, sorry. Wrong cheat sheet."
10. "How much do you really have to know for a do-nothing job?"
You think those answers would make her look bad? I don't. I think they would make her look great. She would look witty and entertaining, and what else can you ask for in a national leader?
"Frankly, in American politics, the standard of intelligence and academic excellence is not very high," Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers, once told me. "Deeply reflective people are not common in American politics, and they are often not successful."
Which gives Palin a built-in edge.
But what about 10 answers for Joe Biden?
Are you kidding me? The challenge for his side is getting him to shut up.