Carla Carlisle on Sarah Palin

Yesterday, I called my sister to tell her how sorry I was that McCain had passed her over. There was such a roar in the background I could hardly hear her speak. ‘What’s that noise? It sounds like a plane taking off.’ ‘I’m at a motorcycle rally for the Hospice. Can’t talk now because I’m running the show.’ I wasn’t surprised. I usually have to book my calls to her.

She’s head of the Hospice in St Mary’s County and pushed the county into giving her the land next to the hospital to build the hospice. She’s also Director of the Hospital Foundation, senior warden of her church (Episcopal) and delegate to the national convention. Her day job is selling houses and she was the Director of the Maryland Association of Realtors and Chairman of the Public Policy Forum of the National Association. Her human story ranks as ‘compelling’, too.

She has two sons, and when her eldest suffered a serious head injury in a car accident while in the Army, she put everything on hold to help him rebuild his life. She knows Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well as she knows her own kitchen. Now, she and her husband Tom, a science teacher, are raising their three-year-old granddaughter, who was born deaf. My sister can now sign with the graceful speed of those people on the edge of the television screen. What have I left out? She’s got her own Suzuki motorcycle, shot her first deer when she was 16, and has fished every river in Maryland. And she was a beauty queen. Not a runner-up, she was Miss Mississippi and went all the way to the Miss America pageant. So you can understand that, in this family, we are just a little peeved that our sister wasn’t vetted for John McCain’s Vice Presidential slot.

Learning that Sarah Palin wasn’t really vetted, just Googled and Wikipediaed, gives us no consolation. In fact, my sister has taken this slight well and won’t say a word against Mrs Palin. It seems like everybody is afraid that any criticism could backfire. However, in the spirit of Alice Roosevelt Longworth who famously said ‘If you can’t say something nice about someone, sit right here by me’ I have a few unkind words eating away at me. My first tremor occurred when I read that Mrs Palin said she ‘thanked God for entrusting us with the precious gift of Trig’, a baby born early with very special needs, and then went back to work when he was three days old. You can call me sexist, but something doesn’t feel right here. In fact, it seems downright weird.

And honestly, what kind of mother, knowing that her teenage daughter is five months pregnant and unmarried, willingly walks onto a world stage that will guarantee that the daughter’s life is exposed to the world? Whatever happened to that sweet Christian virtue called ‘humility’? Of course, it feels great to be considered for the job that’s a heartbeat away from being the lead dog in the Western world, but anyone with a sliver of modesty and common sense would have said: ‘Aw shucks, John, I’m honoured, but my hands are pretty full with Alaska, a son going to Iraq, a four-month-old baby, a new grandbaby on the way and a wedding to plan.’ Of course, the problem here isn’t Sarah Palin. It’s the revelation that John McCain met Mrs Palin face to face for the first time on the Thursday, offered her the job moments later, and announced it the next day.

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At the first hurdle, this tough and remarkable man allowed the evangelical right wing to hijack his campaign. When I read that the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin described Mrs Palin as charming, warm, well read and fun, I felt kind of guilty. Those are the sisterly traits I like. Then she went on to say that ‘one out of three VPs end up being President’. Lord have mercy on us.