Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- If at one time women were considered heretical for swimming upstream against feminist orthodoxy, they now face condemnation for swimming downstream -- away from Sarah Palin.

To express reservations about her qualifications to be vice president -- and possibly president -- is to risk being labeled anti-woman.

Or, as I am guilty of charging her early critics, supporting only a certain kind of woman.

Some of the passionately feminist critics of Palin who attacked her personally deserved some of the backlash they received. But circumstances have changed since Palin was introduced as just a hockey mom with lipstick -- what a difference a financial crisis makes -- and a more complicated picture has emerged.

As we've seen and heard more from John McCain's running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn't know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions warrant her promotion.

Yes, she recently met and turned several heads of state as the United Nations General Assembly convened in New York. She was gracious, charming and disarming. Men swooned. Pakistan's president wanted to hug her. (Perhaps Osama bin Laden is dying to meet her?)

And, yes, she has common sense, something we value. And she's had executive experience as a mayor and a governor, though of relatively small constituencies (about 6,000 and 680,000, respectively).

Finally, Palin's narrative is fun, inspiring and all-American in that frontier way we seem to admire. When Palin first emerged as John McCain's running mate, I confess I was delighted. She was the antithesis and nemesis of the hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood -- a refreshing feminist of a different order who personified the modern successful working mother.

Palin didn't make a mess cracking the glass ceiling. She simply glided through it.

It was fun while it lasted.

Palin's recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I've been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I've also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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