"She reminds me of my wife."
That was the most frequent comment I received via e-mail on the September night Sarah Palin spoke to a riveted Republican National Convention in 2008, as the vice-presidential nominee spoke of hockey moms, pit bulls, lipstick, the dignity of human life, and the future of our nation.
I suspect every man who e-mailed wasn't revealing his secret fantasy -- his wife wearing stilettos as she tries to save the world from a Barack Obama presidency. He finally saw, on prime-time television and impossible for the media to ignore, a woman in politics who closely resembled his family's values. After decades of ladies on the stump reading from a Ms. magazine script, here was a woman on a presidential ticket who didn't seem to feel the need to suppress her femininity or perversely use it to advance a most un-motherly agenda.
It was liberating.
In this way, she made that night historic, for both the right and left. And she's still driving emotion and headlines.
And, in case you missed it (and I don't blame you if you did): Apparently Democratic voters would vote for Charlie Sheen for president over Palin -- 44 to 22 percent. Independents opted for the former wild child, too, 41 to 36 percent. That the Wall Street Journal even thought to poll such a thing tells you something about the bizarre political and cultural climate surrounding this lightning rod of a woman.
Some of the more inventive attacks on her -- most recently she was compared to Al Sharpton -- have been known to bring high-profile commentators to her defense, even while others express their concern.
The political sideshow makes for a chattering class TV producer's dream.
But putting her name alongside Charlie Sheen and Al Sharpton? It's all a little bizarre -- even for a media in constant need of fresh chum. There are justified criticisms, but the widespread reactions to the mere name and image of Sarah Palin continues to know no bounds.
"The people who say such things don't know her, have never spent time with her, and are responding to a caricature of what they think she is," Rebecca Mansour, who works at Palin's political action committee, says. "Do you remember Archbishop Fulton Sheen's famous quote about anti-Catholicism?" she asks me and answers: "He said there are only a few people who hate what Catholicism really is, but there are millions who hate what they think it is. If these critics would spend a few hours reading her words, listening to her speeches, and studying her actual record of accomplishments, there is no way they could say such things about her and still claim to be intellectually honest."