The most curious part of Heilemann's and Halperin's Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime is the authors' discussion of Sarah Palin's tenuous mental state during her vice-presidential campaign. It turns out that her mental instability, moodiness, her propensity to go into fits of depression, and her descent into near-catatonic states were widely discussed in the McCain camp. Since the elections, we have had many opportunities to see for ourselves that Palin is, indeed, very unstable. Her rambling announcement that she was leaving her job as a governor, her scary speeches to the Tea Party movement demonstrate that her mental health issues have not been dealt with since the elections.
Heilemann and Halperin offer several possibilities to explain Palin's mental health issues. Post-partum depression and worry about her son who was being shipped to Iraq are some of the explanations these authors offer. I think, however, that Palin's experiences during the campaign itself offer a much better explanation. Game Change describes with a great poignancy how Palin was sitting there, completely lost and overwhelmed, surrounded by stacks of index cards and crowds of people who were trying to cram the most basic facts of world history and politics into her head. McCain's aides attempted to make her memorize in the space of a few short weeks the amount of information that it normally takes people many years of high-school, college, and adult reading and news-watching to absorb. If there was ever cruel and unusual punishment, this is definitely it.
Those who have been reading my blog for a while, know that I'm no fan of Palin (to put it very, very mildly.) However, it is really disgusting to find out how she was treated by the McCain camp. They used her, abused her, and threw her out. Today, Palin has joined a quasi-libertarian Tea Party movement. A real Libertarian would say of her plight that if she wants to be a governor and even a vice-president without knowing about World Wars I and II, about the Spanish Civil War, and about the reasons why there are North Korea and South Korea (examples from Game Change), she deserves everything she gets as a result. I am not a Libertarian, though. For this reason, reading about this poor individual, sitting there all lost, trying to absorb all this knowledge that is completely beyond her intellectual capacities, makes me feel very compassionate towards her.
A true Libertarian would say that it's her responsibility to have the requisite knowledge that would allow her to perform her job adequately. For me, however, Palin's woeful intellectual limitations are not only her personal failure. We are all to blame for creating and maintaining a system where a person graduates from high school, then college, then gets a responsible governmental position, all the while not having even the most basic knowledge about the world.