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Commentary: Time for Palin to strut her stuff

  • Story Highlights
  • Vice presidential candidate can make world of difference, Roland Martin says
  • McCain campaign has done Palin a disservice, he writes
  • Martin says American people want to know where she stands
  • Thursday's debate will be proving ground, Martin writes
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By Roland Martin
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: Join Roland S. Martin for his weekly sound-off segment on CNN.com Live at 11:10 a.m. ET Wednesday. If you're passionate about politics, he wants to hear from you. A nationally syndicated columnist, Martin has said he will vote for Barack Obama in November. He is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and "Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America." Visit his Web site for more information.

Roland S. Martin says the McCain campaign has done Sarah Palin a disservice by keeping her hidden.

Roland S. Martin says the McCain campaign has done Sarah Palin a disservice by keeping her hidden.

(CNN) -- Is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin running for vice president of the United States or vice president of the student council?

Listening to some political strategists, pundits and radio and TV blowhards, you would think that all she has to do is show up, sign her name on the roll, and she's done enough to satisfy the requirement for president.

Do people really and truly understand that she will be sitting a heartbeat away from the presidency, backing up a 72-year-old guy who has a history of cancer?

Nothing drives me nuts more than listening to some of these folks who act as if we shouldn't expect Palin -- and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden -- to be well-versed on national issues, foreign policy and the social and cultural issues that have to define America.

Conventional wisdom says that the vice president means nothing and that the voters going to the polls between now and November 4 are really voting on Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. iReport.com: What would you ask Palin, Biden?

But looking at the role that the last few vice presidents have played, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, it is clear that the VP can make a world of difference and that we should be demanding the tough answers to tough questions from both candidates.

Now, the blowhards have been going on and on, suggesting that too much attention is being paid to her gaffes and not to those of Biden. True. But what we have learned this election season is that there are double standards.

Countless folks have said that we all know McCain, and it's necessary to scrutinize every aspect of Obama. Really? I think if you ask the average person, they'll know a lot more about Obama's childhood than McCain, solely by the level of scrutiny.

The truth is, the nation doesn't know much about Palin. And when folks don't know a lot about you, there is an expectation to get to know more. As for Palin, I fundamentally believe that millions of Americans want to know what she thinks about the critical issues of the day and not from reading cue cards.

The McCain camp has done her a huge disservice by treating her like a Faberge egg, totally untouchable. She needed to do multiple media interviews and not keep an arm's distance from the media and, yes, the general public.

Back to that low expectation thing. The reality is that the McCain camp and Republicans want that. Even Biden and the Obama camp are tamping down expectations, hoping that if the bar is set just above someone's ankle, it will be easy to cross. Hogwash. Now is not the time for low bars and low expectations.

We need our candidates to think big and be big. They need to speak to our concerns and our fears. And yes, Biden has been around a long time, and many say they know what to expect from the loquacious one.

But Palin must strut her stuff. Thursday's debate will not be read from a teleprompter. It won't be on cue cards. With the nation watching, she is going to put up or shut up.

What is most at stake is whether she's the subject of further ridicule or can show Americans that she has a strong command of the issues. If she can do the latter, she validates McCain's selection. If not, she calls into question his judgment, and at this stage of the game, that is not a good thing.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About Sarah PalinJohn McCainBarack ObamaJoseph Biden

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