Dear Sarah

In the time of a few short weeks, your nomination as vice president has imploded, plain and simple. Since your selection, you have been belittled on Saturday Night Live, silenced by your own campaign, and humiliated on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. With Thursday's VP debate fast approaching, you face two fundamental choices, neither of which is easy, but which will define your candidacy. Not long ago, I wrote that people should give you a chance, but now time is running out. What are you to do? Apparently, Sen. John McCain's attempt to shake up the presidential race by selecting you as his running mate has backfired. Sure, his strategy worked for a matter of days. But then he and his handlers decided to marginalize you, sensing that deep trouble was ahead. Even conservative leaders, many of whom once championed your cause, have started to jump ship. You are now widely seen as a liability to your party, perhaps the nation as a whole. All alone, what should you do?

I believe you face two basic choices. First, you can withdraw. I suspect many people are cheering as they read this choice. They may see your nomination as an affront to politics, an assault on the seriousness of our times, an insult to their intelligence. My bet is that these individuals are yearning for a distinct combination of inspiration and competence in their national leaders. They want to know that we, as a nation, are headed in a new direction, with enough smarts and insights to figure out how to get there. And for some of these people, you are, Governor Palin, seen as an impediment on that path to change.

Perhaps all this is true, except I still do not believe you should withdraw. For better or worse, John McCain invited you to join his ticket, and the Republican convention delegates gave their approval. You should stay on the ticket, but only if you are willing to take the second choice.

What made you appealing to certain voters was your authenticity, except that now you and the campaign have come dangerously close to totally undermining it. In the span of just a few weeks, since the convention, you have sought to do what no one in public life should ever do: become something you're not. From what I can tell, you were selected because you were a governor who addressed various state-related issues (such as energy), a stand-up reformer, and someone who would excite the Republican base. Now, people are testing you on what you know about Russia, Pakistan, and other foreign policy issues; you have been asked to undertake a cram course and declare your expertise. But is success even possible?

Instead, this second choice is to be truly authentic about who you are and what you know. It is to step forward and say what is obvious:  you are a young governor, of a rural state, who has had to deal with a host of issues, and that, from your perspective you have done a good job with policy and political reform. Only a few governors could come into this realm with expertise on foreign policy issues. For you, that expertise will be gained only over time. Meanwhile, a President McCain and his advisors will need to guide the ship, with your insights and help.

But let's be clear: taking this path will require real courage on your part. The game of turning Sarah Palin into someone and something she is not will need to end. You will need to stand up to the McCain handlers who have cynically put you forward on campaign posters, only to muzzle you publicly. You will need to reclaim your own voice.

You will also need a healthy dose of humility. For this choice requires self-awareness -- that even though you have been nominated for vice president (heady stuff), you are not well versed in certain issues and matters. You can cram policy and position papers all you want, and still not know all that much about the topics covered. This second choice demands that you represent your campaign's positions, but that you not try to fool anyone, most of all yourself.

So, Governor, these are the two options as I see them today. My own hope between now and Election Day is that the nation engages in a genuine debate about our future. But for you to take part in this debate, you would be well-advised to come clean with your present state of affairs. Time is running out.