Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Albany to Washington to New York

Suppose you have business in Albany and then have to get to New York City. How do you do it? Probably you drive. It's only about three hours with no traffic and you can motor door to door.

Maybe you'd get someone to drive you to the Amtrak station. That's pretty good deal. Enjoy the scenery along the Hudson River and pull into Penn Station. What's that take, maybe two-and-a-half hours.

But let's say you're in a big hurry. A direct flight from Albany Airport is less than an hour, if you can get one. Of course, that doesn't count arriving at the airport an hour early for security, hoping the plane is on time, landing at one of the three metro airports and then getting a lift to your destination.

You'd surely never think of flying from Albany to Washington, then waiting around for the next flight back up to New York City. Imagine the time and expense.

You wouldn't think of doing that. But state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver not only thinks about it, he does it all the time, on the taxpayers' dime.

Check out this account in Bill Hammond's column in the New York Daily News.

You can't make this stuff up.

Sarah and Katie

In a year of ups and downs in politics and the media, here is the ultimate irony:

Sarah Palin has been hailed in many circles as a trailblazer, the first Republican female to be nominated for vice president.

Katie Couric has been hailed in many circles as a trailblazer, the first female solo anchor of a major network newscast.

Palin was generally riding high for about a month, her future bright. A giant leap for women was about to be crossed.

Couric has been mired in last place in the ratings, her "perky" personna seen by many Americans as not serious enough for the position she holds. A giant setback for women broadcasters was occurring.

So who winds up conducting an interview with Sarah Palin in which the candidate did so poorly as do be widely lampooned, hurting Palin's cause - and, by extension, female politicians?

Katie Couric, of course, whose journalistic chops earned a boost - which, by extension, helped female broadcasters.

Breaking it down

How significant is the leadership vacuum in this country, particularly in light of yesterday's D.C. disaster?

Today's front-page New York Times analysis explains it well.

And what does the financial crisis mean to you?

This New York Times question-and-answer will give you a good idea.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The bailout vote

Let's see if I have this right:

After days and nights of working on it, a committee made up House and Senate Democratic and Republican leaders, as well as the Republican president's top financial people, agreed to a bill designed to avoid a national and worldwide financial meltdown.

The committee members recommended approval by their various constituencies. But after the measure failed in the House (with 60 percent of the Democrats voting yes and 67 percent of the Republicans voting no), John McCain's campaign blamed the defeat on Barack Obama and the Democrats.

How do they say this stuff with a straight face?

If they were to tell the truth, Republicans would say they're all up for election in November and public opinion is decidedly against the financial bailout bill. Afraid of defeat at the polls, many Republicans congressmen turned thumbs down. That's not exactly leadership, but it would be honest.

And for House Republican minority leaders to actually blame pre-vote remarks by Democratic Speaker Pelosi for some members' decision not to approve the bi-partisan committee plan tells you all you need to know about them and the climate in Washington. It also speaks to the president's inability to rally Republicans to his side.

Meanwhile, the Dow dropped nearly 800 points today.

This is one of the nation's darkest hours.

Weekend leftovers

Weekend leftovers:

- After their debate Friday night, John McCain was described in some quarters as too cranky and Barack Obama was called too cool. Did anyone say commentators were trying to speak in codes?

- Even the most enthusiastic Sarah Palin supporter had to be chagrined with her interview with Katie Couric.

- So laughable was that interview, Saturday Night Live's spot-on parody with Tina Fey almost didn't out-do it.

- Shea Stadium never held a candle to Yankee Stadium in a historical sense. And the big Shea couldn't compare with Yankee Stadium in appearance. But give the Mets credit for putting on a better stadium farewell ceremony Sunday than did the Yankees the week before. It was capped by a particularly moving scene, as Tom Seaver tossed a ceremonial final pitch to Mike Piazza, then the duo walked out through the centerfield gate, closing it behind them as the stadium lights dimmed. Nice touch.

- As for the Mets' annual collapse, for all the talk about their lousy bullpen, fact is, they didn't hit in the clutch. The pitching was good enough against Florida to sweep that series. Instead, the Mets dropped two of three.

- Maybe he was in the right place at the right time - considering changing demographics and widespread disgust with the other party in the wake of the jail debacle and rising taxes - but give credit to outgoing Ulster County Democratic Chairman John Parete for leading his party to prominence on his watch.

- Back to the debate. I called it a draw. There were no real blockbuster moments, pro or con. But the fact that Obama more than held his own with McCain made it a good night for the Democrats.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


John McCain is halting his campaign, returning to Washington and seeking a postponement of Friday night's presidential debate, to concentrate on the financial crisis.

Barack Obama says he has been in close communication with House and Senate leaders, as well as the Treasury secretary, and is on call, but that there's no reason to delay the debate or, in effect, get in the way in the Capitol.

Hasn't John McCain heard of multi-tasking?

The sky is falling

One of the most interesting sidebars to the Bush administration's financial bailout plan is what I would call the Chicken Little Syndrome.

You know the story about Chicken Little? I'll refresh your memories: "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

The sky has been falling for the Bush administration in most of its two terms. And many Americans believed it.

Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

A war in Iraq instead of chasing down the masterminds behind 9/11 Pakistan and Afghanistan? The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

So now here's Bush's Treasury secretary urging congressional passage of a near-$1 trillion financial package to stabilize the economy without providing much in the way of transparency. And it has to be hurried through Congress because, well, the sky is falling, the sky is falling.

Fact is, the financial sky may be falling. But having heard this tune before, many are not willing to believe it.

Wasn't it Ronald Reagan, GOP hero, who said, "Trust, but verify"?

We need the money here

Tom Friedman in today's New York Times offers his standard serious, reflective, compelling view on why the U.S. has to leave Iraq, particularly in light of the financial crisis on our own turf.

Read it here. It's worth your attention.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joe Torre

The New York Yankees inexcusably omitted an image of Joe Torre from its video tribute to past great managers Sunday night during closing ceremonies at Yankee Stadium.

Torre helped the franchise return to past glory when he piloted Yankees to four world championships and playoff appearance after playoff appearance. Now he's nearing yet another post-season berth as manager of the Dodgers.

The Torre-Yankees divorce wasn't the most amicable, but history is history and Torre deserved to be honored, right up there with Casey Stengel, Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy and Billy Martin. (By the way, the Yankees overlooked Ralph Houk, too.)

So how's Torre doing? See this story in today's Los Angeles Times.

Willie Bosket

It's been 20 years since Willie Bosket's trial in Ulster County.

It's been 20 years since I thought of him.

But there he is in today's New York Times, which has an interview with him and describes his prison life in isolation.

If you around when Bosket made headlines locally, seeing his name again likely will bring chills.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bob Gruberg

One of the first things a Jewish kid from the city seeks in a new community is a place to get a good corned beef sandwich.

In 1970, when I moved to Kingston, there were two: the Hub Deli and Lou's House of Delicacies (Lou and Amy Kirschner's place).

I frequented the former more than the latter, primarily because it was more convenient when I drove home from the Freeman's then-home on the Strand up Broadway to my tiny apartment on Lucas Avenue.

The man behind the counter at the Hub Deli was Bob Gruberg, who bought the business in 1950 and ran it until 1981. (His wife died a year earlier.)

As they could have said in a Hub Deli commercial, he aimed to please. Good corned beef, crusty rye bread, spicy mustard and a sour pickle. (And I'm pretty sure they had Dr. Brown's cream soda.) Heaven on Earth.

Bob participated in a variety of community and business ventures in the years after the Hub Deli closed. He was perhaps most visible as a member of the horn section of the Kingston Lions Club band.

Bob died Friday at age 79, having lived a full life, often making people happy, particularly when the corned beef was lean.

My condolences to Bob's daughter, Marge Rovereto of Ulster Savings Bank, her brother and sister and the rest of the family.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Warner Bros.

If you're into movie history, set your DVRs for what figures to be an entertaining three-part series next week on PBS (check your local listings, as they say.)

"You Must Remember This"
chronicles the 85-year history of Warner Bros. studios.

Perhaps you heard Joe Donahue's interview with noted film historian Richard Schickel this morning on WAMC. Schickel is involved with the TV project as part of an accompanying coffee table book on the subject, and his enthusiasm was contagious.

I toured Warner Bros. in Burbank a couple of years ago with my son, David, and his wife, Jennifer. I've been visiting family in Los Angeles for decades, so I've made the rounds of the various tourist spots, including Universal (which is more like a theme park) and Paramount (an excellent walking tour of the back lot). But Warner Bros. was tops: part tram ride, part stroll, plenty of close ups, lots of history and possibily even a celebrity sighting. (The morning we were there, we saw Martin Sheen, who was then filming the last episode of "The West Wing.")

Anyway, Warner Bros. movies and cartoons were unique in many respects, as the PBS series will document. Given the variety of clips and interviews planned, sight unseen, I recommend it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain and "change"

Just saw another clip of John McCain promising "change" in Washington if he's elected president.

If John McCain continues to run on "change," Barack Obama will be the next president. McCain has been in Washington for nearly three decades. Now he's an outsider? Obama represents real "change."

If John McCain continues to insist the "fundamentals" of the economy are strong, then backtracking by saying he meant the American work force is strong, Barack Obama will be the next president. Praising workers will generate applause at a political rally. Expressing no real appreciation for the nation's economic crisis will give voters reason for pause about McCain's competency.

John McCain will win the presidency if one or more of the following occurs:

Obama and/or Joe Biden perform poorly in the debates.

Young people don't turn out in full force for Obama.

Blacks don't turn out in full force for Obama.

A substantial number of Americans otherwise inclined to vote for a Democrat don't do so because he's black.

A substantial number of women otherwise inclined to vote for a Democrat don't do so because McCain's running mate is a woman.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yankee Stadium

They'll close Yankee Stadium for good Sunday night. Well, maybe not for good; there's talk of some sort of special event in November to cap it once and for all.

But there'll be no more baseball beyond Sunday in what the team likes to call the cathedral. The Yankees will miss the playoffs this season. A meaningless game against the Orioles will conclude 85 years of action in the most famous stadium in the world.

By the way, the game is on Sunday night, instead of what is expected to be a glorious autumn afternoon, because Major League Baseball allowed it to be switched for national broadcast on ESPN. That means it will end too late for many fans to watch in its entirety. It means some fans who held tickets for months expecting to enjoy a final day game at the stadium and then perhaps linger to soak in some last-minute memories, won't be able to do so. It means for all the talk of tradition - and tradition surely will be emphasized in nostalgic pre-game ceremonies, which are expected to include former Yankee greats like Yogi Berra and Bernie Williams (who has laid low since his forced retirement), and family members of late Yankees Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, among many others - has been sold out again for TV money. Alas, that's what baseball fans have come to expect.

But if you are a baseball fan, in general, a Yankees fan, in particular, you have better personal stories to tell about Yankee Stadium.

We all remember our first game there. Mine was in 1955.

Growing up in the Bronx, with a dad who was a Yankees fan, my path was clear. I went to countless games, often with my father, in later years with my sons. I also had the honor of "working" at Yankee Stadium as a reporter and columnist for the Freeman on opening days, Kingston's Mike Ferraro Day, an All-Star game and several World Series. It's hard to put into words what it was like to go from the general admissions seats in the upper deck as a kid, to sitting in the press box and walking on the field and in the clubhouses as an adult.

For everyone who ever attended a baseball game at Yankee Stadium (or a concert, or a boxing match - I sat ringside for Ali-Norton) - or a football game or a papal visit), the experiences will stay with us forever.

And now they'll move across the street (foreground in accompanying photo) to a wildly expensive stadium which will look very much like the one they're departing. It will be new and different and more comfortable, with plenty of creature features and year-round access for specialty restaurants. Watching on TV, it will look very much like the old stadium, with identical playing field dimensions and interior shape and colors.

But you won't be able to see the Bronx County Courthouse beyond the outfield wall, just as we've seen it from Lou Gehrig's farewell speech to Reggie Jackson's three-homer World Series game to Sunday night's finale. And as best as they'll try to recreate Yankees history, the diamond at the new stadium won't be the same one graced by Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Whitey Ford (or visiting stars like Ted Williams, Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson).

The new Yankee Stadium (if any of us can afford a ticket to get in it) will be wonderful. But for fans like me, it won't be the same.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stronger than ever

It was easy to predict that if Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver survived a three-way Democratic primary this month, there'd be no hope for our dysfunctional state government.

Silver did prevail - despite the opposition of the editorial boards of New York City's big dailies - and he's really standing tall now.

Liz Benjamin (daughter of Gerry Benjamin, SUNY New Paltz dean and former Ulster County legislator) had it this way in her Daily News column:

"'Shelly is emboldened,' one Democratic lawmaker said. 'Any time you challenge the king and the king wins, he comes out stronger.'"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Money mania

How serious is what's happening on Wall Street?

The lead in this Wall Street Journal story tells you all you need to know:

"The American financial system was shaken to its core on Sunday. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, and Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed to be sold to Bank of America Corp."

"...shaken to its core ..." I don't know about you, but that phrase gets my attention.

Another revolting mess

It's easy to be depressed by the news.

The pictures from Texas are horrific. The reports of the conditions, particularly in Galveston, are hard to fathom. The impact is startling for millions - from those whose homes are lost and lives are ruined, to those whose living conditions aren't that bad, but nonetheless face months of clean up, to the rest of us, who likely will be impacted at the gas pump=.

Then there's the financial crisis, a horrible situation seemingly with no end in sight. Again, primary personal stories first: jobs lost, careers ruined. But beyond that, what becomes of the average citizen's life savings? Are they at risk? No wonder so many Americans are jittery.

And, of course, there's the world picture, still dominated by the unsettled situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, China and Russia, to single out several.

So the world spins as if it's out of control, and the presidential candidates are calling each other names and their aides are playing "gotcha!" and the most important election in decades may be decided based on all the wrong reasons, like race, gender and age.

Yes, it's easy being depressed by the news.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The way it is

Sometimes, when you can't find the right words, you rely on others.

So, after viewing the second installment of the Gibson-Palin interview, I found The New York Times said it better than I could.

Here is today's editorial.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin vs. Gibson

Here's what we learned from the first part of Charles Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin on last night's ABC evening newscast:

Gibson has the stones to be a sharp interrogator.

Palin crams well, didn't do poorly, but obviously is a virtual stranger to foreign policy. She was particularly weak when pressed by Gibson about the "Bush doctine." But she knew the name of Russia's new president - and if I remember correctly, an interview with President Bush a few years ago proved he couldn't name the leaders of several other countries.

When expectations are low, it doesn't take much to exceed them. Palin's were extremely low and she's easily surpassed them so far. In fact, she's made fewer gaffes than her Democratic counterpart Joe Biden (see this report in today's New York Times. And this one for a review of Palin's first foray into this arena.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Political garbage

It was a quarter to five this morning and I was driving my wife to the airport in Albany. We were listening to NPR. There was a story about the presidential campaign and lipstick and pigs and a sound bite from a congresswoman who used to support Hillary and now backs McPalin in which she has a crowd believing Obama said something he didn't say and meant something he didn't mean.

I turned off the radio. I couldn't listen anymore. I'd had enough. In in the right setting, I would have pulled a Howard Beale and screamed, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

It's still two months from Election Day, and I'm a disgusted voter.

What happened to the civil, issues-oriented campaign both sides promised? Why has this race disintegrated into the worst kind of insinuating and fabricating?

It's an insult to our intelligence.

The people of this country are being fed political garbage and many of them are swallowing it whole.

Maybe there'll be a backlash and saner heads will prevail. The Freeman has an editorial written for Saturday on the "politics of distraction." Sunday Freeman Syndicated media columnist Norman Solomon chastises the press again this week, but he also challenges voters to "think for themselves." Other voices no doubt will be heard with similar sentiments. (See this editorial from the Washington Post, for instance.)

Don't be distracted. Do think for yourself. Don't let the campaign crap get out of hand. This is one of the most important presidential elections in the history of our country. It shouldn't be decided on the basis of pigs, lipstick, gender, skin color or age. It should be decided by what the candidates stand for - really stand for - and how they propose to lead this country in the difficult years ahead.

Americans will be doing ourselves and the world a disservice if we blow this election.

Word games

Can a sports reporter interview a losing player or manager without asking, "How frustrating was it ..."?

Not if you're a reporter who covers the Yankees or Mets.

And can a player respond to a sports reporter without saying, "Hopefully ..."?

Not if you're a player for the Yankees or Mets.

If you're interested in this sort of thing, pay closer attention on the next post-game show. Once you hear it, listen for it the next time and the time after that. It will drive you nuts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


"Slow down, you're moving too fast ..." - Simon and Garfunkel.

Is this presidential race getting nasty or what?

Everytime we think we've experienced the worst campaign, an even more divisive one follows. And this year it's amplified by the blogosphere, which so far is seemingly dominated by conservative attack dogs repeating campaign comments that aren't exactly the real deal.

Check out this analysis from the Huffington Post.


There's been some talk this week about raising the minimum driving age from 16 to 17. The insurance industry says a disproportionate number of serious accidents happen with 16-year-olds behind the wheel.

As Billy Martin used to say in the beer commercials, I feel strongly both ways. I can make cases for increasing the age or keeping it where it is. I will says this: If the bean counters say younger drivers are the most dangerous, who am I to argue?

But age doesn't guarantee safety.

Consider this anectode:

As I was glancing out the office window this morning, I noticed an elderly gent walking slowly to his car having just completed some business here. The man shuffled through the parking lot, presumably to an auto driven by someone else.

Wrong. The car door he unlocked was his own. Nobody was inside waiting for him.

I watched the man settle in. Then I observed him take an agonizingly long time to fasten his seat belt.

Finally, the engine ignited and the gentleman pulled out of his space and exited right onto Hurley Avenue.

I hope he'll be fine. Unlike some youthful drivers, this fellow isn't likely to be caught speeding. But I have to tell you, there was something about watching him that made me uncomfortable.

If we raise the minimum age for motorists, should we put a cap on the other end?

Power base

Speaking of editorials, despite overwhelming rebukes by the high-profile opinion writers, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver easily prevailed in a three-way Democratic primary Tuesday.

Said The New York Times this morning, "Mr. Silver’s overwhelming victory solidified his status as one of Albany’s most enduring and powerful figures. With 68 percent of the vote, he did not appear impaired either by his high-profile role last spring in blocking (Mayor) Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, or by the endorsement of one of his challengers, Paul Newell, by the city’s three major newspapers ..."

Silver's victory squashes any hope of meaningful reform of the state's dysfunctional government.


Gov. Paterson screwed up when he called the state Legislature "a bunch of bloodsuckers," didn't he?

Before you weigh in, consider this editorial from today's New York Daily News.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

All clear

We had to call upon the services of the Kingston Fire Department this afternoon.

Nothing serious, fortunately. Nobody was ever in danger. But there was lots of smoke in the Freeman mailroom, apparently from a faulty fire extinguisher, believe it or not.

The firemen (and woman) arrived promptly, assessed the situation, set up a giant exhaust fan, made sure there were no additional problems, stayed until the smoke had cleared and moved on.

The crew was professional, competent and friendly. All represented the city well.

It's easy to forget about these people until you need their help.

Palin's first interview

The most important journalist in America this week? It has to be Charlie Gibson of ABC News, who'll conduct the first national one-on-one interview with Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Gibson has to begin asking all the tough questions without looking like he's giving Palin the third-degree. It's a fine line, much the same as Democratic VP hopeful Joe Biden will have to tread in his upcoming debate with Palin.

To be sure, Palin has reinvigorated John McCain's campaign and then some. Poll numbers are favorable to his ticket. The polls also show a wide swing in his ticket's favor from white women, who previously were either undecided or leaning Democrat. What's particularly interesting is that there's evidence that some women have climbed on the Palin bandwagon despite differences regarding some of Palin's positions, notably abortion and gun control.

But Palin must clarify apparent contradictions in her statements on a variety of issues, from the "bridge to nowhere" to accepting earmarks.

Republican strategists obviously believe ABC's Gibson will give Palin a fair shake, or else they wouldn't have granted him the interview. It should be fascinating.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

That's Rich

Want elaboration on why John McCain didn't put "country first" (as per the theme of his GOP convention) in his selection of Sarah Palin to be his resume?

Consider this New York Times column by Frank Rich.

Silver bullet

Both the New York Daily News and Post today editorialized for the defeat of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in a Tuesday primary in his Manhattan district.

Best part of the News' editorial:

Nothing better illustrates Albany's lack of accountability than that Silver has not faced competition for reelection in 22 years. Only now is he being called to answer for so lowering the Legislature that it was properly branded the worst in the nation.

What happens in the Assembly is a charade. Individual lawmakers are all but irrelevant. They have surrendered their authority to Silver, who rewards loyalists with added pay and pork-barrel grants for their districts. (While dispensing a gargantuan $2 million a year to his own pet causes.)

The rank-and-file do what they are told - to the point that until recently, they were counted as automatically voting yes even though they were not present in the chamber. There are no meaningful hearings, and every bill that comes to the floor passes, as Silver dictates.

The big decisions are made in his inner sanctum, easily accessed by politically connected players who have much at stake in acts of the Legislature. In such a distortion of democracy, it's no wonder the state budget has ballooned beyond proportion.

Two upstarts are challenging Silver. Keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Balloon attack

Did you see the Republicans attack NBC's Andrea Mitchell last night?

OK, they didn't attack her. But their post-convention balloon-drop did.

Check it out here.

The Eastern Media Elite

Want to learn the secrets of the Eastern Media Elite?

Go here to this video from the Washington Post's Dana Milbank.

But don't tell anyone the secret.


John McCain exceeded low expectations in his acceptance speech last night.

Given his reputation as something less than a skilled orator, and facing the daunting task of following the boffo performance of his running mate, McCain delivered a boilerplate address with few hiccups, a mesmerizing recounting of his personal travails, and even a stirring Knute Rockne-like finish.

But McCain hit only a couple of other high notes, with few precise indications of what his administration would be all about, save for the usual promises of reform and change.

The speech was remarkable for the way it divorced his candidacy from the incumbent Republican administration. And he served up more convention Kool-Aid by suggesting Washington's problems aren't the fault of the GOP. (Speaking of Kool-Aid, imagine people like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani distancing themselves from the so-called East Coast elite.)

But, as one commentator noted earlier in the week, the Republicans know how to put on a good convention. So there were lots of balloons, cheers, music and waving families to send the faithful on their way out of St. Paul (just as the other guys did last week in departing Denver). It's called political theater.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's the economy

The stock market dropped 340 points today.

Will John McCain offer something - anything - in detail tonight about how a McCain administration would improve the economy?

It might not make the crowd in St. Paul go wild, but it sure would be important for the American public to learn about that from someone who may be the next president.

GOP and the media

For some perspective about the GOP and John McCain's relationship with the media, check out this report in today's New York Times.

Palin's speech

Sarah Palin gave the Republicans exactly what they wanted (and needed) to hear last night.

She was sharp and sarcastic. She was engaging and appealing. She offered multiple applause lines. ("Frenzy" might best describe the response and facial expressions of many GOP delegates.)

But she didn't say much in detail about substantive issues. And some of her allegations about her opponents (as well as some of her claims of personal accomplishment) were suspect. No wonder the media (which Palin and the GOP are again making the enemy, in a strategy that's worked for politicians of both parties in the past) is feverishly investigating her background.

Much like the Democrats did last week in Denver, the Republicans are offering wonderful political theater this week in St. Paul. Hopefully, the American public will cut through their rhetoric and distractions and make dispassionate decisions on Election Day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin

Having spent too much time on vacation last week watching the Democrats and then blogging about their convention, I stayed away for several days before deciding to add my long-awaited two cents on Sarah Palin.

Good thing. My first reaction would have been the expected: Sarah who? Governor of what state? Mayor of a community about the size of a couple of towns in Ulster County? Only a heartbeat away? Why would John McCain pick her?

But with the benefit of some reflection, I've come around to this: Selecting Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, was a masterstroke for McCain.

From talking to my conservative friends -- yes, I have some -- it's easy to see how wildly excited they are with McCain's choice. Put in political terms, Sarah Palin has energized the base of the Republican Party, some of whom had threatened to sit out this election, rather than vote for McCain. Now they're on board.

And, yes, Sarah Palin, first female GOP candidate for vice president, may sway some women voters McCain's way - not the hard-core Hillary Clinton crowd, which can't be supportive of Palin's social stances - but those who liked McCain enough to consider him instead of Barack Obama. For them, this could be a deal-maker.

Now, understand, I don't happen to agree with Sarah Palin on social issues, either. And I'm certainly not comfortable with the prospect of her becoming president if something happens to an aging John McCain.

But, unlike my initial reaction when the news broke, I can see the method to McCain's madness.

That counts for something, yes?

By the way, critics of Palin's media coverage ought to take a take breath.

If it seems like press, broadcaster and blog snoopsters are all over Palin, it's because they are. And rightly so. But if it strikes you as overkill, it's because they're doing their snooping within a tight window. Obama already has been - to use the operative word - vetted by the media for several years. With the unknown Palin, it's been an overnight onslaught to catch up.