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Letter from the Editor

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"Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they?"

Nebraska senator Roman Hruska made the above remark in 1970 in support of one of Richard Nixon's nominees to the Supreme Court: G. Harrold Carswell. Hruska, who was once called the dumbest member of Congress, was fighting for his people, his Mediocre-American base.

Of course, Mediocre Americans are not an interest group — at least, not officially. There are no lobbyists demanding tax breaks for mediocre people. Mediocre Americans are allowed to get married and vote and run for office. Mediocre Americans have never been forced to sit in the balcony of theaters or in the back of buses. You are free to be mediocre in America. And proudly so. In fact, I'm surprised there aren't "Mediocre Pride" parades and T-shirts reading, "It's a Mediocre Thing. You Wouldn't Understand."

Now, in the proud tradition of Senator Hruska, mediocrity is again being turned into a virtue, something to be admired. Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is the political poster girl for mediocrity. She's "one of us," she claims, a "hockey mom," a representative of "Joe Six-Pack." And, by all the evidence that's been presented thus far, Palin is being truthful in these claims. She appears mediocre to the core — in her education, her intellect, and her "knowledge" of the issues.

I will concede mediocrity has its place. I don't mind a mediocre television anchor or a mediocre waitress, for example. I hear mediocre musicians and talk-show hosts on the radio every day. I accept mediocrity when mediocrity doesn't mean life or death. Some of my best friends are mediocre. (Kidding.)

But here's the thing: Nobody wants a mediocre pilot or heart surgeon or even a mediocre teacher for their kids. Why would we want a mediocre vice president, a person who is so dense she is unable to answer the question: "What newspapers do you read?" Do we really want to elect a vice president whose primary skills seem to be those of a television sportscaster?

Yes, Palin's cute. She can read a script. She can repeat things and excite a crowd. But if she can't handle Katie Couric, what do you think she'll do when she has to sit across the table from Vladimir Putin? Pop open a Bud Light and wink?

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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