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The Invisible Woman

Of course, McCain's people said no such thing. But their actions told you all you needed to know.

McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all subjected themselves to tough questioning on the regular Sunday news programs. Palin was the only no-show. And it's not just the Sunday interviews. She has not opened herself to any serious questioning since McCain picked her to be next in line for the presidency.

Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, gave the game away when he said on "Fox News Sunday" that she would not meet with reporters until they showed a willingness to treat her "with some level of respect and deference."

Deference? That's a word used in monarchies or aristocracies. Democracies don't give "deference" to politicians. When have McCain, Obama, Biden or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton asked for deference?

From the moment Palin was picked, reporters immediately began to ask questions, a lot of them. Because she was so little known outside Alaska, her views on many issues, particularly foreign policy, are a mystery. Voters also need to know how McCain went about reaching the most important decision he will make between now and Election Day.

A week ago, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times cited McCain sources questioning "how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket." She reported that Palin had been selected "with more haste than McCain advisers initially described." (She also mistakenly reported that Palin belonged to the Alaskan Independence Party. It was her husband Todd who had been a member.)

It turned out that the McCain side misled journalists. Bumiller was right about the vetting. The lesson is that McCain's counselors are not interested in fair treatment, and they are certainly not interested in the truth.

During the 2000 battle over Florida, Al Gore's perfectly defensible efforts to win a hand recount ran into a buzz saw of criticism from nonpartisan commentators, many of whom urged Gore to withdraw "gracefully." In the buildup to the Iraq War, the Bush administration and its supporters savaged the patriotism of many who raised questions about its strategy and its plans. Now, McCain hopes Palin will skate through the next two months without any real scrutiny or questioning.

Of course Palin's handlers are being hypocritical: They want to focus on her family life and her identity as a hockey mom when doing so helps them, and push aside any story that mars this perfect picture. Conservatives are always against identity politics until they are for it.

E.J. Dionne, Jr. is the author of the recently published . He is a Washington Post columnist, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a professor at Georgetown University.

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By E.J. Dionne, Jr.