In a rational world, this presidential election would be between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, with their respective running mates, Barack Obama and (maybe) Sarah Palin.
But we do not live in a rational world. We live in a world of emotional excess and so are left to ponder the qualifications of two relatively young, relatively inexperienced candidates - even if one of them isn't running for president.
Confession: I love Barack Obama and I love Sarah Palin - both for different reasons. They both also scare me to death.
I love Obama for his style, grace, intellect and his way with words. I want the healing power that an Obama presidency could deliver to this country.
I love Palin for her chutzpah, courage, maverickness and authenticity. As a woman, I want her to be fantastic. I want her to expose the fraudulence of identity politics and show the world that Woman is not just one thing.
But my inner eye is watching. And my inner voice is saying: These are not good enough reasons.
I worry that Obama isn't serious enough about terrorism and free markets. I worry about his out-of-touchness with the people who, he says, cling to guns and religion because of frustration and anger. I worry about a worldview that may have been shaped in part by a spiritual mentor who damns America in church and thinks the government invented the AIDS virus to kill blacks.
I worry about Obama's over-intellectualizing - that he will get lost in a maze of deep thoughts and fail to be decisive when necessary.
I worry that Sarah Palin won't set foot in that maze.
I worry that she won't intellectualize enough. I worry about her certitude and her slight offness. Whatever her charms, anyone in public office who thinks out loud about banning books might be missing some aces in her deck.
I worry about a worldview that might have been shaped in part by a minister who believes that Alaska someday will be home to Christian renegades arriving for the Rapture.
I do not worry about her small-town values, which are mostly Main Street's values. Or even her social conservatism, which is driving Democrats insane. Most Americans are more worried about a crumbling economy and the next terrorist attack than they are about what motivates Palin to have a baby others would abort.
Even if Palin became president and she were in a position to fill Supreme Court openings with pro-life justices, the likelihood that Roe v. Wade would be overturned is slim. Such a dramatic shift in U.S. law would require an unlikely alignment of stars, including Senate confirmation of the nominees. Moreover, it is not clear that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito would line up with such a campaign.
With so much to worry about, we are left with two not-great choices that, frankly, do not lend themselves to sound sleep. There is still much to know about Palin and not much time to know it. Was she the most qualified person in McCain's field of running mates?
Clearly not. There was once a man named Mitt Romney who might have been handy to have around as the economy collapses.
Is Obama the most qualified Democrat to deal with global terrorism and an array of domestic issues that have confounded many more experienced politicians? Not really. Clinton surpassed him and every other candidate in nearly every debate, but she couldn't pierce the impenetrable aura that surrounded Obama.
How did we get in this mess? All together now: It's Bush's fault.
George W. Bush created The Phenomenon Known as Barack Obama. If you fed data describing Bush into a computer and commanded the machine to create his opposite, Obama would emerge.
As for Palin, thanks be to Obama. He passed on Clinton and then McCain stole the ball. In a political season of feminist angst, Palin was a rimless swish.
In a final bit of irony, those who have attacked Palin may ensure her victory.
Challenging Palin on her policies and her public record is legitimate. But when self-identified feminists call Palin a "cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage mom(s)" and ideologically a "hardcore pornographic centerfold spread" - just to pull a few recent comments - they hurt their cause and their own candidate.
Whatever happens, we may deserve what we get. On the other hand, maybe there's still time to wise up: Obama boots Biden and taps Clinton; McCain dumps Palin and picks Romney. It's a concept.
E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org.