The following is an article in today's International Herald Tribune which explains the purpose, value and necessity of the vetting process and why the attempt on the part of McCain to disallow it for Ms. Palin is inappropriate and demeaning to the public.
Following the article are links to two articles that are thoughtful, well-presented attempts to make Ms. Palin more knowable to us.
John McCain's campaign issued a press release in the middle of the Republican National Convention blasting the National Enquirer for "baseless attacks" against Sarah Palin and her family.
This seemed crazy. The National Enquirer is a scandal sheet specializing in the sensational - "Something is wrong with the twins; why Angie and babies haven't been seen for weeks," is a front-page headline on a story accompanying the accounts of Palin, McCain's running mate.
On reflection, it's part of a shrewd, if cynical, McCain strategy: Attack the press, which excites the party's base and, in American sports parlance, works the referees to get a more favorable call next time.
This is an old game, noteworthy only because of the earlier, long-running love affair between the media and McCain.
More important is that this episode is part of a scheme to distract attention from any serious examination of Palin's credibility, political character and fitness for high office.
Palin is the most un-vetted national candidate since Spiro Agnew, who 40 years ago was Richard Nixon's running mate. Five years later, it was revealed that Agnew had been taking payoffs, and he was forced to resign in disgrace.
Vetting is a comprehensive process by the campaign, by opponents, by outside groups and by the press. Although the process is sometimes ugly and unfair, it's one of the virtues of a lengthy campaign.
We learned about Barack Obama's Jeremiah Wright association, about McCain's temper, about Joe Biden's plagiarism. These all are relatively small matters - and we've learned many more substantive and often positive things about these men - yet they form part of the larger tapestry of character and competence.
This is relevant for a running mate as well as presidential candidates. Five times since the beginning of the last century, vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency without an election.
Palin was selected more than two weeks ago. But with the exception of interesting interviews at the end of last week with the ABC-TV anchorman Charlie Gibson - which raised new questions - she has been shielded from inquiries.
Cleverly, the McCain campaign has predicated that the press has been unfair to her, justifying immunity from inquiry. Almost all the complaints about scurrilous stories concern leftist blogs or scandal sheets; the rationale for the press release at the convention was to equate the National Enquirer with The New York Times (of which the International Herald Tribune is the global edition), distracting from the need for more information about this would-be president.
The other gripe is that many of the questions raised are about petty matters. Well, how many cosmic measures has she dealt with? These minor issues may open a window into Palin's world and tell us more about her.
Many politicians and commentators insisted that Obama's connection with his controversial pastor was a legitimate issue, as was the question of whether he had initially joined that church for political reasons. George W. Bush paraded his faith as one rationale for his candidacy.
Likewise, then, these politicians and commentators should want to know why Palin, after two decades, left the Wasilla Assembly of God church, where the pastor and half the congregation spoke in tongues? That was in 2002, when she was running for lieutenant governor. And does she agree with the campaign of her current church, the Wasilla Bible Church, to promote a "cure" for gays and lesbians?
Her decision to have a Down syndrome child this year and pledge to be an advocate for families with special needs kids was inspiring for any family with such children. Why then did she veto a bill passed by the Alaska Legislature increasing funding for the Special Olympics?
The fact that she pulled a John Kerry on the "Bridge to Nowhere," infamous pork-barrel project - she was for it before she was against it - isn't a big deal. The attention to the fact that she continually misrepresents her original position on the bridge, which was to connect to an island where about 50 people live, is about telling the truth.
We need to know more about what Palin thinks about health care insurance, income inequality and China. Also, as we did with McCain, Obama and Biden during long periods of public vetting, we need to find out more about her actions, associations and values. That has nothing to do with ideology or a hectoring press corps.
The McCainiacs have a few legitimate grievances about the press. There have been some flimsily sourced stories about him and his campaign.
A chief target, NBC News, brought it on itself when its cable outlet, MSNBC, tapped two opinionated political journalists to anchor election coverage. They savaged Hillary Clinton first and then McCain. Belatedly, the parent company removed them from these roles last week.
A legitimate complaint for McCain. Yet his camp actually threatened to pull out of a debate because it was anchored by NBC's Tom Brokaw, who has been eminently fair and is among the most respected journalists in America. This is a cheap stunt.
The Arizona senator enjoyed years of often-admiring press coverage - and he is a captivating figure. Now, he feels like a jilted lover, associates say. O.K., while the salad days of adulation are over, the charge of a strong pro-Obama bias in America's mainstream press doesn't hold up.
With the caveat that surveys of press bias are usually flawed, it's instructive that a nonpartisan George Mason University study found that Obama's coverage on the influential evening TV news programs this summer - before the conventions - was more negative than McCain's.
Press-bashing is almost as old as political campaigning, says Stephen Hess, the foremost political scientist on the topic. It's easier now with "the lack of any definition of who and what is the media," he adds.
Still, Hess notes that while taking on journalists often works, it also hurts not only the media but the campaign and the country. That is the danger of the protect-Palin strategy.