There it was.  Boom!  First question out of the box from Charlie Gibson to Gov. Sarah Palin, using the “Q” word.  THE word that every actual or aspiring professional woman constantly asks herself…am I qualified?

Over my nearly forty year career, I have addressed this topic in countless speeches, panels, roundtables, seminars, presentations, and one-on-one counseling sessions with women of every age. Like all women, Sarah Palin knows this attitude exists and she took it in stride and nailed her response. 

Women always want to know whether they should go to law school or business school, even though they already have advanced degrees.  Too often, they aren’t sure they are “qualified” to apply for or accept the position or run for the office, even though they may be head and shoulders more capable than any other candidate for the same job or position.

It is not that we don’t want to assure qualified people are the ones who get the jobs. It is only offensive for Charlie Gibson to ask that question of Sarah Palin because neither he nor his colleagues of the ‘mainstream media’ talking heads have ever posed that question to Barack Obama. 

While the liberal media demanded to know how on earth Sen. John McCain would select someone of Sarah Palin’s ‘qualifications’ for the job that is ‘one heartbeat away from the presidency’, they never bothered to ask the same question of the person whose heart would actually be beating in the Oval Office on January 21, 2009.

This is the very definition of sexism, according to the feminist mantra. 

Women always think that if they have ‘one more piece of paper, or one more degree, or a few more years of this or that experience, then they will finally be ‘qualified’ for whatever next thing they are seeking.  My advice has always been to forget the additional piece of paper or the few more years of whatever it is they think they need to meet some undefined and elusive definition of ‘qualified’.  Instead, I’ve said to look at their male competition and ask this question:  Can I do a better job than he can?  And if the answer is ‘yes’, then forget the paper and the extra titles and go for it.

Anyone who has ever taught a Sunday School or pre-school or elementary school class is familiar with this scenario:  as you are asking the question, “Boys and girls, can anyone tell me…” and before the question is finished, half a dozen little boy hands shoot into the air with no girls’ hands, since they are waiting for the actual question.   And how many times has it happened that when you call on one of those hurried little boys whose hand shot up, he looks puzzled and says, “Oh, I don’t know…”  Even girls who know the answers haven’t raised their hands at all.  It is an inherent male trait to assume he knows.

I learned in my second term as a state legislator in 1979 that freshmen male legislators were not deferential to me, but were deferential to my male colleagues elected the same day I was.  And I realized that men grant to themselves and each other a certain ‘credibility’ that women have to earn. 

Every new job, every new opportunity, every new challenge requires proof of a woman’s credentials and merit. I decided decades ago not to be angry about this fact, but rather to tell myself and other women to accept the reality of this ‘credibility’ gap and to use it as a reason to try harder, work harder, and do more to prove ourselves worthy of our position.

After eight years of liberal hysteria accusing Vice President Dick Cheney of running America’s foreign policy from his second chair position, one would think the left-wingers would be cheered by a Republican ticket where a President McCain’s VP isn’t likely to be fodder for those same accusations.    

And it is more than a bit ironic that the Democrats have now nominated a ticket in which Senator Barack Obama’s dearth of experience and qualifications, particularly in foreign affairs and national security, are bolstered by his choice for Cheney’s successor, Sen. Joe Biden. 

Many of the questions posed by the liberal media to and about Sarah Palin are illegal in the American workplace to be asked of prospective female job candidates and would get a person asking these questions fired on the spot.  “Who will take care of your children while you are working?” “Can you work here and be a good mother?” and “Isn’t it a bit of hubris for you to think you are qualified for this job?”

The Obama campaign was wrongly jubilant (at first) at the Palin nomination, believing that it would take off the table the question of Obama’s ‘qualifications’ to be president.  The opposite is true.  Just as I’ve advised all those women, all these years, capable women should be  compared to their actual male competitors, instead of some elusive ideal of what ‘qualified’ looks like. Now the nomination of Sarah Palin has put a face on that male competitor and turned the tables on the claims that Obama is qualified for the nation’s highest office and the leader of the free world. 

And even if Sarah Palin is as ‘unqualified’ as the left would have us believe (a claim  most Americans have already rejected), then former Congresswoman Bella Abzug’s (D-NY) lifelong goal has been achieved.  She used to say that she was “working for the day when a mediocre woman could get as far as a mediocre man.”  So every time the Obama campaign slams Sarah Palin’s ‘qualifications’ and ‘experience’, the residue of those attacks lands squarely back on their own candidate.   

Sarah Palin has raised the bar for Obama.  Let’s see if Charlie Gibson & Co. will start asking him about his hubris at thinking he is qualified for the position as leader of the free world and review their collective failure to ask him that question before now.                                                                                                          

Cleta Mitchell is a lawyer in Washington, DC and a former Oklahoma legislator.