ON PALIN: These are good days to be a conservative with feminist sympathies. Palin's brought two unmitigated goods: advancing a new kind of public/private synthesis for women in politics, and driving all my liberal-feminist friends completely up a wall.

But it's worth remembering that the synthesis is new, and fragile. From the left, it gets attacked as, simultaneously, abandoning one's family and placing them too much at the center (Trotsky could do quite a number on this logic). From the right, it's the uncertainty that a woman can--or should--occupy a leadership role of this kind. One of my good friends, who I deeply respect on a number of issues, mentioned repeatedly when we discussed Palin today that McCain would need to make sure she's well-handled and made thoroughly familiar with issues of policy. This was a little incomprehensible to me until I realized that he's not really sure this is the right place for a woman.

I don't have any sympathy for the critique from the right. Many years ago, I had an argument with a girlfriend about the distribution of spiritual gifts, specifically leadership. I took the position that I saw no textual indication that gifts, spiritual or otherwise, are distributed by gender, leadership included. There may be other (cultural, historical, philosophical/theological) reasons for, in general, male leadership, but when someone has a gift, you get out of the way and let them use it. That this is still difficult for some is one of the things about conservatism that really bothers me.

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