Did Sarah Palin wrongfully push to have her ex-brother-in law fired? Was she really against the "Bridge to Nowhere?" Did she really sell Alaska's plane on eBay, or just list it on eBay? Did she actually have any substantial duties commanding the Alaska National Guard?
The correct answer to all these questions is: who cares? Which isn't to say these aren't valid questions, or that Palin and the McCain camp aren't playing it fast, loose, and coy with each of them. The point is that Palin, and the circus she's brought to town, are simply a bountiful collection of small lies deliberately designed to distract the country from one big truth: the havoc that George Bush and the Republican Party have wrought, and that John McCain is committed to continuing.
Every second of this campaign not spent talking about the Republican Party's record, and John McCain's role in that record, is a victory for John McCain.
Her critics like to say that Palin hasn't accomplished anything. I disagree: in the space of ten days she's succeeded in distracting the entire country from the horrific Bush record - and McCain's complicity in it. My friends, that's accomplishment we can believe in.
Just look at the problem John McCain faced. George Bush has a disastrous record, and the country knows it. John McCain - the current one, not the one who vanished eight years ago - has no major disagreements with George Bush (and I'm sorry, wanting to fire Donald Rumsfeld a bit sooner doesn't qualify) and wants to continue his incredibly unpopular policies for another four years. The solution? Enter Sarah Palin, a Trojan Moose carrying four more years of disaster.
And the plan has worked beautifully. Just look at what's being discussed just 57 days before the election. Is it the highest unemployment rate in five years? The bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (US mortgage giants)? The suicide bombing yesterday in Iraq that killed six people and wounded 54 - in the same market where last month a bomb killed 28 people and wounded 72?
That the political reconciliation that was supposedly the point of "the surge" is nowhere near happening? That Iraq's Shiite government is now rounding up the American-backed Sunni leaders of the Awakening? That the reason 8,000 soldiers may be leaving Iraq soon is so more can be deployed to Afghanistan where the Taliban is steadily retaking the country?
No. We're talking about whether Sarah Palin was or was not a good mayor, whether she was or was not a good mother, whether her skirts are too short and her zingers too sarcastic.
Contrary to what we're hearing 24/7 in the media, the next few weeks are not a test of Sarah Palin. The next few weeks are a test of Barack Obama.
He needs to dramatically redirect this election back to a discussion over the issues that really matter - the issues that will impact the future of this country. A presidential campaign is a battle and this is the time for Obama to show some commander-in-chief skills. I'm not talking about calling Palin out for lying about his record and demeaning community organising. I'm talking about grabbing the political debate by the throat.
The country is already angry about what's happened over the last seven-plus years - he shouldn't be afraid to give voice to that anger. Obama has spent years adopting a non-threatening persona; but he can't let his fear that appearing like an "angry Black man" (a stereotype not-too-subtly fuelled by Fox News) will turn off swing voters keep him from channelling the disgust and outrage felt by so many voters - swing and otherwise.
McCain's team, in an effort to distract, is going to keep doing what they're doing - diverting voters and the media with a tantalising combination of personal trivia and small lies. It doesn't matter if they're caught in them - in fact, all the better. Because they know there is no way in hell they can win if this election is about the big truth of the Bush years.
McCain's real running mate is George Bush and the failed policies of the Republican Party. Even if they are dressed up in a skirt, lipstick, and Tina Fey glasses.
* Arianna Huffington is co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post.