We're in the middle of the worst recession in decades.
Congress is currently debating sweeping changes to healthcare and energy policy that could cost trillions of dollars in new taxes in the foreseeable future.
We've got soldiers risking their lives on two fronts in the Middle East, and despots in North Korea and Iran developing nuclear weapons.
Yet, when one of the most powerful men in Washington visited "Meet the Press" Sunday, host David Gregory spent almost 30 percent of the time allotted grilling him about -- wait for it! -- Sarah Palin.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, of the 19 1/2 minutes Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spent Sunday morning chatting with Gregory, he was questioned for 5 3/4 minutes about Palin's resignation and her future in politics (video embedded below the fold with transcript):
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Let me turn to politics. You must have been shocked to see Governor Sarah Palin resign as governor.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-ARIZONA): Well, I wasn't shocked. Obviously, I was a bit surprised, but I wasn't shocked. I understand that Sarah made the decision where she can be most effective for Alaska and for the country. I love and respect her and her family. I'm grateful that she agreed to run with me. I am confident she will be a major factor in the national scene and, and in Alaska, as well.
MR. GREGORY: But you say you were surprised a little bit. Why?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, because she had not called me. We've discussed it since and I better understand the reasons for her decision.
MR. GREGORY: What were they?
SEN. McCAIN: Look, there's--well, how could she best serve? How could she most effectively serve Alaska and the country? And that was her decision.
MR. GREGORY: But, but, but, Senator, you have a reputation...
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: ...of personal and professional toughness and stick-to-itiveness.
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: You sought the highest role in the land, president of the United States.
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: You never quit.
SEN. McCAIN: Oh, I don't think she quit. I think she changed her priorities.
MR. GREGORY: She made a promise to the voters to serve out her term, didn't she?
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know if there was a "promise," but I do know that she will be an effective player on the national stage. And I will say, I have never seen the sustained personal family attacks that were made on Sarah Palin and her family in, in, in my life. Carl Cannon has a very interesting piece about the media establishment and the attacks that were made on her, and I'm sure that that had some impact. Ethics charge after ethics charge, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of, worth of legal fees. But the fact is she is very popular with our Republican base. She will be a strong voice. I chose her because she was a reformer, because she beat an incumbent governor, she was a popular Republican of her own party, she ignited our base, she did a great job as my running mate even under the most sustained personal attacks that...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEN. McCAIN: ...in certainly recent American political history.
MR. GREGORY: But, Senator McCain, you have faced personal torture, personal attacks, political attacks, investigations. You have never resigned from anything. Is it consistent with your qualities of leadership to resign an elected post like this?
SEN. McCAIN: Sure. If you think you can be...
MR. GREGORY: It is consistent?
SEN. McCAIN: If you can be--the question is, is how can you serve most effectively? Sarah and Todd and her family made a decision that she can be most effective by stepping down, and she did. I respect that, that position and that decision, and I cannot tell you the appreciation I have for her.
MR. GREGORY: You think she's qualified to seek the high, highest office in the land?
SEN. McCAIN: I know she's qualified. I know she's qualified.
MR. GREGORY: She is qualified?
SEN. McCAIN: Sure. Absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: No doubt about it.
SEN. McCAIN: No doubt about it. She has all the right instincts, all the right principles. She was a, she was a, a mayor, she's a governor. She understands the challenges that families face. She has, she has a great background, and I am confident that she will continue to play, as I say, a major role.
MR. GREGORY: And if she, if she seeks the presidency in 2012, you would endorse her?
SEN. McCAIN: Oh, I--look, I think it's way too early for that kind of thing, because she obviously has not made that decision yet. And traditionally, those of us who were the nominees have waited at least a period, a long period of time before we got into that. But we've got a lot of good, strong, young, attractive, articulate spokespersons for our party and our principles.
MR. GREGORY: But can you understand how people would think it's a little bit strange? You vouched for her in front of the country.
SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: Said she was qualified for the highest position in the land.
SEN. McCAIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: And yet you're not prepared to endorse her now?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, I mean, George Bush--Ronald Reagan didn't endorse George Herbert Walker Bush, his own vice president, until the year of, of the election. I mean, it's, it's just way too early. But I'm confident she would make a fine president. The question is, is what's the whole political scenario?
MR. GREGORY: Do you think she'll run?
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know. I know she will play a major role. I know she has the ability to ignite our party and to galvanize us and get us going again and give us a strong positive message.
MR. GREGORY: One more on this.
SEN. McCAIN: Sure.
MR. GREGORY: Your trusted adviser for many years, Mike Murphy, wrote this week something very pointed. He writes that "Governor Sarah Palin is the political train wreck that keeps on giving. First, she was an awful choice," he wrote, "last year as John McCain's running mate. ... An inexperienced governor of a small state, she lacked the experience to be president and brought nothing to the ticket except a surefire knack for exciting voters who were already reliably Republican. It was a strategically awful choice." Knowing everything you know now, you would pick her again?
SEN. McCAIN: Absolutely. And in all due respect to those who like to examine the entrails and, and, and look backward, the fact is we were three points ahead on September 15th, and the stock market crashed and we went seven points down. Sarah Palin ignited our party. We were winning and we could have won. But I'm proud of the campaign we ran. I'm proud of the people around me. I'm grateful for their support. I love them. I am proud to have had the honor of being the nominee of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
MR. GREGORY: Is she a...
SEN. McCAIN: And I will remain so.
MR. GREGORY: Is she ahead of the pack in terms of leaders of this party, going forward?
SEN. McCAIN: I don't know. A recent poll I saw shows she and Mitt Romney and Huckabee very tight. But it's so--way so early. You might remember, in 2007 my campaign was dead.
MR. GREGORY: Right, right. Remember well. And you, and you came back.
My goodness, David. With all that's going on in the world today, and all that faces our nation, you spent 30 percent of your time with this key Senator discussing the future of his vice presidential running mate?
Is this "Meet the Press" or "Entertainment Tonight?"
Tim Russert must be rolling over in his grave.