As in Denver, John Kerry was scathing as he insisted that the Palin pick was further indicative of McCain’s erratic nature.

John McCain has been wrong about Iraq. He bought in to the neoconservative theory that, by military invasion of Iraq, you could transform the Middle East. That has been proven incorrect. The Middle East is in shambles. America has lost credibility. In fact, Iran is stronger today. Hamas is stronger today. Hezbollah is stronger today. And the United States of America that the president is supposed to protect is weaker today in the region and in the world. Al Qaida is reconstituted and is now in 60 countries, not in the four countries that it was at the time of Afghanistan, when the war began. So the bottom line is that the Republicans are trying to hide the fact that they have failed on their watch to make America safer….John McCain has proven that he’s not a maverick, he’s erratic.

Unimpressed by Alaska’s proximity to Siberia, Kerry jumped on Gov. Palin’s lack of foreign policy experience. Kerry said, accurately, “she doesn’t even support the notion that climate change is manmade. She’s back there with the flat earth caucus.” To the suggestion that she would collect embittered Hillary Clinton supporters, Kerry scoffed again: “I think it’s almost insulting to the Hillary supporters that they believe they would support somebody who is against almost everything that they believe in.”

Stephanopoulos stayed in skeptic mode through his roundtable, as did Sam Donaldson, who stepped off the Straight Talk Express for the occasion. I’d like to have seen Donaldson’s and Stephanopoulos’s faces when George Will declared that Gov. Palin’s qualification was that “she understands the principle of limited government.”

On the predictable speculation about Palin’s appeal to disaffected Hillary voters, former Republican counselor Matthew Dowd, who seems to be in recovery from his years working for George W. Bush, wondered aloud how she would perform “when a big torpedo comes in”—he sounded as though he had some particular torpedo in mind, but didn’t specify.

Skepticism about the Palin decision was also palpable over at “Meet the Press,” where Tom Brokaw chatted with an uncomfortable-looking Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor passed over in favor of the barely vetted Sarah Palin. Brokaw quoted the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, which called her a “neophyte.” Her own mother-in-law isn’t sure who to vote for on November 4. Pawlenty struggled. Brokaw was as thorough and common-sensical as I’ve seen him, pointing out that, unlike Palin, Obama has been out before America for twenty months, debating, submitting to interviews; that Palin supports teaching “creationism” side-by-side with evolution. Even the Republican consultant Mike Murphy sounded unconvinced that Palin was a reasonable choice.

It took the reckless absurdity of the Palin nomination to infuse the Sunday commentators with a jolt of reason. Almost all of them, that is. Maria Bartiromo of CNBC, though skeptical of how much Gov. Palin knows about the liquidity crisis, lauded her “expertise in energy.” In a recent BusinessWeek interview, Bartiromo accepted Palin’s number-intensive claim about the wonders of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Bartiromo didn’t mention any skeptics, like this 2004 AP report I located after a few seconds of Googling:

Opening an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil development would only slightly reduce America’s dependence on imports and would lower oil prices by less than 50 cents a barrel, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Energy Department.

“The report, issued by the Energy Information Administration, or EIA, said that if Congress gave the go-ahead to pump oil from Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the crude could begin flowing by 2013 and reach a peak of 876,000 barrels a day by 2025.

“But even at peak production, the EIA analysis said, the United States would still have to import two-thirds of its oil, as opposed to an expected 70 percent if the refuge’s oil remained off the market.

This report came out in 2004. Start drilling next year and the oil starts flowing in 2018. At the 2034 peak, estimates economist Dean Baker, ANWR oil would cut the price of a gallon of gas by twelve to eighteen cents.

Todd Gitlin , who teaches journalism at Columbia, is the author of a new book, Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street.