At first, you don’t think she’s going to go there. Sure, it seems like she might, you think to yourself. But, then: No, you decide. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t.

“My husband called it first,” the National Review Online’s Kathleen Parker begins her latest Sarah Palin-pondering column. “Then,” she continues, “a brilliant, 75-year-old scholar and raconteur confessed to me over wine: ‘I’m sexually attracted to her. I don’t care that she knows nothing.’”

Okay, hmm, you think, still benefit-of-the-doubt-ing.

“Finally,” Parker continues, “writer Robert Draper closed the file on the Sarah Palin mystery with a devastating article in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine: ‘The Making (and Remaking) of McCain.’”

What “Sarah Palin mystery” is she referring to? you wonder. Confusing, but, granted, intriguing

She continues:

McCain didn’t know her. He didn’t vet her. His campaign team had barely an impression. In a bar one night, Draper asked one of McCain’s senior advisers: ‘Leaving aside her actual experience, do you know how informed Governor Palin is about the issues of the day?’

The adviser thought a moment and replied: ‘No, I don’t know.’

Okay, where is she going with this?

She continues, mysteriously, “Blame the sycamore tree.”

[confused/intrigued]

McCain had met Palin only once — in February, at the governor’s convention in Washington, D.C. — before the day he selected her as his running mate. The second time was at his Sedona, Ariz., ranch on Aug. 28, just four days before the GOP convention….

McCain took Palin to his favorite coffee-drinking spot down by a creek and a sycamore tree. They talked for more than an hour, and, as Napoleon whispered to Josephine, ‘Voila’

Uh-oh, this is getting…, you think. But you stop yourself—Parker’s a journalist, after all, and intelligent, and everything, and, just, she couldn’t—and you decide to keep giving her the benefit of the doubt, because, you know, she wouldn’t…

But then, this: “One does not have to be a psychoanalyst,” Parker writes, “to reckon that McCain was smitten.”

And: There. It Is. McCain picked Palin as his running mate because, Parker claims, he was attracted to her. Not in any inappropriate way, she’s careful to clarify—“By no means am I suggesting anything untoward between McCain and his running mate,” Parker writes—but in that unavoidable way that comes from him being A Man and her being A Woman. In a way that is all very Scientific, and everything.

A study in Canada, published in New Scientist in 2003, found that pretty women foil men’s ability to assess the future. ‘Discounting the future,’ as the condition is called, means preferring immediate, lesser rewards to greater rewards in the future.

Drug dealers, car salesmen and politicians rely on this affliction and pray feverishly for its persistence.

Which, just…wow. Parker has gone and married sexual taboo and rational absurdity into one—and, in the process, managed to pander to tired and silly stereotypes that insult pretty much all parties involved. (Women: They’re always manipulating men with their Feminine Wiles! Men: They’re too dumb to stop them!) In other words: She. Went. There.

Again, just…wow. I feel manipulated, somehow. And I’m not even John McCain.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.