The man having dessert in the coffee shop demanded to speak to the manager. “This is the worst vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had,” he stormed. “That’s not vanilla,” replied the manager. “That’s butter pecan.” “Oh,” said the customer. “For butter pecan it’s great!”

To save the nation, Sarah Palin should re-register as butter pecan.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is the most perplexing political paradox of my lifetime. Many of my best conservative friends can’t stand her. Some Democratic friends insist the only way they can win in 2012 is for Palin to be the Republican candidate. She is popular. She is unpopular. Her detractors say she’s an empty-headed parakeet who’s learned a few good lines. Her supporters say, “Oh, yeah! Look how the Fox News ratings double when she’s on. Look how the public will slug, scratch and claw to crowd into the bookstore just to get a look at her.” “So what?” counter her detractors. “A lot of people will crowd into a zoo to see a giraffe, but they wouldn’t vote for one.” And so on.

Mistake me not. Sarah Palin has more power to shatter the Republican Party than Barack Obama has to shatter the country.

This salvo presumes that the re-election of President Barack Obama would bring on the ruination of the America most of us know and love. Despite the optimistic thunder out of the Republican super-huddle in New Orleans last week, such a re-election is thoroughly possible. Imagine it’s late 2012; stock market up, jobs returning, Israel not yet wiped off the map, Vice President Biden now fitted with a non-removable muzzle, congressional ramrod-sleaze and deep bows to Arabian kings and a lot of other stuff forgotten – it can happen.

Hold on! Isn’t that “recovery”? No. It’s more like anesthesia, making government takeover of the American economy less noticeable. You don’t sink a free economy like America’s overnight, or even in one four-year term. Too many walls have to be bashed in and too many compartments flooded.

This salvo further presumes that Sarah Palin cannot be elected president. Former New York congressman and brilliant political columnist John LeBoutillier wisely notes the “passion differential” among voters. Right now that differential favors the Republicans. Anti-Obama voters today would release their own straps and walk out of brain surgery to vote against Obama. Others may well stay home if rain is anywhere near the five-day forecast around Election Day. That’s today; not 2012. Palin’s supporters are passionate, all right, but the most passionate vote counts no more than the least passionate vote. Sarah Palin at the top of the ticket will lose. I would have been totally sincere if I’d told Palin as the 2008 votes rolled in, “Don’t feel too bad. What do you expect from a country where almost half the population actually believes you said you could see Russia from your bedroom just because a satirical comic made it up for a laugh?”

What follows will be widely considered as not merely “out of the box,” but out of the wrapping department entirely.

Sarah Palin appears on mainstream TV any time now with a major announcement. “My fellow Americans,” she begins. “I feel and felt fully qualified to be president of the United States in 2008. Otherwise, I would never have done anything as potentially disastrous for America as run for vice president. Now, two years later, I feel that qualification even more strongly. However, I have had the opportunity to get to know other candidates who I feel are even more qualified than I.

“National peril trumps tradition. This is against all tradition. It’s more than two years before the presidential election, but I’m here to announce I am running!

“I am running, not for president, but for vice president! The vice presidency for much too long now has been considered little more than a hood ornament. Too many times in America’s history the vice president has suddenly become the president. Many in both parties have run for vice president, but up to now always pretending to be running for president. I’m now the first to run openly for vice president.

“I intend to be the best vice president ever. I will now travel the nation and campaign actively for that second place on the ticket. And if the choice of the Republican Party for president doesn’t want me as his running mate, I will withdraw and continue my travels from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, campaigning for the ticket.

“Will you help me help America make an agonizing but necessary U-turn?”

Upside: Massive media attention, even though the media hate spotlighting the right like the devil hates holy water. Water-cooler talk coast-to-coast forever. Instant conversion of Republican Palin-haters to Palin-lovers. Serious approbation, even among scholars, of a proper elevation of the office of vice president. And best of all, the fight inside the Republican Party can then be fought out on less destructive terrain than Palin versus anti-Palin.

Downside: Well, admittedly it’s a little nutty.

But, no more so than butter pecan.

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