PALIN’S UNIQUE SPIN ON THE BAILOUT…. When Sarah Palin sat down with ABC’s Charlie Gibson a couple of weeks ago, it was a fairly dominant story. Palin’s interview yesterday with CBS’s Katie Couric is drawing significantly less attention, obviously because it’s facing tougher competition from other news developments.

And the McCain campaign has to be thrilled, because the truth is, Palin is getting worse at answering questions, not better. This one has to be seen to be believed.

The question was provocative, but hardly unexpected given recent events. Couric asked Palin, “Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more, and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?”

Palin, in a rambling and largely incoherent response, responded, “That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and getting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade — we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.”

I’m sorry, what? Did she even hear the question?

Worse, if you watch the clip, you might notice that Palin was intermittently referring to notes. In other words, this is the kind of response she offers on a question about the Wall Street bailout with help.

I just want to reiterate a point from last week. First-time candidates for national office often struggle to get over the learning curve. Governors and senators will visit a coffee shop in Iowa City eight months before the caucuses, get confused about a policy detail, but improve as the campaign rolls on. They take their time, go through extensive briefings, and learn to get good. By the time the conventions are done, these candidates are supposed to be on the top of their game.

Palin, however, is in a situation where failure is almost impossible to avoid. She’s never expressed any knowledge of national or international issues, she’s never expressed any interest in national or international issues, and she’s making humiliating mistakes under the glare of the national spotlight, with just six weeks until Election Day.

With some time in government, Palin might become a less embarrassing candidate. But at this point, it’s almost unfair for McCain to set her up for this kind of fiasco.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.