AN OPEN SECRET…. Watching the second part of Sarah Palin’s interview on CBS last night, I kept trying to imagine the perspective of an earnest Republican observer, who cares about the country, and who takes policy issues seriously.

This may sound like some kind of rude joke, but I’m genuinely curious. Go ahead, watch the full interview. Hear Palin ramble incoherently about the bailout. Listen to Palin struggle to rehash talking points about the Middle East. Watch her explain why Alaska’s proximity to Russia really does offer her foreign policy experience. Consider the way she rejects diplomacy with Iran as “beyond naive” and “beyond bad judgment,” despite the opposite conclusion from Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, James Baker, and Henry Kissinger. Listen to her stumble trying to explain why the U.S. must never “second guess” Israel’s “security efforts.”

Reasonable people can disagree about the nature of Palin’s difficulties. Some will argue that Palin just hasn’t had time to learn about government and policy issues. Others will argue she isn’t very bright. Others still may make the case that she’s just cracking under the pressure. But the cause isn’t especially important — reasonable people should agree that the Republican vice presidential nominee is way out of her depth, and has no business seeking national office.

At the risk of sounding impolite, Sarah Palin is embarrassing herself, her party, her ticket, and her supporters. The notion that she could be the leader of the free world sometime fairly soon isn’t just ridiculous, it’s terrifying.

Really, what is it the earnest Republican is thinking watching an interview like this? Does it give him or her pause? Does he or she cringe, but suppress the fear for the good of the party? Does he or she simply buckle in, get into a crash position, and hope the Republican ticket doesn’t screw the nation too badly?

I’m obviously not an entirely objective observer here, but I like to think that if the Democratic Party nominated individuals who were demonstrably unsuited and unprepared for national office, I could acknowledge this and say so. Are there such people in the Republican Party now? And if so, what more will it take for them to come forward and say, “Enough”?

Kevin’s take is spot on: “Look, this is just getting scary…. I don’t even feel right making snarky jokes about this stuff anymore. This campaign has gone seriously off the rails. I’ve never seen anything like it, but everyone is still nattering on as if this is business as usual. If it is, though, we’ve already entered the world of Idiocracy and we might as well all just give up and enjoy our super-size Slurpees while we can.”

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.