Two ongoing themes in this election bug me.
One is that candidates who exceed expectations somehow win debates. Politics is not a sport in which handicapping applies. Sarah Palin may have done better Thursday night than her worst critics expected, but I can't imagine that anyone -- not even John McCain or the chairman of the Republican National Committee -- would really want to have her on the spot in a national crisis instead of Joe Biden. And that, ultimately, is what the election ought to be about.
The second is the mockery from the right about Biden's characterization of paying taxes as a patriotic duty. Biden is right, of course. Patriotism isn't about waving flags, wearing lapel pins or putting your hand over your heart when you hear "The Star-Spangled Banner." Patriotism is about service. Patriots vote in elections, serve on juries and pay their taxes. Sometimes they volunteer in schools or civic clubs, donate to charities and help out in political campaigns. In times of crisis, they may be called upon to ration gasoline, recycle scrap metal or serve in the military.
It's not a lot to ask, really, except for the last part. And those who mock paying taxes as an essential component of patriotic citizenship might as well be mocking military service. Both are equally essential.