My job as a policy wonk or intelligence analyst is to provide you with the tools for effective citizenship. One of the best tools for this task are "models for understanding". Or in other words a general set of rules or guidelines which can be applied as you work to make sense of all the noise. The framework, through facilitating your understanding of the world, will then allow you to make more informed decisions as that effective citizen.
Every day I refine my models and once in a long while I create or learn of an entirely new model. Today I learned of a new one when reading an article by David Brooks http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/opinion/02brooks.html?em. In the course of the article he provides a quick and dirty model for understanding Sarah Palin and John McCain. The gist of the framework is that McCain and Palin are very much alike with both being driven more by moral philosophy and less by political philosophy. Or instinct rather than abstract convictions. Brooks believes such "sterling character" can be of use when confronting a belligerent Russia or reforming government; it will fall short though when one is faced with complex policy challanges like health care reform or a faultering economy, where viewing the world through the lense of virtue vs. vice is lacking in necessary nuance. As the election plays out watch the GOP candidates with this understanding and ask yourself, Virtuous crusader or pragmatic ethicist?