The Sept. 5 editorial “Be careful what you wish for” seems to have opened a Pandora’s box. We had hoped to wait until after the holidays to publish opinions (including our own) about the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. But the selection of Alaska’s Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain’s running mate dominated the news, and we felt compelled to weigh in on that choice.

Readers have been reacting, pro and con, to that choice and to the editorial. Some of their comments have been vitriolic, some merely surprising – for example, excoriating us for noting that if elected, McCain might die in office and Palin step up to the presidency. But that possibility is precisely why the vice presidency was created: to ensure an orderly succession and not a banana republic catfight. Sitting presidents younger than McCain have died or been incapacitated, and their vice presidents have had to take over at a moment’s notice. Dick Cheney, for example, briefly acted as president during President Bush’s colonoscopy last year. (Of course, some people say that he’s been acting as president for much longer.)

At any rate, readers have a lot to say about this election and they want to say it now, so we are opening the floodgates. But we are laying down some rules: 1. Try to address the issues, not candidates’ personalities – except where relevant – or families. 2. Try to write succinctly; 450 words might work, but 250 would be even better. 3. You can respond to other letters but don’t target other letter-writers. 4. Don’t try to pass off rumor as fact.

Not every letter will be published and we reserve the right to edit submissions for space, grammar, and the like.

Meanwhile, we suggest that readers who want to get a better look at the candidates, their expertise, and their agendas go to YouTube.com and search their names. Look for videos that are unscripted, for press conferences, one-on-one interviews, extemporaneous talks.

And while you’re at this truly serious, important task, laugh a little: Look for the pitch-perfect Saturday Night Live segment with Tina Fey as Palin and Amy Poehler as Sen. Hillary Clinton.

RKB