Yesterday, Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin delivered what has been called by most of the political observers a “home run, out of the park” speech. She was forceful, articulate and she delivered a well structured speech. It had a family touch, it said the right things about the nominee and she was able to brand herself in a way that corresponds with the new positioning of the McCain campaign. The McCain-Palin ticket is now the maverick, outside Washington, and reform alternative to the Obama-Biden campaign of change. To be fair, Palin energized the room and surpassed expectations.
In recent days, there has been much controversy about her selection and much of it has been directed to the vetting process and the judgment of John McCain. Prior to asking her to join the ticket, there was only one meeting of record between the two and we are finding out in a piecemeal fashion more and more about who she is and what she stands for. As a result, there has been speculation among bloggers and some pundits that her choice would be short-lived. Some compared her to Thomas Eagleton in 1972 when he had to leave the McGovern ticket shortly after his nomination. Or, some claimed she was the reincarnation of Dan Quayle, untested and unprepared. Yesterday’s speech was successful but it is still just a speech.
We now find out that much of the speech was authored by speech writers associated with George W. Bush. So much for distancing oneself from the Bush administration. Outside the content dealing with her family, not much came from her, according to some reports. This means that the real test is yet to come. Press conferences, Sunday morning talk-show interviews, and the daily regimen of news stories will contrast greatly from a hall of sympathetic Republicans waiting and hoping to be energized.
What was disturbing in this speech had nothing to do with her delivery or even with her content. The problem was the tone. There was sarcasm and there was self-righteousness. That Sarah Palin has a good story to tell is one thing, but do you need to attack and bring down your opponent’s life story? You can disagree with Obama on taxes, universal healthcare, the war in Iraq, and the fight against terrorism. But when you minimize the fact that this young African American who was raised by a single mother, who lived for a time on food stamps, who depended on scholarships to be educated, and who chose to work among the poor and disadvantaged on the South side of Chicago, you have to wonder where is the generosity of spirit and the values she so proudly holds to. I know this is an election, and attacking your opponent is part of the game. However, wasn’t John McCain suppose to be a different kind of Republican? The election is not over and Americans may decide that Obama is not ready to lead, but most Americans would agree that he has a compelling life story and is a model for today’s youth. Obama could have been a successful and affluent corporate lawyer but chose to serve the public. Yesterday, Palin energized the Republican base and hoped to attract Hillary Clinton’s supporters. But she is not Hillary Clinton and in so doing she may have energized another base. And that one may not ultimately vote for McCain-Palin.