Can Sarah Palin win over Albertans? Alaska! -

Can Sarah Palin win over Albertans? Alaska!

Colby Cosh on how Palin handled her first Canadian audience


sarah palin 6:02 pm (all times Mountain!): I’m in the sumptuous Palomino Room at Calgary’s BMO Centre, waiting with an audience of about one thousand to witness Sarah Palin’s first live address outside the United States, depending on which media personage in the back row you ask. Calgary is an obvious choice for a test-run of Palin’s ability to win over a foreign audience; her game-slaying soccer-mom persona does resonate here. We’re so close to Alaska, geographically and spiritually, that Palin almost seems like a caricature. For better and worse. She’s familiar… but it must be said that nobody likes having a distorted effigy of themselves waved at them either.

6:16 pm: Calgary Herald editor Lorne Motley introduces… Cliff Fryers, Preston Manning’s former chief of staff, who is here to introduce the lady herself. Fryers suggests that Palin is on a path parallel to that followed by Reform–outsiders who challenged the status quo and were as “mainstream as apple pie” ten years later.

6:19 pm: “Alaska and Alberta!” Palin’s daughter Piper interrupts the first sentences of her speech, as if on cue, and gets a blazing round of applause. Palin talks about constantly having her accent described as “Canadian”. “You did an amazing job” with the Olympics; Canada’s filled with “tough and talented hockey players.” The pandering works.

6:22 pm: Girlish excitement about meeting Shaun White backstage at the Tonight Show.  I didn’t know she’d cast her lot with Leno. Bad move! You’ll lose the youth demographic!

6:26 pm: She’s laying it on a little thick with the pandering and cute gags. Of course she can get away with it, but it occurs to me that I’m not exactly sure what the substantive portion of this speech is supposed to involve. Was there going to be a substantive portion?

6:30 pm: Finally some nuts and bolts. She talks about bringing TransCanada Pipelines in on the Alaska Gas Line project… as part of her goal of helping establish “energy independence” for the United States. She’s kind of bopping back and forth between hitting the independence note and emphasizing what a great business partner and ally Canada is. Which, technically, seems like inTERdependence.

6:33 pm: “I think there’s a little bit of vindication going on for those of us who called for sound science on climate change.” This being Calgary, the applause is enormous. “The all-of-the-above energy policy… is still the one that Americans support, and people are coming back around to our ideas. Our votes didn’t carry the day, and knew that we didn’t get our message across, and it was a tough battle, it really was, but our ideas, people are seemingly more interested today than they were then, and that’s what the Tea Party movement is kind of about…” If I were fast enough to transcribe this with perfect accuracy there would be THOUSANDS of words between the periods.

6:37 pm: “Some leaders in Washington, D.C. aren’t listening to the people.” Some leaders? You got any names for us?

6:39 pm: Fairly extended attack on the Copenhagen climate conference and the IPCC. “We deserve sound science, not data designed to serve political ends.” She rehearses all the recent embarrassments for the Panel for the bedrock-conservative audience.

6:41 pm: Strongest line of the night–most heartfelt–is her description of debt as “immoral”. Her clickety-clack pace of statistics and factoids is held up for a moment as she speaks slowly about the intergenerational unfairness of public insolvency. Soon, however, she returns to her exhausting regular rhythm. It’s a struggle to maintain attention.

6:45 pm: “The hard work of friendship has created an unbreakable bond between Canada and the United States.” Quotes JFK. “I think he would be pleased to see that the bond of friendship does endure. I ask that we continue that, that we preserve it and continue it into the next generation.” Q&A, the fun part, is about to start.

6:48 pm: Here’s Sen. Wallin. With her help. Palin dispenses deftly with the “writing on the hand” thing and the “I can see Russia from my backyard” thing. First things first, I suppose. The former has Biblical warrant (book of Isaiah, people!) and the latter was, or so Palin says, just a Tina Fey quote that got hung on the real candidate. “And she made a lotta money sayin’ it, too,” gripes the Gov.

6:53 pm: More love letter to TCPL. Maybe this should have been held in their boardroom? I really, really want a cigarette. Sen. Wallin is NOT going to be asking the fastball questions this evening.

6:55 pm: Palin says she wanted to go back to being Governor and soccer mom after the campaign but she encountered a “new normal” with a newly hostile press corps. She boasts of finishing her grand ethics reform and goes over familiar ground about how she is “fighting for Alaska in a different way”.

7:07 pm: As you might expect, there are quite a lot of women in the crowd tonight who look vaguely LIKE Sarah Palin. Tall hair with expensive highlights, 20%-more-chic-than-Mrs.-Thatcher jackets, pearls, naughty-librarian wire-frame glasses.

7:08 pm: Wallin getting a little combative, actually inducing a few angry murmurs from the crowd. Pressing Palin a little bit on her “narrow” originalist view of US government, asking her why we should trust her when her paradoxical message is “don’t trust politicians”. Palin says she’s “concentrated on the basics” in every level of government.

7:11 pm: Wallin asks a confused question about Alaska state-government energy rebates; the Q&A suddenly becomes an A for some time as Palin riffs on her battle against corruption and her belief that the citizen is the best judge of his own welfare and the most efficient user of his own earnings. Then she roasts the media for a while. The media responds with, among other things, cranky, impatient liveblogs.

7:21 pm: Q&A ends; Palin vanishes instantly. I’ll cut this off so I can go mingle before the place empties. Will fill in with a proper summation and some actual thoughts a little later. Depending on whether any of my Calgary friends want to go to the bar.