Lingle’s Tough Task For Palin
Wednesday - September 10, 2008
National political conventions offer America’s political parties four nights of free advertising at the television networks’ expense. Last week, the Republican Party lost a quarter of their free air time to Hurricane Gustav.
Gustav threatened New Orleans, so the Republicans - sensitive to George W. Bush’s slowness in responding to the devastation Hurricane Katrina wreaked on that city three years ago - shortened their Monday night and devoted what was left of it to raising money to send to Gustav’s victims.
Their first full night of speechifying - Tuesday - proved tepid. Any night on which Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman share the podium promises torpor, and they delivered on that promise.
But then, on Wednesday night, along came Sarah Palin. Actually she had arrived the previous Friday morning when McCain announced her - to a collective national jaw drop - as his choice as a vice-presidential running mate.
“Who?” Republicans, Democrats and reporters asked.
Palin answered them on Wednesday, after a weekend of being pummeled for a) the thinness of her resume, b) her ultra-right credentials: anti-abortion, pro-gun, creation-ist and c) her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy.
Before she got to the podium, sister Republican Gov. Linda Lingle rose to give testimony to Palin’s “proven leadership skills and strong moral character.” In an assumed reference to the pregnancy of their daughter and the birth of their own Downs syndrome child, “They (Palin and husband Todd) face the same challenges that moms and dads do, every single day in our country. Difficult things happen to families, families pull together and get through it.”
Lingle went on to declare that Palin was “genuine and comfortable in her own skin ... She is who she is.”
“Things happen” and “she is who she is.”
Lingle’s speech didn’t go much beyond that. It couldn’t have, for she was asked to do the impossible: Make a resume that included the mayor’s job in Wasilla, Alaska, and 21 months as that state’s governor - and nothing else - sound adequate to the vice presidency of the United States.
But then Palin was introduced, and she proved her mettle. She did what vice-presidential candidates are supposed to do: slice and dice the top of the other party’s ticket. She mocked Obama - again and again and again.
Then she declared war on “the media,” bragged of how she stood up “to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good-ol’ boy network in Alaska” and assured the Republicans and the nation that Alaska had enough oil and gas to relieve Americans’ anguish at the gas pump.
Palin brought the GOPers to their feet - repeatedly. It was a red meat speech for a crowd that, in the era of Republican political consultants Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, like their meat done very, very rare. That’s how Palin cooked it.
Thursday night belonged to the candidate himself. John McCain is not known for set speeches. He does small groups well. “My friends,” is his greeting and sincerity his strength. That doesn’t always work well before a crowd. But somehow it did this first Thursday in September.
McCain worked mightily, despite his only slightly less-than-slavish fidelity to Bush’s leadership these past eight years, to define himself as a change agent - to in effect steal Barack Obama’s script. He referred to Bush but once, expressing his gratitude “to the president of the United States who’s led us in these dark days” and who “kept us safe.”
McCain stressed his credentials as a maverick; reminded the nation of his saying in support of the troop surge in Iraq that “I’d rather lose an election than see my country lose a war,” and asked for a return to the Republicanism of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan.
And while he also called for an ambitious domestic program to wean America from its dependence on foreign oil, he finished by asserting his credentials to be commander in chief.
He acknowledged the “dangerous threats in this dangerous world,” then said: “I’m prepared. I know how the world works. I know how to secure the peace.”
Moments later, the nominee’s speech complete, the balloons dropped and McCain and his moose-huntin’ sidekick from Alaska ventured forth to bag the presidency.
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