Tonight, Alaska governor Sarah Palin addressed the Republican National Convention and knocked a home run. It wasn’t just her speech, which was good and had memorable lines (but was also, no doubt, written by talented McCain staffers,) it was her grit, her spirit and her gutsy delivery after a week of outrageous attacks on her daughter. This is a woman who has the stuff to be president.
Last week, John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin seemed to panic the national media and in their panic they reacted hysterically. With wringing hands and nervous tics, pundits on the left rushed onto the air to warn us that Palin was inexperienced. She had only been the governor of Alaska for two years, they cried, clearly insufficient. But then, hadn’t Theodore Roosevelt only been the governor of New York for two years before being tapped for Vice President? And hadn’t Woodrow Wilson, only been the governor of New Jersey for two years before winning the presidency itself?
The media seemed to back off when it became apparent that a contest over who is the most experienced was not especially a winning strategy for the Barack Obama campaign.
A few days later, the media hit on Palin’s daughter. We were told that she was seventeen, unmarried and she was pregnant! Good grief. Why were these liberal, sex-and-the-city journalists so outraged over an unwed mother? Were the sex lives of the candidates’ children now a factor for discussion?
And the answer is the media, in their stunning ignorance of Christian evangelicals, an ignorance that they normally wear on their sleeves with pride, had finally caught up with them. They expected the evangelicals to act like they, the media, had been defining them for years. They were bigots, weren’t they? They hated sin, didn’t they? They would abandon this Palin as soon as they learned about the daughter. It was almost funny if it were not so cruel.
Of course, Christian evangelicals don’t hate anywhere near as much as the liberal pundits who malign them, An evangelical’s whole life is about redemption, not condemnation. They never have claimed to be better than anyone else. They have only claimed to be forgiven. And better, many have learned, or are trying to learn, how to forgive themselves. They certainly wouldn’t pile on a young, seventeen year old girl, Republican or Democrat.
So poor Barack Obama. He was trying to be the first real liberal to be elected in modern times, trying not to be a McGovern or a Mondale or a Dukakis and having the benefit of a cooperative, tanking economy to help. Following the Clinton lead, he had wisely invested the last six months reaching out, lovingly and thoughtfully in a sophisticated campaign to appeal to the 42% of Americans who claim to be born again. But now he watched helplessly as a panicked, well intentioned, ignorant national media herded the massive Evangelical Movement neatly back into the camp of John McCain.
Sarah Palin did half of the work. But it could never have happened without the national media too, as Governor Mike Huckabee chortled in his speech.
Palin took shots at Obama, “We prefer candidates who talk the same way in Scranton as they do in San Francisco.”
She said, “There are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are others, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.”
And she taunted the Democrat nominees, “While Barack Obama and Joe Biden are always talking about fighting for you, there is really only one man in this race who has really fought for you.”
And she did not cower or play the victim over the attacks on her daughter. In addition to the seventeen year old, liberals had attacked Sarah Palin for giving birth to a down syndrome child. This outraged some abortion rights advocates who took to the air. Palin said in her speech, “Children of special needs, inspire special love.”
Meanwhile, the media seemed to be stunned, off balance. Even my favorite, the bright and always perceptive Andrea Mitchell had a “blond moment” when she asked Mitt Romney, with a straight fact, if Sarah Palin wouldn’t hurt the ticket in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, don’t expect Sarah’s lift to last. One only need look at the fate of James Watt and John Ashcroft, the last two public figures who shared Sarah Palin’s religious pedigree, to see what is coming. That champion of objective journalism, Keith Olbermann gave us a preview, wondering aloud to his television audience if Sarah Palin wasn’t a bit like Delores Umbridge of Harry Potter fame. And this only minutes after Palin gave her acceptance speech. Even the most hated by the media are usually given such a moment. It allows them room to attack more freely later.
Wow, what a week.
Note: Will Sarah Palin run for president next time?
Note: The New Kids in the White House: