I must confess that, as a consequence of my addiction to political punditry, I was rocked back on my feet and even a bit scared about the Palin pick over the weekend. I’ve never seen anything like the vicious, full frontal assault that has been leveled against her. And despite the fact that many of the allegations were quickly proven false and quietly retracted, it still wore, and really made you wonder if there wasn’t some fire in amidst all that smoke.
Oh, there was fire alright. But it was all from Sarah Palin.
To steal a great line from Jonah Goldberg:
She was put on this earth to do two things: kill caribou and kick butt. She’s all out of caribou.
To paraphrase Michelle Obama, for the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really excited about a political candidate. I’ve liked some, disliked others, but have never felt the kind of enthusiasm I felt during her speech tonight. First she brought the genuine family love. Then she pulled out some pistols. Then out came a shotgun. A bazooka followed, and by the time she was done, she was dropping nukes on the opposition, and doing it with a smile.
I was literally out of my chair, and cheering and clapping. George Bush got my vote, but sure as hell never got me up off the couch during a speech. A fist pump, maybe. But that’s about it.
I was struck by her poise – talk about being under pressure. She’d just seen her whole family drug through the mud in a way no national politician’s family in recent memory has had to endure, and the party was getting nervous. If she didn’t nail it, she would be nailed, and finished – maybe even back in Alaska. She was make-or-break for McCain, and she had to have known it. The pressure must have been intense. And then her teleprompter operator screwed up on her in the middle of the speech.
And in spite of all that, she crushed it. She owned it. And she enjoyed it.
The liberal reaction was just as sweet. I don’t usually watch MSNBC, but when I flipped to it, their overt depression held more optimism and hope for me than all the cheering delegates could possibly have done. It was glorious, and after the way they’ve treated her since McCain’s announcement, gloriously deserved.
I even checked the Daily Kos, which is about as unpleasant an experience as it gets on the internet. It was amusing to see those peddlers of hate and extremism complain that her barbs against Obama were too sharp, or that they were mean. The left side of the blogosphere has the dazed and unbelieving reaction of a bully who just got a punch in the nose instead of lunch money from the kid he tormented all year on the playground. Glorious.
The McCain campaign needs to exorcise the word “experienced” from its vocabulary, and replace it with “accomplished.” As Sarah Palin ticked off her vetoes and pawned Lear jets, I couldn’t help but to compare it to Obama’s. He couldn’t give that speech. He has “experience” in terms of sheer years, but nothing to show for it. Nothing. And Palin’s line about Obama writing two memoirs but not a single substantial piece of legislation was a brilliantly devastating way to make that distinction.
To conservatives, results and destinations matter. “Trying your best” and “caring” is great for Pop Warner football, but if you’re going to take my money, you’d better actually accomplish something with it, or by God, I want it back.
We know the kind of steward Barack Obama is when he has some level of spending control with tax dollars, and we know what kind Palin is. That explicit comparison needs to be forcefully made every day from now until the election.
This is a woman with a future. McCain is still the right guy at the top of this ticket. But there is a new dynamic at play, that I think will make the conservative base love him instead of tolerating him because he’s not Obama. He is setting up the future of the party for success. He’s looking ahead. He showed his candidacy isn’t just about John McCain, but about furthering the conservative movement as a whole. It’s also a political choice to be sure (what VP pick isn’t?), but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right one.
It’s not over for Sarah Palin. She can still falter, choke, crash, and burn. And the media has already shown there will be no margin for error – or even for lack of perfection. But I think she’ll weather that and come out strong in November. I sure hope so. I don’t want to lose this excitement.