I'll say one thing; Sarah Palin's no Dan Quayle.
They said that she had to hit a home run with her RNC speech Wednesday night. And based on the reaction, she did.
I don't think I'm overstating this when I say that there was a good amount of drama leading up to the event.
In "The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008," Mark Halperin and John Harris give an overview of American politics and discuss how twenty-four hour news cycles and the rise of the "new media" has created what they call the "Freak Show." They characterize this as a political culture that encourages candidates, activists, interest groups, and the news media to emphasize ideological extremism and personal attack.
Without question, the Right has been the main beneficiary of the "Freak Show." But, the Left has shown itself to be a fast learner.
Since her pick was announced last week, the "Freak Show" was in full force as a number of news items came out on Palin that ran the gamut from legitimate to weird.
Arguably, the most damaging is the assertion that although Palin proudly rails against federal earmarks, she lobbied on behalf of Alaska for hundreds of millions in pork.
There's also been some twittering about Palin's possible ties with controversial organizations such as "Jews for Jesus"?
In an "I can't believe she wrote that" moment, Sally Quinn of the Washington Post, questioned whether or not a mother of five could fulfill the duties of the vice president:
"Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job? She is the mother of five children, one of them a four-month-old with Down Syndrome. Her first priority has to be her children. When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make?"
Then, of course, there's the issue of Palin's pregnant daughter Bristol. "US Magazine" ran a cover story on Palin under the headline "Babies, Lies, & Scandal." A report that Jamie Lynn Spears, another famous teenage mom, bought Bristol a baby gift added to the tabloid nature of the story.
A low point was reached when rampant Internet rumors suggested that Sarah Palin's baby, Trig, is actually her daughter's child. There were even some ridiculous suggestions that a paternity test should be taken.
As the title suggests, "The Way to Win" concludes with a list of "ways" to succeed in the "Freak Show" environment. One of those approaches prescribes "When you are attacked, respond to the accusations that are false and over-reaching, so you don't have to address the true ones."
That might explain the RNC's tactic on Wednesday night to launch an all-out offensive against the media focusing on the more salacious stories that involve the Palin family and the clear double standard (almost sexist) elements implicit in criticisms like the Sally Quinn piece. Attacking the media is never a bad approach for Republican audiences and Palin does give the GOP someone to rally behind.
A theme the Democrats hit on regarding the RNC is the idea that the "Twin Cities" convention symbolized the link between President Bush and John McCain. I'd suggest that a more accurate "twin" analogy are the two schools of thought on the Palin pick within the Republican party.
One school was quite excited. The other had some with deep misgivings.
Republican consultant Mike Murphy and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan were caught on tape ridiculing the choice of Sarah Palin after an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd.
Murphy suggested that, from a "blue swing state" strategy, the Palin pick is "never going to work."
"It's over," said Noonan more definitively. Then, regarding the question of whether Palin is the most qualified Republican woman McCain could have chosen, she said, "The most qualified? No. I think they went for this—excuse me—political bullshit about narratives." Geez, Peggy, tell us what do you really think?
So, going into Wednesday night, Palin was faced with the almost clichéd task of hitting a home run to win the big game. If I liked baseball movies, I'd insert a clip from The Natural here (btw, didn't the Redford character strike out in the book?).
The lead in speeches from Mitt Romney (who was only fair), Mike Huckabee (down to earth), and Rudy Giuliani (like Fred Thompson, much better here than he ever was while campaigning) were very tough on the Democrats.
This set the stage for Palin who, according to Charles Krauthammer, didn't just provide political red-meat for the GOP audience, she "slaughtered a small cow."
Shortly after her selection, I blogged that Sarah Palin bears a strong resemblance to Battlestar Galatica's president Laura Roslin.
I don't want to overdo the comparison, but Palin and Roslin have things other than appearance in common. Both women find themselves paired up with an old warrior and thrown into a high-pressure situation that neither could have anticipated. I was tempted to look up clips of Roslin speeches from BSG and see how they lined up with Palin's effort last night. Thankfully, my inner "anti-geek" prevailed, and I didn't.
As I said at the start, Palin is NO Dan Quayle. Regardless of what one thinks about her qualifications or her positions, Palin's delivery was perfect. She didn't appear nervous at all and was a "natural" at reading the teleprompter (which even malfunctioned at one point).
Afterward, Chris Matthews compared Palin to another fictional heroine, Norma Rae.
Certainly, Palin's hardball approach in this political drama has opened the door for her opponents to mount an aggressive response. But, for the moment, based on the reaction of those at the convention and most of the media talking heads: they like her... they really, really like her.
Matt Maul is author of the blog Maul of America.