My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Hurricane Sarah 

The first impression of any speech, it seems, is always on a visceral level: how does it feel? I mentioned last night that my wife, a rather apolitical person, was riveted by the speech. I was, too.

The first twenty minutes or so was what it needed to be--basic biography. Standard stuff, no big deal. But somewhere around the twenty minute mark (and my times may be off) she left the perfunctory behind and hit her stride--somewhere right around the pit bull/lipstick joke (which, word is, wasn't in the written text). As she found some humor, she seemed to warm to the room, and that was very bad news for Democrats.

I don't think I've ever, in my life, had more than two jaw-drop reactions in the course of a single political speech--it's just rare that a politician manages to pull the necessary trifecta of a direct hit with a surprise setup with a wink and a smirk in her delivery. Even her "throwaways" were damaging--"when the lights go down, and the styrofoam Greek columns go back to some lot somewhere . . ." In this speech, I think I had as many as FIVE jaw-drops. The first couple you can chalk up to surprise, I think: I didn't expect her to come out with such sharp elbows. But after that, there's no excuse for surprise on my part, and the only explanation for my reaction is that she scored staggering direct hits on the Obama campaign.

But, besides being effective in that particular role, I think Sarah Palin managed one of the great feats every politician aims for: authenticity. She rings true, both in the hall and on the screen; she doesn't have to address the "middle class", she IS the middle class; she doesn't need to burnish her "everywoman" credentials--she's got the hockey bruises to prove them. Biden has never come within spitting distance of authentic, and the more Obama goes of prompter, the less authentic he seems.

After the visceral reaction, there's always the question (assuming the politician passes that test) of "what did he (SHE) actually say?" On this count, I thought it was strong--not super, but strong. I loved her defense of small towns: we work, we raise families, we fight our wars . . . Both a tribute and sentimental statement of the power of small towns, and a little shot across the bows of both the Obama campaign and the "professional" journalist class. But beyond that, I don't think she really proposed much of any great moment--not a big thing, but just a point. She tried to make a case for herself as a reformer, and I think she was effective at that, but I don't think she was able to lay to rest anybody's concerns that her Alaska narrative would not transfer too well to Washington.

And, finally, there's always the "takeaway" question: what survives the moment and shows up in the memory of the American people the next day? And I'm not sure I can answer this question--the list is too long. Some will remember the jabs, others the visual of her smirking in anticipation of the next jab, the "eBay" line, others the picture of her holding her precious little baby . . . For me, what remains is the picture of the 8-year old licking her hand and then smoothing down the hair of the baby. There is something so utterly, unabashedly REAL about that moment, that I think it will always be my first impression of Sarah Palin. Of course, it helps that I'm the father of a 7-year old and an infant, so I can identify with that interaction. But that interaction tells me volumes about the natural qualities that are present in the home that Sarah Palin has built with her husband Todd. This lady is you and me, she's been on both sides of the payroll, and now she's on her way to Washington.

I really score this a complete Home Run. She responded to unbelievable pressure and scrutiny, and came through not just gracefully, but with a technician's command of the ring (to steal a boxing metaphor). I think Joe Biden had better be worried.

NOTE: I heard this morning on CNN that the "Inquirer" is sending four more reporters to join the three already in Alaska chasing down rumors of her marital infidelity; on top of that, Comcast/AP has as one of their teases a story about her attending five colleges in six years. Get ready, folks--the media has its talons out for this woman.

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