I had a conversation with some friends about it yesterday evening, which led me to some snooping around the web.
The Chicago Tribune article may seem to do so, but, by my lights, the reporter misinterprets her prayer--regarding her son’s deployment to Iraq--“that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God, that’s what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.” This isn’t an affirmation that the deployment is God’s will, but rather that it be in accordance with God’s will. She’s looking for guidance, not presuming to know the mind and will of God. In other words, the prayer is humble.
I expect to see more attempts to paint her religion as unusual and wacky, but, from what I’ve seen thus far, it is much more ordinary than what Barack Obama was sitting through for twenty years.
Update: This WSJ piece doesn’t win awards for balance, quoting only a liberal Baptist on Palin.
A couple of days ago, Gerald Seib made what has become the conventional argument about abortion in establishment circles. If only we could stop arguing about Roe v. Wade we could do something constructive:
The volume on the abortion debate, relatively low throughout this campaign year, is about to go up. Indeed, a leading abortion-rights group already is using the Palin nomination to raise money from its supporters.
And all that, in turn, means frustration for those activists on both sides of the partisan divide who would like to lower the heat in the long-running national argument on the legality of abortion. These people would like to turn instead to a calmer discussion about something on which both sides might agree: practical steps to make abortion less common.
But doesn’t that miss the degree to which Roe itself has caused the problem. By taking the right to regulate abortion away from the people, the Supreme Court has put us in a situation where we can only shout at each other, and shout about absolutes. Were we allowed to pass laws, in our states, towns, etc., then we could actually make all kinds of laws that reflected various opinions about abortion. To be sure, there would still be serious arguments. On the other hand, our political system was designed to contain precisely such arguments. By taking from the people the right to make diverse laws on a subject that is properly above the pay grade of both courts and Presidents, the Supreme Court caused, or at least exacerbated the culture war.
Thirty five years after Roe, returning power to the people would probably not undo all the damage, but it probably would ease some of the tension.
In the piece to which Peter links below, David Brooks writes:
And what was most impressive was her speech’s freshness. Her words flowed directly from her life experience, her poise and mannerisms from her town and its conversations. She left behind most of the standard tropes of Republican rhetoric (compare her text to the others) and skated over abortion and the social issues. There wasn’t even any tired, old Reagan nostalgia.
And here’s Peggy Noonan in today’s Wall Street Journal:
Which gets me to the most important element of the speech, and that is the startlingness of the content. It was not modern conservatism, or split the difference Conservative-ish-ism. It was not a conservatism that assumes the America of 2008 is very different from the America of 1980.
It was the old-time conservatism. Government is too big, Obama will "grow it", Congress spends too much and he’ll spend "more." It was for low taxes, for small business, for the private sector, for less regulation, for governing with "a servant’s heart"; it was pro-small town values, and implicitly but strongly pro-life.
This was so old it seemed new, and startling. The speech was, in its way, a call so tender it made grown-ups weep on the floor. The things she spoke of were the beating heart of the old America.
And it includes Sarah’s completely unnostalgic, spirited (but not angry or vengeful), and somewhat ironic self-confidence. There’s also a place for John McCain, who will always have the heart of an insurgent. There’s no return to Reagan here (and who can deny there’s a sort of repudiation of Bushes?), but something fresh and new--the real party of change.
...is talked up by Pat Deneen. That’s because it includes an article by him about ME. Pat, Yuval Levin, Marc Guerra, and Ivan the K all contributed generous and brilliant reflections on my work, especially HOMELESS AND HOME IN AMERICA. Thanks to Ivan for organizing this symposium issue--for graciously supplementing my own shameless self-promotion.
Let me invite you again to scroll down and read Deneen’s thoughts about our Sarah, which may point to a realignment in American politics. It’s not just former Republicans she may be bringing home (eventually at least).
Here’s some really bad news: I will be traveling from Kentucky to Indiana to DC over the next week and my messages of hope and love will be few and far between.
These polls from Rasmussen are offered for what they are worth. It’s no surprise to me that Palin is viewed more favorably than either McCain or Obama at this point. But that’s not even the significant part of the polling. What’s more interesting is the jump in McCain’s favorable numbers with Republicans AND independents as a result of adding Palin to the ticket:
The Palin pick has also improved perceptions of John McCain. A week ago, just before he introduced his running mate, just 42% of Republicans had a Very Favorable opinion of their party’s nominee. That figure jumped to 54% by this Friday morning. Among unaffiliated voters, favorable opinions of McCain have increased by eleven percentage points in a week from 54% before the Palin announcement to 65% today.The Obama camp can’t like the looks of that.
A final and also noteworthy development is this little tidbit:
Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans believe that most reporters are trying to hurt Palin’s campaign, a fact that may enhance her own ratings.
And he (or she) admits that I was right on our Sarah. Not only that, this reader explains with great astuteness how she broadens what it means to put country first:
The other night Governor Palin allowed this disgruntled reader to check his own reality check. By any account, she performed splendidly. Amidst two presidential campaigns that often seem to emphasize a choice between alternative human types-the transpolitical, magnetic One vis-à-vis the patriotic, all-too-human Guardian, she did what neither candidate had managed to do to date, namely, appear to be a compellingly real person who is also a compellingly real American. Giving credit where credit is due, your early call about her being something of a prodigy was right. Granted she delivered a prepared speech, albeit on a less than perfect teleprompter. But she did so in a way that allowed the audience to see that she is something of a force of nature. She appeared approachable yet tough, confident yet humble, and serious yet charmingly even-keeled. For these reasons, the convention was (and is) hers. That was clear Wednesday night; it was only reinforced last night by McCain’s serviceable speech. The question now is whether the election can be hers? It is remarkable that prior to her pick as VP McCain had remained so close in the polls; he clearly has not been terribly helped by the country’s weariness of the Bush administration and by the media’s portrayal of an Obama made-even more-young and beautiful. That says something about the overall weakness of both Obama and McCain. It seems the McCain team picked "better than they knew." But it also seems that they now know this. McCain’s speech last night continued his theme of County First. Yet even in the laconic, and for that reason stirring, retelling of his imprisonment and the love of county it kindled, he broadened the conception of what it means to put Country First. Moving beyond his earlier definition, it is now said to include an appreciation and defense of the way of life many Americans like his small town VP live. I am not sure if this broadening can mask the latent bifocalism I see in his campaign and thus bring him to the White House. However, I am more open than before to thinking that it may signal a real change in the party down the road-a road that most likely will have to run through Alaska
Jim Lindgren points out that Senator Obama’s speech last week was more biting and angrier than was Governor Palin’s speech this week. Obama knows that his appeal to the center is based upon him being a different kind of politician--moderate, decent, and genial. Why, then, the anger?
My suspicion is that Senator McCain is getting to Senator Obama. Barack Obama takes Barack Obama very seriously, particularly as an intellectual and as a man with the potential to change things in very important way. Mocking his ideals as mere liberal cum by yah sticks in his craw. Might that also explain his reaction to Governor Palin’s line about community organizers? The kind of work Obama did when he was right out of college is another cliche. In response to the line, Senator Obama’s people pointed to Benjamin Franklin’s work in Philadelphia, creating a volunteer fire department, for example. Hardly the same thing.
A final, unrelated point. Of late, I have been reading John Adams’ Defence of the Constitutions, particularly his commentary on Machiavelli’s Florentine history. Adams notes that when people get fed up with factional fighting, they instincively go looking for a single, great man to save them. Is that why the liberal establishment loves Obama so much?
I like what Rich Lowry said on The Corner early this morning:
"Don’t focus on the oratory. If Mark Salter wanted to, he could have written prose for the ages, but it wouldn’t have seemed true to McCain. Don’t focus on the delivery. The election isn’t going to be decided on speech-making ability. Focus on the theme—a populist fighter for you. This is exactly where McCain needs to be. Just as Obama needed to ground his politics of hope last week, McCain needed to ground his politics of honor tonight. And he did. At least thematically. What’s still lacking is the substance. He needs three simple, stark policy proposals to protect and ease the way of life of average Americans, and I think he already has two (on energy and health care) and can get another (a middle-class tax cut). Then, he needs to master them and talk about them wherever he goes. I’m not sure whether McCain will win this election, but I’m very confident his campaign will do the things necessary to win it. Over the last two months, it has been fearless and shrewd. The celeb ad, the Palin pick, and now this speech were steps in the right direction. So I wasn’t bowled over by it, but I’m still encouraged."
I watched the speeches by Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain. Both were good, impressive in their own ways, but Palin’s was the better of the two. I think she has the ability to connect with "ordinary people" in ways that McCain (with his extraordinary biography) can’t.
Neither matches Obama’s soaring eloquence, but I don’t think they have to. Both McCain and Palin have a kind of authenticity about them. She comes across as a recognizeable and impressive middle class suburban type--I know them as swim team moms, and I like them.
McCain may not wear his religion on his sleeve, but he does his patriotism, in a powerful way. While it’s hard to think of him as humble, he can express himself in ways that makes it plausible. It’s a different kind of "communitarian" talk than Obama offers, and it may not resonate quite as well with bobos and their offspring, but you can’t hear the speech and not be moved by McCain’s presentation of his country as larger than himself.
I had the opportunity to chat with two groups of students about Gov. Palin’s speech. They are, for the most part, sold on Obama, and they’re not going to let go of their purchase. (I haven’t yet found a single argument against McCain that some of them aren’t prepared at least to make, if not necessarily to believe. The age issue looms large for them, and I don’t know if the evident vitality of Sen. McCain’s 96 year old mother will put it to rest. Of course, as far they they’re concerned, I’m old and pretty near death.) But back to Palin: the most interesting response came from some young women, who volunteered immediately and unconditionally that they liked her. Were she not "encumbered" by McCain and were they not sold on Obama, who knows? Others very much liked the extraordinary ordinariness of her family life. Again, not enough to push them off Obama....
I’ll be interested to see whether opinions change as the campaign progresses. I’m dubious, to say the least. Sen. Obama would have to betray them in an obvious and unmistakeable way--go bald? get wrinkles and love handles?--before they would throw him over.
I’m not yet ready to anoint Hurricane Sarah as the next Reagan, though Michael Reagan is, but I am reminded of another obvious parallel: liberals initially, and probably henceforth, underestimated her. Liberals never got this about Reagan until it was way too late. Recall Hamilton Jordan, Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff, saying in 1980 that the election "wouldn’t even be close." He was right, of course.
I also have in my first Reagan book a comment someone in Sacramento made to Newsweek about Reagan in 1970: “People who come up against him think he’s a dumb movie actor, and they wind up in pieces.” I suspect we’ll see why she got the nickname "Sarah Baraccuda."
Steve Thomas, in the comment section below my earlier post on Rove’s advice for McCain, nailed it:
I just listened to McCain’s speech. McCain’s own telling of his story was different from the telling by his surrogates. It was a story of his passion, so to speak: he told us not about his heroism but about his shame. "They broke me." He was ashamed, he told us, and recovered his, well, self through the help and love of his buddies. The crowd seemed to think he was contrasting himself with Obama. He was rather contrasting himself with the vain, arrogant, self-centered [expletive deleted] named McCain who took off earlier that day from the aircraft carrier. I, an Obama supporter, would have to be morally dead or a partisan goon not to be moved.I got on the blog late tonight, after getting the kids off to bed and checking homework, with the intention of composing a post about exactly that part of McCain’s speech. I meant to do it because, in watching him tonight, I really tried to find some clue about how John McCain really understands himself and what it is he is trying to do--in other words, I wanted to know why he wants to be president apart from the obvious ambition that all politicians possess. The answer he gave us--even if you still don’t like him for it--is an interesting one and one that is, whatever else you may say about it, a much better answer than the one Barack Obama gave that seven year-old some weeks ago.
If you look at his words carefully in that passage where he talks about his youthful arrogance and the eventual "shame" it brought him and you take those words as this whole convention’s central and organizing theme (as I think he clearly meant them to be) you may learn something about John McCain that you might have missed up until now. I think, perhaps, I did. Is it possible that there are a good number of things that many of us have "misunderestimated" when it comes to John McCain? Do we really understand him as he understands himself or do we understand a cartoon that we have painted in our minds because he has "poked us in the eye" one too many times? Forget policy differences (if you can) for just a minute. God willing, we’ll have eight years to "yell at each other" over those. I freely admit that I didn’t like everything about the speech . . . and I could start ticking off a list of things I positively disliked if I wanted to miss the larger point.
Richard Adams had this insight on McCain’s speech and I think there’s also something to it:
After Governor Palin’s speech last night, perhaps McCain thought his task was to play elder statesman. Perhaps the inartful delivery helps a bit with that. The goal was to portray him as someone who might be a bit bored by the bells and whistles of politics, but who is mature, seasoned, experienced, and sober. Will it work? McCain seems to have better political judgment than many think.
When you think about it, it looks like the Democrats still think the old have something more to learn from the young than the young have to learn from the old. Reason tells us that both old and young have something to learn from each other and this is why the dynamic of mentor and student is so compelling to both. But common sense tells us that the young can and should learn more in such relationships because they lack experience and, in with that, enough patience to inform their judgment.
McCain told us how he came to love America and Americans at least as much as he once loved himself and, arguably, deeper and more intelligently than he ever loved himself. There is something more than glory and honor worth fighting for--and possibly dying for--in America. He tried, in his way, to teach us that important lesson. His way may have been imperfect . . . but it was still a damn sight better than anything I’ve seen the last four GOP candidates offer . . . ever, on that score.
So, if you want to make the case that McCain’s wasn’t a "Republican" speech . . . I think there’s something to that on a couple levels. It was, of course, much more than a Republican speech because it was meant to be an American speech--at least as John McCain understands it. It meant to appeal to all Americans (and Steve’s words are a testament that perhaps it did) and, in this election year, a smart Republican will see this less as a "poke in the eye" than a boon to his cause. (There were more than a few serendipitous blessings in disguise at this convention, I must say!) But it also was dissimilar from every Republican speech I have heard since I’ve been politically sentient (so, roughly, 1988 on) in that it make a conscious appeal to young people. And, irony of ironies (or, perhaps, not), it came from an old man accompanied, supported and very well understood by a tough (and, not insignificantly, attractive) young woman. And I, for one, loved the way he ended the speech with a cheer encouraging us to "fight with me" (even though that can--and probably will--be taken two ways). It wasn’t over the top, as some who seem to lack any eros to accompany their thumos, have speculated. Somehow, it fit. Republicans have long been in need of good cheer and a good cheerleader. Who knew that it would take John McCain to provide both?
I guess in the most important respect it was successful as a moving display of WHO he is. It was intensely delivered, if neither smooth nor elegant. Is is permissible to say too much patriotism and biography at the expense of actual policy? It’s hard to know the actual kind of CHANGE he wants, except to put country above self etc. I liked the call to service--to, for example, joining the military. I fear Mac allowed us to love and respect him while also judging he’s not really right for the presidency. He might not have inspired enough confidence that he’s the "can do" guy when it comes to the problems facing ordinary Americans today. I hoped for a little more populism rightly understood, although I know it’s tough for an honorable man to play that card. To tell the truth, he seemed pretty old, although vigorously evangelical for his American way--for the idea of America. I’m not one who needed to be sold, so I’m not sure how he played to those really undecided. It was basically not a Republican speech, which may have added to or detracted from its effectiveness (or both).
Politico and Yahoo News sponsored a breakfast panel in conjunction with the St. Paul Pioneer Press at the GOP convention this morning where Karl Rove addressed the question of the things McCain needs to emphasize tonight in the wake of Palin’s excellent performance. "Kitchen table" issues, he says and I think he nails it (even if I tire of that too often repeated descriptive). In addition to Karl, he should listen to the women around him. Cindy’s tone in defending the success of her parents (who scraped together 10K in order to build their fortune) and Sarah’s understanding of what it takes to build a business in America (i.e., not much burdensome interference from government know-it-alls, thank you very much) are exactly the sort of thing he needs to reflect in order to show that he "gets it."
The mantra from the Democrats now (just to show how cutting edge and "fresh" they really are) seems to be that Palin and the entire GOP convention ignored the question of the middle class; that we "don’t get" the middle class. Given the actual substance of Palin’s speech, and the elitist tone of most of Obama’s campaign, I find that charge almost as desperate as the attacks his supporters have leveled at her of a personal nature.
But McCain needn’t answer this with a defense of Palin or with an attack of his own. He may stand for the kind of honor that now does not permit him to salute the flag he fought for and loves so much. But he should remember there is another kind of honor to be saluted and that it is equal in its love for that flag and its great American character: the hard-working and innovative kind that permitted and supplied warriors like McCain so they might exhibit their noble courage. If he can do that he might get close to filling Sarah’s pumps. And really, that’s all he has to do.
Dr. Pat Deneen has done well in standing up for Palin. But he wonders if she’s the savior we need. To be fair, she doesn’t claim (unlike a candidate we know) to be a savior, and she was pretty funny in mocking contemporary political messianism. It seems that he was a bit grossed out by "Drill, baby, drill," missing her comment that she’s knows perfectly well that drilling isn’t enough. It’s true that Palin didn’t campaign against our happy and wasteful surburban lifestyle (as Dr. Pat would if he ever ran for office), and we have to admit that living in Alaska is, for obvious reasons, not particularly energy efficient. Still, no candidate is waging the type of campaign Deneen wants--certainly not Obama. And the only one of the candidates who might break out in support of patriotic conservationist self-restraint is McCain; he certainly, more than once, has said we’re not asking enough of ourselves in terms of sacrifice. And Palin was certainly tough in asserting our need for energy independence; she knows that international community is an oxymoron.
...is all for Palin, because, in part, of the enemies she’s made. And she is exactly the type of person that real conservatives should encourage to ascend to leadership in the Republican party. But he’s still a little shaky about voting for the ticket, because he views McCsin as reckless and bellicose. Rod’s thoughts are characteristic of a relatively small but significant faction: Those who want to vote Republican in spite of Bush’s and McCain’s war in Iraq and aggressive foreign policy in general. Sarah is clearly helping to bring all sorts of disaffected Republicans home.
Even before Hurricane Sarah made landfall the sense had been growing in my mind that the Republicans were slowly getting their mojo back. The surge worked; the feddle guvmint was ready for the next Gulf hurricane; the energy issue--the public’s mind being concentrated by $4 gas--did a 180 against the Democrats, who are now terrified to bring up greenhouse gas legislation; Obama started to look a little worn, and McCain’s campaign was proving deft, winning almost every news cycle.
In 1964, after Reagan gave "The Speech" that launched his career, David Broder wrote that it was “the most successful political debut since William Jennings Bryan.” I think we have just seen its equal. 37 million viewers tuned in last night--only 1 million less than watched Obama a week ago. Methinks the liberal hissy fit may have backfired. I heard Chris Matthews on C-SPAN radio a few minutes ago positively gushing about Palin, and slapping back hard when someone in the audience snickered. I think he has a thrill going up the other leg now.
One one of the blogs-I think it was Ann Althouse--a commenter said that next time a liberal says, "But what if McCain dies on Day One in the White House?", his answer will be, "Dude, don’t tease me."
I don’t envy McCain, a terrible stage speaker, having to follow Palin tonight. The clever move would to be simply acknowledge that fact at the beginning; it will relax everyone.
. . . like Sarah Palin or someone close to her read this fabulous piece from Joseph Tartakovsky in the WSJ this past July on the virtues of a good political insult and how one carry it off without descending into incivility. If I’m wrong, then she needn’t read it because she’s a master of it. For the rest of us mere mortals, however, go have a look and disagree if you dare.
...McCain as "the raspy-voiced corner man" and Obama as Apollo Creed. Well, I know this is silly, but play the theme music anyway.
. . . when you go to the movies (and these days, one only does that when one really wants to see something) and just when you settle in with your popcorn you begin to wish that the movie you were about to see was not the one you came to watch but one of the ones being previewed in the trailers . . .
Sarah’s speech was a fantastic trailer.
There has been some concern expressed by commentators that the choice of the young Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate would put a spotlight on McCain’s more "advanced" age and that this would not be to his benefit. And I was anxious to see how it would work when the two of them appeared on stage together and what their inevitable "embrace" would look like. It had a lot of potential to look awkward and strange--especially given all the attention focused on Palin’s family life (and the bit that has been directed to McCain’s). Before the speech, people commented in a snarky way that Palin could be his daughter. When they said that, I actually hoped that people would get that impression. And, indeed, there was something of the devoted daughter quality to her comments about John McCain. This may be what Peter Lawler was getting at when he said that it sometimes takes a great woman to explain the greatness of a man. If she cannot be his Abigail (and indeed, she cannot!), then it’s probably very good that she looks to be such an effective Nabby. (And Cindy holding Palin’s baby was pitch perfect stage management, btw--though it’s probably just as likely to have been spontaneous as--I do not doubt--Piper’s spit shine was.)
And yes, Palin should say some such thing as Lawler suggested about learning from McCain the importance of the surge and what it means to be truly brave in the face of great danger. Though, after last night, who seriously doubts her courage?
Someone more savvy than me with digging these things up can probably provide a link, but did you all see Joe Biden on the Today Show this morning? I admit to watching less of the whole program than Lawler did, but I watched all of Biden’s interview with Matt Lauer. Three points:
1. JOE BIDEN (of all people) could not talk. He muttered some prepared lines and tried to extrapolate from them a point. He could not do it. He had no answer (and even admitted--twice--that he was still working on it!) to the question of his lack of executive experience in comparison to Sarah’s. He looked bad, very bad. He stumbled, cleared his throat, did not look directly at the camera and looked worried.
2. MATT LAUER (of all people) felt compelled to defend Sarah when Biden launched a half-hearted attack. This is going to be a interesting dynamic for awhile. We’ll see if it continues. Female journalists of that persuasion, of course, will continue to be merciless.
3. My husband missed the speech last night partly because he was busy but mostly because he has been entirely dismissive of Palin and, therefore, McCain’s chances from the beginning. I don’t know what Lawler hoped to see on the Today Show this morning but the few clips that they did play (and a bit of my added commentary) did enough to persuade him that he might be wrong. Trust me. That’s impressive . . . (and, I freely admit, it says more about Sarah’s persuasive abilities than it does about mine!)
1. The fair-minded liberal media have switched. For example, Mr. Dickerson of SLATE (a very insightful writer) has gone from the Sarah pick being a revelation about McCain’s poor judgment to his judgment being totally vindicated. Dickerson is now into deep thoughts about the strategic significance of her emergence. I don’t have time to be linking right now, but he said something like her speech was "a succession of happy little kicks to [Obama’s] groin." He also noticed that she was in command and having lots of fun.
2. THE TODAY SHOW, by contrast, decided to just about ignore her today. (I only watched for about 45 minutes, it’s true.) No clips--only a passing reference to her giving the case for McCain. She had been all over the show, of course, earlier in the week. There was a segment with Luntz and others on the swing voters. The interviewer told Luntz pointedly that the (vaguely pro-Democratic/pro-change) polling data came in before last night. But the pollster boldly said anyway that, in his opinion, Palin had said what the swing voters wanted to hear and the way they wanted to hear it. No follow-up question. Rapid change of subject.
3. Her discussion of the issue of energy was a model mixture of policy wonkiness and populism. "Drill, baby, drill" was a cool chant in response. She needs to move on to school choice, health care, and the economic situation of the ordinary guy. She should, of course, hire YUVAL LEVIN to get her up to speed on the details. (She already knows lots of stuff; governors have to deal with education and health care etc.) But, Yuval, try to curb your anger about the evildoers (in the media etc.); Sarah has made it clear that they don’t bother her
4. Sarah should say, straight out, that she was skeptical about the surge--as were most of our military leaders etc. She should add that she’s glad she was wrong and John McCain was right, and she has lots to learn from him about courage and strategy. But she’ll quickly get up to speed, because she’s has the intelligence, character, real experience, and unwavering desire for American victory.
5. Julie--Thanks for your gracious comments and especially for "populism rightly understood."
Does she really want to say that we "don’t do narrative" now? Of course, it’s only fair to say--and she should remember--that one of the primary reasons we can do it so well (now) is that we’ve learned so much about how to do it from none other than Ms. Noonan herself.
Peter Lawler’s right. This is populism of the best sort or, might we say, populism rightly understood?
I’m not much on convention speeches; I don’t care for the cheers and applause with nearly every line that prevent the development of a real argument and stifle genuine eloquence and rhetoric, and they lose a lot on TV. Usually I can’t stand to watch any of them, even by the people I like. I went to San Francisco to watch the Democratic convention in 1984, and it is very different to be in the hall live than watch on TV; Mario Cuomo’s famous keynote was a marvel to behold in person. In print in the paper the next day, not so much. Hasn’t been the same for me since trying to watch these things on TV.
That said, Palin was utterly compelling. She conveyed one thing above all through her facial bearing: you can see by her set jaw and occasional flashes of gritted teeth (but within a dominant smile throughout--remember Churchill saying that he likes people who grin when they fight) that she is one determined lady, not about to be put in her place by the braying hounds of the media. I think this may have come across better through the closeup TV shots than in person. (Reagan enjoyed this advantage, too; he was often better on TV than in person, in my opinion.)
I flipped around to see the crazies on MSNBC and the drones on CNN, and it was obvious that the usual gang of pecksniffs had to work hard to find a plausible way to ding the speech, and pretty much didn’t even try. Of course she will still have to prove herself in the day to day rough and tumble of the campaign trail, and she might even have to endure Meet the Press, but I got the sense that she is more than ready for it and that her attitude is--Bring it on!
Byron York famously said several months ago after watching Obama in person that, to borrow Chief Brodie’s famous line from Jaws, the Republicans "are going to need a bigger boat." I think they found one.
There’s a lot to say about the speech in terms of content. But for now: The MSM has a whole new view of her. Nobody thinks she’s incompetent or even trashy any more. Our Sarah is a force to be reckoned with. She has the confidence and the timing and the intelligence. Nobody dare claim now that this woman can’t lead. She’s all that, and her opponents know it. It’s real, classy populism, change we can believe in--not that fake stuff from Rush etc. And energy is now a winning issue--great line on how we already knew that drilling isn’t enough, but it is something. Solid shots at Obama boboism without culture war vengfulness--which was always an intellectual thing. Excellent decision to focus on ordinary courage and the small-town guy’s appreciation of Mac’s courage and barely to mention religion. Perfect on highlighting her family and its inevitable problems. And her self-deprecation is a sign that she and America won’t be traumatized or misled by her inevitable screw ups down the road. Everyone nows sees what she offers that is just beyond Mac. She’s rallying the base, but far from only the evangelical base. It takes a woman to rally the natural base for an honorable man.
Excerpts from Palin’s speech are (wisely) being released ahead of time. Palin was a great basketball player in her youth (as was Obama). Here she dunks on Obama:
Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities."
I’ll bet she’ll sunk some three point shots too.
On THE WEEKLY STANDARD blog, there is, as usual, lots to learn. Two examples:
1. Sarah’s stand on energy is less "pristine," better informed, and altogether more reasonable than McCain’s. She warns us that we’re in for "a world of hurt" if her advice isn’t followed. Obviously, the tide in turned in the Republican direction (at least a little) on this issue. It could turn a lot.
2. Somebody has written what seems to be a very informative book on our Sarah. That author would be getting rich (Amazon #17) had her publisher been prescient enough to have enough copies available (it’s out of print, although a few used copies are available). We learn that Palin has never campaigned on being an evangelical or a mom, but always on ETHICS.
3. So, all in all, she does have important experience, while sharing the crucial dimension of Mac’s character. She may actually add some prudence to the ticket.
VotingAmerica allows you to see on maps (down to county level) how Americans have voted since 1840. There is much to this site that I haven’t mastered, but it seems very good and useful, and fun. Take a look. Note: Some of it seems to load slower than what has become normal. I recommend that when you start looking at the maps ("This application is processor- and memory-intensive.") you not try to do anything else on the web. I think it’s worth the wait.
If the old establishment media (they are no longer the only mainstream media, hence MSM is not a good term for them) succeed in Borking Governor Palin, and if that helps Obama win, the GOP base will be as fired up in 2009 and 2010 as they were in 1993-4.
Over on The Corner, Yuval Levin let’s fly with both barrels at the irresponsible and biased media. RTWT.
Okay, so I went on for three paragraphs below about the fault lines over Hurricane Sarah, but a very savvy and experienced friend here in DC just put the matter to me simply in one sentence:
"The left has to destroy her, just like Clarence Thomas, because of the threat she represents to them."
I’m really not feeling the love (or even respect) today. Here’s another devoted reader questioning my judgment (and with considerable eloquence):
Wondering if I am missing something, I am looking for a quick reality check. Are you really as enthused and enthusiastic about "our Sarah" as you seem to be? Clearly, much of the scrutiny and attacks thus far (including the shameless US Weekly cover) have been unfair. But the choice of Palin for VP still seems to be too clever by half. Setting aside the demographic and polling groups she scores high with, I cannot see how she substantially strengthens the Republican ticket. Most immediately, she implicitly calls attention to McCain’s age and his recent bout with cancer. VP picks do not really matter in presidential races; I cannot remember a time in my lifetime when a VP pick swayed and election—Mondale, Bush, Gore? The VP only really matters if something happens to the president. Viewed in that light, how can one look at Palin and honestly say that they have confidence in her ability to govern America and look after its interests at home and abroad? At best, we have an interesting (albeit limited and spotty) personal biography to base that judgment upon. And as many of Palin’s new defenders once told us, that is not a reason to elect Obama to the presidency. That point seemed to be hammered home last night. Both FT and JL, in consultation with the McCain team, framed their speeches in opposition to Obama. Each emphasized that experience, character, and the solidity of a known quantity should be what voters think about when they pull the lever in the booth. To the extent that the McCain team is successful in sending that message they risk drawing attention to the uncertainty surrounding Palin.
Modest doubt might be called the beacon of the wise, but I’m not modest. This nails it.
Peter Lawler wonders below, whether the GOP convention achieved anything in having Lieberman and Thompson speak last night. He thinks they were somewhat ineffective and his friendly critic and NLT reader, as well as our own Steve Hayward and Peter Schramm have good counter-arguments about the way things are going. I would argue that there is room for both Lawler and his friendly critics to be correct in their assessments--at least right now. Lieberman and Thompson both gave excellent speeches that did exactly what they were designed to do. The problem is that they may not have the impact they were meant to have because almost no one (who wasn’t working to do it) heard them.
The good news (and I choose to be optimistic here) is that there is no way Palin’s speech tonight will not get widespread coverage. It is almost a kind of twisted serendipity that she has inspired so much prurient interest. Because of this, the coverage will certainly be filled with distracting and pointless (and some fair) speculation and biting commentary about her daughter, her choice to pursue a high powered career, etc. But I think she will do well. Further, the coverage will also have to take into account some of the great lines from Thompson’s speech (McCain can’t salute the flag he has defended, etc.) and Lieberman’s great line about Obama being "an eloquent young man" and that is all to the good.
Of course, the mere fact of Lieberman’s presence at the RNC (no matter what he said--though what he said was fine) is a powerful reminder to people that the last two VP candidates from the Dems were NOT at THEIR convention. Doesn’t that say volumes in and of itself? (Admittedly, this joke is tasteless, but it’s still telling: What would have been the best way for Palin to keep her daughter’s pregnacy out of the headlines? Insinuate that Edwards was the father . . .)
But all of this leads me to another point: I am not terribly concerned about the apparent lack of enthusiasm you see at the GOP convention because I think it’s less an absence of enthusiasm than an absence of spectacle. The GOP Convention is smaller, more subdued and not as much of a spectacle as the Dem Convention, true. But I think the voters we need to convince are not the sort who are inclined to be swayed by spectacle. Spectacle campaigning is (oddly because it’s being employed so forcefully by Obama who purports to be something new under the sun and the candidate of Youth) a very old-fashioned way to go. Today in advertising and marketing, it’s not considered very "authentic" as Peter Lawler likes to say. As a brand, McCain and Palin are looking very real and very authentic to me. I think that if they can break through with their message across the Maginot line that is the MSM reporting machine, there are a good number (and, quite possibly, a sufficient number) of voters in the key electoral states who will cleave to them because of that authenticity and because of their exhaustion with the frenzied BS from the other side.
Jonah Goldberg noted on the Corner the contrast between people who, during the Olympics chanted "U-S-A" and people who, during the DNC chanted "O-ba-ma!" Only an idiot with a hyper imagination inclined to fret about "Nationalism" is irritated by the former. And only a dyed-in-the-wool ideologue is happy to participate in the latter or inspired by it when they see it. Most real people find such ravings more than a little over-the-top and, frankly, even a bit frightening and mind-numbing. If there’s such a thing as "too sober," I don’t think this GOP convention has found it yet.
On the other hand, I might say a bit against the whole over-reaction to the hurricane . . . even as I think it (like Palin) serendipitously assisted McCain and I get the necessity for the--still annoying--earnestness it brought with it.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Palin gives a smash-up speech tonight, and that some of the MSM, embarrassed by their one-sided, completely over the top witch hunt, will suddenly start to report more positively about her. The hypocrisy of the media (how come Michelle Obama gets no second-guessing about how she holds down a $300K job while raising two small children??) is so obvious that even liberal editors have to be wondering if they haven’t gone too far. The entire episode reveals the full ugliness of liberal prudery and snobbery.
Beneath the media frenzy is the implied credentialism behind it. The liberal establishment is making a bid to suggest that self-government by citizens really is obsolete, that "ordinary" citizens with heterodox views are "not qualified" for high office. Reminds me of what they said about Ronald Reagan: Eureka College, for gawd’s sake, and a Hollywood career! Hardly preparation to be president! I recall well how Reagan’s critics in 1980 always seemed to focus on these aspects of his life, conveniently skipping over having been governor of California, just as everyone now seems to be fixing on Palin as a small town mayor (read: yokel) and skipping over the governor of Alaska bit (as Obama did in an interview yesterday).
That sound you hear is liberal panic that Obama, who is looking a bit less fresh from overexposure, is no longer the fresh face on the scene; there is palpable horror that not only might the election slip away, but they’ll have to spend four years listening to Palin finally appearing on Meet The Press, where she will ignore or repudiate the stylings of the Post and NYT Style sections. Agnew and Quayle were hard enough to take; this really will make liberals’ heads explode or go into their long-promised exile to France and Canada. Mush!, as they say to dog teams in Alaska.
Peter’s two posts immediately below leads me to three thoughts:
1. I think that the Lieberman and Thompson speeches were terrific, and I haven’t heard anyone I have spoken with say otherwise. I loved Lieberman’s line on Obama: "a gifted and eloquent young man." Thompson’s praise of McCain character and identity was perfect. So I think the GOP convention was pretty good, some of it deeply moving (I watched most of it on C-Span).
2. The time I did spend watching CNN and other channels was revealing. The MSM reporters were so over-the-top critical of Palin and her family (and the GOP in general) that even I was surprised. At first I thought maybe it was just me and my ordinary partisan reactions, but when I started talking to people about this they revealed they thought the same.
I think this is worth noting and it will have consequences. Ordinary folks aren’t stupid.
There isn’t much question now that Palin’s talk tonight will be worth watching. Great drama. If she is what she seems--a smart and articulate and courageous conservative--all the unjust criticism will be turned to the GOP ticket’s advantage. I am told that her daughter’s fiance, Levi Bristol, will be there, with Bristol. Good move. I bet they will be warmly received.
Here’s a note I got from a disgruntled (but still loyal and devoted) NLT reader:
Also, I completely disagree with you about the convention. I thought Thompson and Lieberman were incredibly good last night. They focused on character--McCain’s character and story are quite compelling, and if that is what voters focus on, Obama is screwed. Second, they connected this theme to the one where Obama thinks he can win--change. Fred and Joe both said if you want a real reformer, McCain/Palin ticket has an actual, tangible record on this. Obama’s got nothin. They are trying to win on Obama’s own ground! Brilliantly audacious! You need to have demonstrated character if it is change you really want. Third, their attack on Obama was focused. Joe’s comment about Obama was devastating. He’s young and eloquent--that’s IT, no match for an actual record of reform and judgment. Fred said this in a slightly different way: Two questions you’ll never have to ask about McCain: Who is he and can he be trusted as President?
1. The Republican convention was pretty amateurish (by comparison) last night. The hall wasn’t filled and too many delegates and such looked distracted and bored. No bump will come from what’s happened so far, and the general impression is that Republicans are message challenged. The biggest cheers were for Sarah.
2. It turns out that Sarah has little in common with her fan Pat Buchanan. She was for Steve Forbes in 1996 and 2000, and the evidence is growing that she is the more pro-growth and deregulatory member of the ticket. That, of course, in no way diminishes her "family values." Pat has just explained that his views on Israel, Iran and such are about the same as Obama’s.
3. There are a couple of articles--one in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL--about grumblings in Juneau that Todd "First Dude" Palin has functioned as a "shadow governor" and has too much influence on his wife. Who does that remind you of? There’s more and more evidence that Todd is both brains and brawn (not to mention a caring and caregiving dad), and there’s is a rather singular version of a modern, egalitarian marriage. She’s the one in politics, as Todd explained, because she’s just "hardwired different" from other people. She’s got the political gene.
Jay Carney of Time magazine puts Gov. Palin in her place for knowing less about the Pledge of Allegiance than he thinks he does. As a gubernatorial candidate, Mrs. Palin was presented with a questionnaire asking, “Are you offended by the phrase ‘Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?” She answered, “Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.”
Carney condescends to Palin over this. She “seems not to be a keen student of American history,” he says. He chides her for being unaware that the Pledge and, in particular, its “under God” phrase “both were written long after the founders (and the framers, for that matter) were dead and buried.” He then offers an additionally condescending explanation for her failure to match his understanding of American political history: “My guess is she was conflating one conservative conviction, adherence to ‘original intent’ when interpreting the Constitution, with another, the belief that the separation of church and state has gone too far. If so, her confusion is not limited to the history of the Pledge.”
The problem is that Palin’s exuberant response to the questionnaire reflects a more informed understanding of the Pledge and the founding fathers than Carney’s snarky one. As James Piereson argued, the addition of the phrase “under God” to the Pledge in 1954 reached back to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “[We] here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Piereson connects Lincoln’s use of the phrase “under God” to Jefferson and Washington. In “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson wrote, forebodingly, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” As for Washington, in the general orders he circulated to his troops on July 2, 1776, he wrote, “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.”
Carney’s assumption that the original intent of the Founders was a republic uncomfortable with the non-sectarian invocation of God’s providence and support cannot be reconciled with even a cursory examination of the historical record. The Declaration of Independence, famously, speaks of “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” and holds the truth to be self-evident that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Less famously but as eloquently, George Washington closed his letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island of August 1790 by saying, “May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”
Depending on the outcome of the election, we can look forward to either two months or four years of people who know less about America than Sarah Palin arrogantly imagining that they know more.
Our friend (Free) Frank Warner is gushing that she would be a kind of Mrs. Smith goes to Washington. (Scroll down...)
With so much attention now focused on Sarah Palin and (if one is to judge by the volume of the howls coming from the Dems and the MSM) her very good prospects for helping John McCain, there may be a temptation to forget that there is another woman in the McCain camp who can speak effectively on the issues and on behalf of the candidate. That woman is Cindy McCain.
I watched her this weekend in an interview with George Stephanopolous and I was quite taken with her spirited defense--not only of John McCain and Sarah Palin--but also of her own parents and the country that afforded them the opportunity to turn their efforts and industry into wealth. She was positively ferocious on that last point and I don’t blame her. Although John McCain certainly cannot be commended for forgetting the number of homes he and Cindy own, it’s a fair point to note that there’s nothing criminal or blameworthy in their owning them. Indeed, it’s refreshing to see Cindy throw down the Dems on this one. Further, it’s not really fair to say that he’s "out of touch" just because he’s not particularly focused on the extent of his material possessions. He’s married to a rich woman who inherited her wealth from a father and mother who worked hard to earn it. It’s probable that he considers these things more her affair than his own and that her parents wanted it that way. It would almost be more creepy if he could give you a detailed list of all her holdings and interests off the top of his head, wouldn’t it? Here’s a link to the YouTube video of the interview.
On a related note, this article in Forbes shows that John McCain probably learned a thing or two about how a government can help or hinder prosperity by having a successful businessman in the family.
"Our initial strategy in Iraq failed, but we changed tactics, added a few troops, and turned the operation around. The same was true of hurricane Katrina. I was surprised by the scope of the damage and did not react quickly enough. But I have seen to it that we won't make that mistake again . . ."
For the libertarian, the big issue isn’t experience, but judgment. And within reasonable limits, Sarah has pretty consistently chosen the side of liberty--and her constitutional duties. She should certainly become the point person on health care and school choice. She also doesn’t hide having inhaled.
How a friend of mine started Politics 101: Chuck Jones’s classic The Dot and the Line. An amusing take on license v ordered liberty. (Also good for geometry classes).
...she wears the Israeli flag, and Israeli journalists are already reporting that they know a good friend when they see one. Once again, there’s no question where her heart is. Contrary to instant-analysis allegations, she didn’t even support Buchanan. She was just being polite (that’s ok?) when Pat came to town. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)
...in the fascinating new web-zine CULTURE11. It features a contribution by a NEW REPUBLIC editor, a prominent paleocon, and ME. As usual, I’m the one with the audacity of hope.
...is reported in an admirably sympathetic way by an excellent TIME journalist. We learn that our Sarah is more defined by the values of her small town than any other national candidate in anyone’s memory. We also learn that Bristol’s pregnancy is nobody’s damn business (although everyone in town knows about it) and no calamity. Everyone’s still sure she’ll turn out fine.
I’m not sure how the Crunchy Cons are going to respond to Wasillian localism. There girls know how to handle a whole dead moose--not to mention how to get one dead. No need to buy totally organic meat from local butchers who got it from local farmers who raised it in a humane and environmentally friendly way if you know how to go out to the environment and just shoot it yourself.
Terry Eastland works through the allusions in THE SPEECH and ends up agreeing with me.
In light of the news that Governor Palin will soon be a grandmother, many people are comparing her daughter’s decision to bring her baby to term and to marry the father with Senator Obama’s comment
about not wanting his daughters to be "punished with a baby," should they get pregnant at a young age.
The contrast is interesting, as it seems to point to two different philosophies. Senator Obama wishes to diminish the consequenes of mistakes that young people (and adults for that matter) inevitably make. Not an unreasonable wish. On the other hand, Governor Palin’s philosophy is that the best way to help someone grow up is to force them to live with the consequences of their actions, however difficult that might make life. It’s more of a tough love philosophy.
In his speech last week, Senator Obama spoke of responsibility: "That’s the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper."
But how can one teach people to be responsible unless on lets them fall flat sometimes and suffer the consequences?
P.S. A slightly different point. Obama seems to think of America as a community of 300,000,000 people. Is that possible? Or is that why the founders turned away from the old idea that republics had to be small. In small, city-state sized republics, we truly can be each others’ keepers. In a large republic, there’s probably too much diversity among people and among communities for that to work. For the most part, being our brother’s keeper is done one-on-one, and locally. In that sense, the effort to make us all one big family might, in fact, hinder our ability to help our friends, neighbors, and families in times of need.
Show me those folks who think American politics is dull.
Here’s why I think Palin works (unless she commits a blunder): I subscribe to the simple theory that outsider candidates--the candidates who run against Washington--do better than insiders. This is one exogenous reason why governors (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush) do better than senators, the ultimate insiders.
This election was a bit odd: both candidates, as senators, bear the Scarlet "I" of Washington insiders, but both have a plausible claim to outsider status--McCain because of his maverick and reformist ways, and Obama because of his fresh face and newness in town. But his outsider cred is a bit suspect, and his pick of Biden smacks of the old politics. Palin reinforces McCain’s outsider cred in a way that Kay Bailey What’s Her Name wouldn’t have.
Add this, by the way, from Camille Paglia, as quoted in the London Times: “We may be seeing the first woman president. As a Democrat, I am reeling,” said Camille Paglia, the cultural critic. “That was the best political speech I have ever seen delivered by an American woman politician. Palin is as tough as nails.”
...on Mac’s choice of Sarah. This characteristically authoritative account reveals that, from the beginning, he was attacted to her as a fellow anti-establishment maverick. And, more important, he could tell that her capabilities soared far above her level of experience (sort of the opposite of Biden).
That’s not to say that McCain didn’t flirt with picking Lieberman and maybe others. But this article does dramatically undercut the Hail Mary pass theory, which had initially made some sense to me.
From the Times of London article on the selection of Governor Palin as McCain’s running mate:
Will America fall in love with Palin or will she fizzle, like Dan Quayle, the vice-president to George Bush Sr who could not spell “potatoe”?
Isn’t that precisely how Quayle spelled the word? Divided by a common language indeed.
Writing on the Atlantic blog, Ross Douthat (how’d he get to good at so young an age anyway?) makes the case for Palin amidst the number of conservative voices (Heather MacDonald, Charles Krauthammer, etc) who dislike the pick. Sample:
McCain is running for the Presidency at a time when the Republican brand is in the toilet, with a party that seems unable to excite its hard-core supporters or woo swing voters, and a leadership - McCain included - that gets the heebie-jeebies when called upon to discuss any topic save terrorism, 9/11 and the Surge. Even if by some Jeremiah Wright-aided miracle he edges out Barack Obama, he’ll limp into the White House as a John Major-in-the-making - an aging politician who won an election that belonged by rights to the other party, facing Democratic majorities in both houses, a media that will be primed to treat Senators Obama and Clinton as the default co-Presidents for the next four years, and a conservative base that’s just waiting for an opportunity to turn on him. Does this sound like a recipe for a successful Presidency? And if it isn’t, wouldn’t it be better for McCain, who at present seems like the last candidate of a fading party and a dying generation, to sweep into Washington with a popular, dynamic, female politician as his junior partner, rather than a dull white male like Ridge or a Romney or a Pawlenty? And wouldn’t it be better, frankly, for America as well?
As the saying goes, RTWT.