The Widening Gyre: In Which the Hockey Mom Storms the Castle (and Joy Reigns in the Convetion Hall).
Gov. Sarah Palin officially accepted the Republican nomination for Vice President tonight amidst a flurry of attacks on Sen. Barack Obama. "Prosperity" took over as the theme of the night from yesterday's "Service" – though at least three speakers retold parts of the tale of John McCain's time as a POW, and national security remained a rallying high point.
Three of McCain's former competitors for the nomination spoke this evening, though it was the former lieutenant governor of Maryland Michael Steele who launched the convention's now-favorite chant – "Drill, baby, drill!"
Mitt Romney – in what PBS commentators called his obvious bid for 2012 – made fervent attacks on Washington, which he called "liberal", as the Republicans do their best to ignore that they hold the White House now and have for nearly eight years. But Romney, who really came off like a slick ad-man, scuddled the message a little when he said: "It's time for the party of big ideas and not Big Brother" in reference to "liberal" Washington. Mostly, Romney talked economy, criticizing "liberals" for allegedly wanting to take the same path Europe – whose economy is much stronger than ours – has taken. He, too, in touting what seems to be a common GOP theme, painted Obama as unwilling to fight terrorism. Even David Brooks said that Romney's speech was "way Right".
Then, Mike Huckabee, really a compelling, charming speaker, opened by thanking the "elite media" and their "tackiness" for uniting the party and country behind the GOP ticket, referring to the flurry of coverage of the life of Palin. (This seems to be the way to try to get the press to not ask questions, which is, indeed, our job. That refusal to submit to questions and information worked wonders for Nixon and W., of course.) The former Arkansas governor also hinted that the change Democrats promise is to change freedom, security and prosperity to other things and that Sen. Obama brought back from his recent trip to Europe "European ideas" to take liberty and livelihood away from the American people. He also claimed that Palin won more votes in her mayoral race than Sen. Joe Biden received in his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
Rudy Giuliani gave the keynote address, pretty much launching with his recount of McCain's P.O.W. internment. He mocked Obama for having an Ivy League education and, in what seems like it will be a theme of the GOP ticket, Obama's work as a community organizer as being, essentially, worthless experience. Giuliani attacked Obama's record in the Illinois legislature, saying he abstained on 130 votes and therefore would not be a good decision-maker like the "tested" McCain. His slogan line: "Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy."
Then he got to his pet topic, which he called the "most important" of all: terrorism. He even chided Democrats for not having talked enough about 09.11.01 during their convention, saying they "gave up on America". The crowd seemed to really get behind him – but maybe more because they could feel the evening's zenith upon them.
And she didn't disappoint them. Sarah Palin proved herself a confident, relaxed, rousing speaker tonight – and an aggressive one. She seemed to revel in pounding the well if smugly delivered zingers in the speech. Palin started off by introducing her family. Though hers certainly doesn't have the moving drama of the Biden family tale delivered last week, the family (including the suddenly flown-in boyfriend of the eldest Palin daughter) is cute, and Palin made what looked like a really honest and impassioned pledge to advocate for children with special needs.
In introducing herself – though with little more information than we already had – she really played on her self-termed "hockey mom" status. In fact, that brought one of her best lines: "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick." She did refer to herself as "average", which is supposed to appeal the I'd-like-to-have-a-beer-with-that-guy voters who so love(d) George W. Bush. Of course, this always raises the question: Shouldn't the leaders of our country be more than average? To which the counter is generally: You're an elitist. Palin really killed with her pro-small-town platform, particularly with her reference to Obama's now infamous bitter-guns-and-religion comment that will surely continue to haunt him down the line. The question is, of course, will Republican "small-town" Americans beat out Democratic "regular" or "middle-class" Americans.
Palin only touched on foreign issues – mostly relating to oil – including stating in regards to Iraq that we have "victory within sight". Mostly she ran down her own declared resume of standing up to lobbyists, special interests and "good ol' boys". She talked about reducing the sizes of the governments she's run, cutting spending, giving oil profits to Alaskan citizens, getting rid of the previous governor's luxury jet (on ebay?) and the office's personal chef. And she lauded her using the gubernatorial veto in the public interest, particularly for fighting "wasteful spending".
She also recounted that she'd basically told Congress to shove it when they wanted to give her earmark money to build the "bridge to nowhere". That Alaska would build it herself and wouldn't be party to "pork-barrel" earmarks – one of McCain's most touted crusades and certainly a prominent point for the GOP's reformist argument. After the speech, Mark Shields pointed out that Palin actually didn't refuse that earmark. She took it. So much for the straight-talk express and populist reform.
And Palin really went at Barack Obama. She said he's written two memoirs but no laws. That he would reduce the strength of America. (Though as recently as last week Obamam said he would "finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan ... [and] rebuild our military to meet future conflicts.") That he would "take your money" by imposing a "massive tax burden" (even though Obama says he will cut income taxes by small business and working families). That there is "only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you" – thus furthering the convention's assurances that war is the way to peace and that the activities with which Obama has filled his life are worthless to America. In sum, she said that Obama is mere talk while McCain has deeds behind him. She even took a swipe at Democrat-beloved JFK, saying that McCain is a "true profile in courage", with guts and character.
And that seems to be the Republicans' message going into the climax of their convention: character. As even David Brooks – who, like most of the other PBS commentators, lauded Palin's performance tonight – said, "Where's the policy?" The follow-up to that is: "Will that matter?"
Technorati tags: politics, Palin, Republican, Obama,President, Biden, McCain, convention.