Sarah Palin got the Republican juices flowing in a way that John McCain simply couldn’t have, adding youthful exuberance and an enticing personality that sent a tingle down the spine of Middle America. But after the initial surge of enthusiasm, there were signs that Palin would fade into oblivion as a one-hit wonder.
After her prodigious coming-out speech at the Republican convention, Palin delivered a number of admittedly un-stellar performances. She appeared with Charlie Gibson, and was harangued for stumbling over a question about the Bush Doctrine. She interviewed with Fox News’ Sean Hannity to little applause. And just recently she sat down with Katie Couric, and again was flagellated for giving vague, permeable answers.
But Palin has faced more than a close and searching look at her record. In the past few weeks, she has been subjected to a more personal and vicious beating by the establishment media than any other candidate in this race and any in recent memory. And yet she’s still the most popular sitting governor in America.
Why does the left hate her so much? Because Sarah Palin’s very existence is repugnant and frankly dangerous to the Democratic Party. The ascent of a red-blooded, pro-life woman to national office would deeply wound the party that capitalized on the women’s liberation movement.
Yes, Sarah Palin caused a paroxysm on the left. It was inconceivable ““ a woman running for national office who wasn’t part of the highbrow feminist literati. Is that allowed? Heck yeah it is! Doesn’t anyone remember Margaret Thatcher?
The mainstream media’s response to Palin could not be termed judicious, let alone sane. Cable news pundits like Keith Olbermann and Sally Quinn ruminated cynically about whether a mother of five could in good conscience run for national office. Perhaps they forgot what their party has been espousing for the last 40 years.
And then there was Carol Fowler, the South Carolina democratic chairwoman, who contended that Palin’s “primary qualification seems to be that she hasn’t had an abortion.” Certainly, she has more to offer than just her motherhood.
Sarah Palin obviously didn’t get a fair shake. The whole of her experience seemed, to the media, predicated on her mention that you could see Russia from a small island in Alaska (not from her house, as Tina Fey said).
But Palin was not only a victim of mainstream media crazies. She also suffered egregious mismanagement by the McCain campaign, which nonsensically tried to obscure her ties to small-town America to make her seem more “experienced.”
But in fact, a big part of Palin’s appeal lies in her being an outsider, a provincial mayor and governor from a distant state ““ far removed from the Washington cesspool. Of course, this also contributed to the hype around the community organizer, Barack Obama.
I must admit, watching Palin over the past couple of weeks was like watching a kid in a school play: I was praying she wouldn’t trip or forget her lines. But it seemed obvious after last Thursday’s debate that many of us didn’t give her enough credit.
Palin’s performance not only surpassed expectations ““ it was brilliant. With the survival of the McCain campaign on her shoulders, and the media onslaught weighing her down, Palin’s courage was inspiring. She proved the case for McCain and put his vision in perspective for “Joe Six-Pack,” all the while exuding the confidence and capability of a veteran politician.
I could just see the media’s skeptical smile degenerate into a blank stare as they watched her knock Hillary Clinton off her pedestal as the reigning female political protagonist.
Palin should not have to answer whether she’s ready to be president on Inauguration Day. Obama has dodged that question, even though he is running on the top of the ticket, and his competence is still in question.
But even if she were required to, this red-blooded American woman has the instincts, the guts, the charisma and, despite what anyone says, the most executive experience of any candidate in the election.
The left is justifiably paranoid about the Palin phenomenon (imagine how Hillary must feel). Her areas of expertise ““ ethics reform, energy independence ““ seem handpicked to address the inadequacies of the Bush administration with which they have doggedly tried to compare her.
But before they go after her again, the media would be wise to consider that the more they criticize Palin, the more they roil women and evangelical voters who consider an attack on her a personal affront.
Palin is a great boon to the Republican Party. But she needs to have the opportunity to do what she did Thursday night ““ that is, bypass the media and engage the public in direct conversation. It’s what Ronald Reagan did so well, and we need it now more than ever.