Friday, October 3, 2008

Sarah Sixpack

Were you thinking that last night might be the end of John McCain's chances?
When nervous, Palin has a tendency to over-enunciate her words like a graduate of the George W. Bush School of Oratory, but Thursday night she spoke like a normal person. It took her about 15 seconds to define her persona — the straight-talking mom from regular America — and it was immediately clear that the night would be filled with tales of soccer moms, hockey moms, Joe Sixpacks, main-streeters, “you betchas” and “darn rights.” Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling.
David Brooks offers a great recap of GOP anxiety, and the Palin debate, in today's New York Times.

With a bemused smile and a never-ending flow of words, she laid out her place on the ticket — as the fearless neighbor for the heartland bemused by the idiocies of Washington. Her perpetual smile served as foil to Biden’s senatorial seriousness.

Where was this woman during her interview with Katie Couric?

Palin's freshness - her anti-Washington status - communicates viscerally.

On Thursday night, Palin took her inexperience and made a mansion out of it. From her first “Nice to meet you. May I call you Joe?” she made it abundantly, unstoppably and relentlessly clear that she was not of Washington, did not admire Washington and knew little about Washington. She ran not only against Washington, but the whole East Coast, just to be safe.

What I liked best was the ability that Sarah showed, and the intellect. This is a talented woman.
On matters of substance, her main accomplishment was to completely sever ties to the Bush administration. She treated Bush as some historical curiosity from the distant past. Beyond that, Palin broke no new ground, though she toured the landscape of McCain policy positions with surprising fluency. Like the last debate, this one was surprisingly wonky — a lifetime subscription to Congressional Quarterly. Palin could not match Biden when it came to policy detail, but she never obviously floundered.
The woman who has better experience than Barack but who is, in the liberal mind, unqualified to be vice president, came to play and made a guy with 35 years experience in the senate uneasy. She's uncanny in her ability to break through the veneer of television and take control of a forum she has no business controlling. Sarah's achievement was made stronger by the fact that Joe Biden did pretty well.

Still, this debate was about Sarah Palin. She held up her end of an energetic debate that gave voters a direct look at two competing philosophies. She established debating parity with Joe Biden. And in a country that is furious with Washington, she presented herself as a radical alternative.

This was very satisfying to those who are rooting for the McCain ticket, but also for millions of Americans in search of change. Palin vibrates with change energy in a way that Barack once did before he abandoned change for same old same old politics.

By the end of the debate, most Republicans were not crouching behind the couch, but standing on it. The race has not been transformed, but few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night.

The snobbery of liberals who are appalled that a small town, self-made girl with an accent could co-opt the Democrats' God-given right to female candidates and operate so powerfully by rejecting the status quo of Ivy League and Washington wonkism must be further tweaked today by the confident wink into the camera that Sarah Palin offered the nation last night.

The message? Real people can play this game just as well, and probably better, than the fancy folks who spew endless lists of facts and figures. It's not understanding policy that takes talent, it is the ability to resist the centripetal pull of insiderism that is the gift so rarely possessed by a political figure.

Sarah's got it, and she communicates it in a way that makes the elites very nervous.

No comments: