(by Josh Gerstein, NYSun.com) ST. PAUL, Minn. – In a bid to vindicate Senator McCain’s unexpected decision to choose her as his running mate, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, Governor Palin of Alaska, used her first nationally televised, prime-time speech last night to level charges of elitism at the press and Democrats who have questioned her qualifications to be vice president.
“I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment, and I’ve learned quickly, these last few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone,” Mrs. Palin, who was elected governor in 2006 and previously served two terms as mayor of a small Alaska city, told delegates at the Republican National Convention here. “But … here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion – I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country.”
Since Mr. McCain announced his pick of Mrs. Palin last week, she has faced a torrent of criticism over the depth of her resumé. Her selection was also met by a flurry of news stories about her family, especially the pregnancy of her daughter, Bristol, 17, who is unmarried. Aides to Mr. McCain have decried the coverage as sexist, but Mrs. Palin did not appear to go that far last night. Instead, the mother of five cast herself as a kind of everymother who happened into public life.
“I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town. I was just your average hockey mom,” she said, to a roar from the crowd, some of whom toted signs reading “Hockey Moms 4 Palin.” “You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick,” the governor ad-libbed in response.
“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,” Mrs. Palin said, in a dig at Senator Obama’s frequent references to his work as an organizer in Chicago in the 1980s.
Mrs. Palin’s selection seemed popular with most delegates here, particularly with social conservatives who like her anti-abortion stance and her decision to carry to term her son Trig, who suffers from Down syndrome. However, the stakes were high last night because of uncertainty about how swing voters would respond to the little-known governor from a thinly populated state. Her folksy address last night let her salt-of-the-earth Alaskan charm shine through, though she said virtually nothing about her anti-abortion stance or conservative cultural views that prompted such rejoicing on the Republican right.
While Mrs. Palin focused largely on introducing herself to a national audience, she also stepped with verve into the traditional vice presidential role of attack dog.
“In small towns, we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening,” Mrs. Palin said, in a swipe at a comment Mr. Obama made to a California fund raiser in April. “We tend to prefer candidates who don’t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.”
Mrs. Palin also skewered Mr. Obama as all talk and no action.
“In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers,” she said. “And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.”
By the time Mrs. Palin took the stage last night, Mr. Obama had already been softened up by other prominent speakers, including Mayor Giuliani, whose speech was moved from Tuesday in a reshuffle prompted by Hurricane Gustav’s strike on the Gulf Coast.
Mr. Giuliani called the Democratic nominee “gifted” and saluted his rise as a “remarkable” American story, but the former mayor quickly transitioned to a withering attack on Mr. Obama as a “celebrity senator.”
“No leadership or major legislation to speak of. … He’s never run a city, never run a state, never run a business, never run a military unit,” Mr. Giuliani said. “This is not a personal attack. It’s a statement of fact – Barack Obama has never led anything. Nothing. Nada. Nothing. The choice in this election comes down to substance over style. John has been tested. Barack Obama has not.”
Mr. Giuliani also argued that Mr. Obama’s anti-war stance would have led to disaster in Iraq.
“If Barack Obama had been president, there would have been no troop surge and our troops would have been withdrawn in defeat,” the former mayor said. “In the single biggest policy decision of this election, John McCain got it right and Barack Obama got it wrong.”
Mr. Giuliani also chastised the press for asking how Mrs. Palin planned to balance her child care duties with the vice presidency. “How dare they do that? When do they ever ask a man that question?” he said.
While there was no sign of dissent about Mrs. Palin among the convention speakers, there were indications some Republicans were fretting privately. Two conservative commentators who publicly indicated ambivalence about the choice of Mrs. Palin, Michael Murphy and Peggy Noonan, were caught on open microphones yesterday disparaging the pick just after they wrapped up an interview on MSNBC.
“It’s not going to work,” Mr. Murphy could be heard saying in a clip posted on YouTube by a person using the name zipkin119. “Is she really the most qualified woman?”
“It’s over,” Mrs. Noonan can be heard replying, apparently unaware the mikes were still hot. “I think they went for this, excuse me, political bulls— about narratives. Every time Republicans do that because that’s not where they live and that’s not what they’re good at, they blow it.”
“You know what’s really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and it’s cynical,” Mr. Murphy concludes.
On the Journal’s Web site last night, Ms. Noonan acknowledged that she did not think Mrs. Palin was the most qualified woman for the Republican ticket, but she insisted she did not predict doom for Mr. McCain. “I do not think the campaign is over, I do not think this is settled,” she wrote.
Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
1. Who is Sarah Palin?
2. a) Why did Gov. Palin say about the media in her speech last night?
b) What message did she give to the media in her speech last night?
3. When talking about her post as mayor of a small town in Alaska, what criticism did Gov. Palin make of Sen. Obama?
4. a) Why was there uncertainty about how swing voters would respond to Mrs. Palin?
b) Would that be important to you when deciding on whether to support her nomination or not? Explain your answer.
5. a) In his speech prior to Gov. Palin’s, what criticism did Rudy Giuliani have for Sen. Obama?
b) Would this information about Sen. Obama affect your vote? Explain your answer.
c) For what reason did Mr. Giuliani criticize the media?
6. Re-read the comments made by conservative commentators (para. 17-20). After watching Gov. Palin’s speech, do you think they are correct in their assertions? Explain your answer.
Watch Gov. Palin’s speech at C-Span’s YouTube page.
Read the text of Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention website.