Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin: Can You Feel The Energy?

I can, but that's because Gov. Palin's speech only delved into substance on the topic of energy. Which makes sense -- it is the one national-caliber issue on which she has any expertise. And she definitely sounded like she knew what she was talking about -- though I'm not entirely convinced that the Republican Party wanted "drill, baby drill" to be the defining chant of its convention.

But other than that, I thought the speech was a net negative for Governor Palin. Mostly, its because of what I said earlier: "nice" politicians who go nasty end up hurting themselves. The fact that she seemed to relish in the attacks didn't seem to help (my girlfriend disagrees me on this score -- she thought she looked "awkward" making the attacks. What Jill interpreted as a quavering face, I read as sneer. Your mileage varies.).

In general, though, her speech and Rudy Giuliani's showed something quite revealing about the RNC. They had applause lines, but they were far dwarfed by the "boo" lines. The crowd was most into it when they were being called on to chant "zero", or laugh mockingly at being a community organizer (it took them awhile to catch on that this was funny), or simply boo the fact that Barack Obama wants terrorists to win. And that echoes the general Republican mood, I feel. They hate liberals as much as they've always had -- there's nothing that's changed in the last eight years to make them feel that pro-choice policies or more balanced tax plans are the right things to pursue. They still have a massive victimhood complex with regards to the media (a play whose efficacy will be judged based on whether the news calls Palin out on her chutzpah-laden decision to -- again -- nakedly lie about opposing the "bridge to nowhere"). The difference is that this year they're just not that excited about their own brand. So they're happiest when they don't have to think about the Republican Party, today, but can recall Senator McCain's heroism in Vietnam, or can roast the always-worse Democratic Party.

The final verdict? Palin's speech would have made a solid, if unexceptional, performance by Josephine Average RNC Speaker. If Palin had given this speech, then worked quietly as Governor of Alaska for four years, it might even have set her up for a run later on. But in this environment, in this year, it did not rise to Vice Presidential levels. It was very defensive. It did not "change the game", or even move the ball. And, in something that has become a McCain campaign theme, it made a major long-term sacrifice in evaporating Gov. Palin's likability for the short-term image of a riled-up base. That, I think, is seriously going to backfire as the campaign progresses.


Julia said...

They had applause lines, but they were far dwarfed by the "boo" lines.

I noticed that 100%. She made fun of Barack Obama like a taunting schoolchild, and the audience ate it up. I was really disgusted by it.

Eric said...

A net negative? You can't be serious. Even Chris Wallace had to beg Democratic operative Howard Wolfson to say something critical about the speech.

And grow up: the VP is the attack dog and Palin went after Obama's severe lack of experience and contrasted it with McCain's long history of service. What did you expect? Politics ain't beanbag.

pacatrue said...

Hi, Eric, the thing I saw missing from Palin's speech is the future direction of the country. Unfortunately, because McCain's a good guy overall in my book, he's 72 and I really want to make sure the back-up plan has an informed vision for the nation. From the speech, I got a lot of 'Dems suck' and a fair amount of her own background, the latter of which I appreciate. But as for where she would lead us to if she's forced to....? Only a few hints of that, energy being one of them, vague reform another. I get the impression that basically she wants to continue the last 8 years' policies, which haven't been overwhelmingly successful.

PG said...

Part of McCain/Palin's problem is tha they aren't particularly committed to conservative principles. There's a way to spin Palin's apparent switch on the Bridge to Nowhere, but you have to have a commitment to federalism to think of the spin. The GOP doesn't seem to realize that it's the Bush brand that's a problem, not underlying Republican ideology. If you have no values to defend, the only place left to go with your rhetoric is attacking the opposition. And that's what we're seeing.