Sarah Palin Speaks!
Saturday, 06 September 2008

GAIL COLLINS

ST. PAUL

Sarah Palin came out of hiding Wednesday night, and boy, she seemed ticked off.

"Here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to win their good opinion," said the moose-gutting, polar bear-trashing, aerobics-class-networking vice presidential nominee.

This was shortly after two very prominent Republican commentators got caught trashing Palin's candidacy when they thought an MSNBC microphone had been turned off. There has been a lot of that going around this year, people. We can do better. In the years to come, let us teach our children that if you can't say anything nice about somebody, step away from the voice enhancement equipment.
 
The speech was very well done. The Palin family — who we're supposed to ignore, but they did sort of seem to be pretty much front and center — were adorable. And she was way more effective than the keynote speaker, Rudy Giuliani, at the red-meat-tossing detail. If you're going to be really mean for an extended period of time, it's better if you don't look as if you want to lunge for the throat of the cameramen.
 
We had been waiting for a long time to hear from Palin, who went to the mattresses almost immediately after she was introduced to the nation by John McCain last week. What followed was a long line of unexpected revelations, from the fabled teenage pregnancy to my own personal favorite: the threat to fire the town librarian who refused to censor books.
 
Last night, Palin blamed the confusion and complaints on the news media, which hates her because she is "not a member in good standing of the Washington elite."
 
John McCain, the member of the Washington elite who picked her, was temporarily unavailable for comment.
 
Palin's speech totally swallowed up all the attention in St. Paul, leaving nothing whatsoever for speakers like Mitt Romney, who celebrated the convention Reform Day by announcing: "We need change all right! Change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington." Tragically, nobody seemed interested enough to point out that this made no sense. It's a long way from the golden days when Mitt invented the "Washington is Broken" slogan, and people took the time to ask him exactly who he thought had done the breaking.
 
It's been one big reunion in Minnesota for the old gang — Rudy and Mitt and Fred and Mike. Together again, for the first time since those primary debates. Reliving the golden days in which they managed to convince Republican voters that no matter what John McCain's defects, he could not possibly be as bad a candidate as they were.
 
Did you see Fred Thompson? We had forgotten the electricity that is Fred until his speech on Tuesday, when he railed at the Democrats for overplaying Americans' economic woes. ("Listening to them, you'd think we were in the middle of the Great Depression.") It was that same instinctive connection to the common man that had caused him to refer to the problems of unemployed Detroit factory workers as something that "you always find in a vibrant, dynamic economy."
 
Reform Day was, of course, tailor-made for Palin, who is all about reform. Particularly, reforming the Republican party. Normally, in a democracy, the way you reform a party is by tossing it out of power until it learns its lesson and gets its act together. But the McCain-Palin plan is to reform Republicanism by keeping Republicans in control of the White House and most of the powerful posts in the federal government. That'll show them.
 
Also fiscal reform. How many times have you heard McCain promise to slash taxes and pay for it by eliminating unnecessary programs? And who better to help carry out that agenda than the governor of a state whose residents pay less taxes than anyplace else in the union due to their genius in making the federal government pay the tab for virtually everything?
 
"Taxpayers have an advocate in Sarah Palin!" said Giuliani in his keynote speech. Rudy had been extremely busy all day. In a stroke of genius, someone picked him to run around to the TV shows before Palin's address to defend McCain for picking her after having met her only once. When he was mayor, Giuliani hired people who had been in his inner circle since about the third grade. And most of them were terrible! So you see, there are lots of ways to screw up a big hire besides not thinking about it until the last minute.
 
For all her great skills at presentation, many people, including some Republicans who think the microphone is off, believe that Sarah Palin is a terrible choice for running mate. But you have to remember who the other options were.
Gail Collins joined the New York Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and later as an op-ed columnist.

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