Doggone-it, She Winked!
Then Palin came to stay.
By Kathryn Jean Lopez
‘How long have I been at this?” Alaska governor Sarah Palin asked rhetorically
during the first and only vice-presidential debate of the season Thursday night in St. Louis.
“Like, five weeks?”
You betcha. And it has been an emotional five weeks. From refreshing surprise to low-down dirty rumors to confessions that shouldn’t have to be made to convention ecstasy to packed rallies to anticipated and contentious Gibson interview to anticipated and friendly Sean interview to Katie interview to worry to anger to disappointment to jitters to relief, satisfaction, and stealing some hope and change.
It’s been a long five weeks for Sarah Palin and everyone watching Sarah Palin. Which is everyone. From the moment she asked Joseph Biden, who’s been in the Senate since she was in the second grade, “Can I call you Joe?” she had won people over. Is that fair? Is that being patronizing to a chick? Not if that chick proves to be a pitbull with lipstick. And we’ve seen that more than once now.
And, she’s keeping the emotions on high. “The tone is going to bug them, former McCain campaign adviser Mike Murphy said on MSNBC after the debate. He was referring to her “brisk, rhetorical, often folksy manner” — that’s how Chris Matthews put it at the start of the post-debate Hardball. You’d think Matthews, who has a penchant for the colorful would appreciate the style. He did, compared to Rachel Maddow, on the same network, who angrily dismissed her “folksiness” as “frenetic” and “cartoonish.” One can’t help but think of that skit on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago portraying a perplexed New York Times reporting staff, bewildered by these foreign people in the distant and puzzling land of Alaska, who hunt and pray — bitter gun-clingers, to put it in the language of the Chosen One.
In his column Friday, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote from St. Louis: “Palin, in her 90 minutes on the stage Thursday night, left the firm impression that she is indeed ready to lead the nation — with an unnerving mixture of platitudes and cute, folksy phrases that poured from her lips even when they bore no relation to the questions asked.”
If you go through the transcript of the debate, though, Biden didn’t answer all the questions either. He just sounded like a bloviating senator whose tie to the common man is an Amtrak train, while she is a can-do mom familiar with shuttling kids to hockey practice and worrying how to make ends meet.What is it about folksy phrases that have the folks excited about Palin? If my e-mail is any indication, many of them didn’t waiver in their hopes for Palin — certainly not near as much as some opinionmakers even on the Right. Some of that was genuine excitement about Palin — which became accentuated when the Left and its media reacted to her with hostility and even irrationality. And it’s not just on the Left. Even on the Right, there seems to be a reluctance to be comfortable with the way she talks, the words she uses.
Get used to it.
Analysts have asked if it’s appropriate for a vice-presidential candidate to “shout-out” to her brother’s class (he’s a teacher).Yes, it is. And expect more than me to think it’s odd to even question something so natural and good — for civics, for America. And while she had what some talking heads consider outbursts, Palin was “clear and concise” in her answers — which she hadn’t been in her dearth of interviews. She may not have demonstrated a depth of policy substance on a wide array of national-policy issues in those 90 minutes — as former senator Rick Santorum observed after the debate — but good instincts can take you a long way in that regard. Her “wiring,” as she put it during the Charlie Gibson interview, appears to be solid.
Still, even some Palin lovers told me on Thursday night that they were “relieved.” The “r” word was the most frequently heard both in my e-mail and at a Susan B. Anthony Fund fundraiser at the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center in New York City, a crowd mixed with D.C. and N.Y. metropolitan-area supporters making a Big Apple night of Sarah’s big event.One Connecticut pro-life activist explained that his young daughter had made a “Sarah rocks” sign for their minivan. In recent days, he was starting to feel “not as good” about the sign. No more. “Sarah rocks.”
Or, in the words of Chicago, the band named for the town whose senator has just met his match:
Right before my very eyes
I thought that you were only faking it
And right before my heart was taking it
Baby what a big surprise
Right before my very eyes
Yesterday it seemed to me
my life was nothing more than wasted time
But here today you softly changed my mind
It wasn’t a “big” surprise for everyone, but the chorus is now in unison cheering “Barracuda” with all their heart — if not Heart, anymore. Jack Pitney has it right when he says elsewhere on National Review Online: “The more they sneer, the more they’ll fire up the Republican volunteers.” Just keep putting down shout-outs, and find time to practice saying “Mrs. Vice President.”And yes, she has — like Dick Cheney — read the Constitution. Isn’t that dangerous, Sen. Biden? She’ll see you in the Senate chamber. And, Joe? Call her Mrs. President there. If it gives you futureshock, so be it.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.