Friday, October 3, 2008


The sound you hear is the grinding teeth

of Sarah Palin's media critics after her debate last night with Joe Biden.

Not that Mr. Biden was trounced by the ingénue governor. A master of Beltwayspeak and talking points, he effectively presented his case for change. But on style he couldn't possibly compete with the effervescent Mrs. Palin and he knew it. He heightened the contrast between his somber self and her Happy Warrior personality by bringing up "my 35 years of service in public office" -- reminding viewers just how much he is part of the Washington that Mrs. Palin railed against last night.

Mrs. Palin clearly enjoyed her second star turn on the national stage. Unlike Mr. Biden, she directly faced the camera and addressed the American people. When telling viewers that she had disagreements with Mr. McCain -- on oil drilling in Alaska, for example -- but would keep working to change his mind, she even allowed herself to wink at her audience. That's the mark of a self-confident pro.

As for her media critics, Mrs. Palin took them on by reminding moderator Gwen Ifill that she would answer the questions the way she wanted to, not the way other people wanted her to. As the debate wrapped up, she thanked its organizers for allowing her to speak directly to the American people without the "filter" of the mainstream media. That was a clever way of deflecting attention from her recent choppy and unfocused interview with CBS's Katie Couric and was a guaranteed crowd pleaser with the conservative base.

Speaking of that base, it's clear Mrs. Palin has a future in the Republican Party -- win or lose this November. Talk show host Michael Reagan said recently: "I watched the Republican National Convention on television and there, before my very eyes, I saw my Dad reborn; only this time he's a she."

Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan. But like him, she showed the ability to confound her critics last night, pick herself up from mistakes and move forward. Like Reagan, too, she's able to lift the spirits of a demoralized Republican base. Political scientist John Pitney noted that she even adapted Reagan's famous 1980 debate line when she said: "Say it ain't so, Joe. There you go again, pointing backwards."

Republicans clearly have something to look forward to as they watch Sarah Palin's future career.

-- John Fund


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