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In my humble opinion, Governor Palin gave one of the more remarkable political addresses of my life. Some thoughts on the evening:

  • Republicans were reminded tonight what it sounds like when a principled leader fights on their behalf.  After years of half-hearted defenses and ill-conceived agendas, Sarah Palin presented one of the most full-throated statements of American conservatism since Ronald Reagan.  She didn’t hesitate to take on the Democrats who had beaten down President Bush and other Republican “leaders” for the past eight years.  She didn’t couch her party’s low-tax, small-government message — she embraced it, explained it, and dared the Democrats to oppose it.  The Governor expressed pride in her country, not despair; she effused warmth toward her family and its principles, not embarrassment; she stood strong beside her running mate, didn’t strike poses and elide nuance.  THIS is a conservative.  Has any woman been more forthright in her defense of freedom as a candidate for office since Margaret Thatcher?
  • Governor Palin has burst through the Obama bubble.  If the Republicans were looking for someone who can strike back at Barack Obama, they have found her.
  • A friend who is a dedicated Obama supporter started the evening hitting Palin on the personal stuff — that she can’t be an effective mother of an infant with Down syndrome and still be VP; that she had fired too many people as mayor; etc.  By the end of the evening, between congratulations of her skill as a speechmaker, he was talking about her support of earmarks as Mayor of Wasilla.  Has her speech finally moved us past the personal silliness and, at least, to discussions of policy?  I’m hopeful, but not expectant.
  • Another good friend, who is a reasonable independent woman, was turned off by Palin’s willingness to attack Obama.  She considered her “bad mouthing and personal attacks” as unattractive, particularly for “a woman,” saying that “as a woman” she could say that.  She went on to say that, by making such attacks, she had become one of “them,” the “men who had been running the country for years.”  I don’t doubt that for some voters (including some women), Palin’s willingness to draw distinctions with Obama will be a turn-off.  But is it true that, by raising distinctions between the candidates, a woman can forfeit her femininity and become a good ol’ boy?  Especially one who has made her political career going after good ol’ boy politics?  I honestly solicit opinions here, because I am frankly surprised that a woman candidate can be disparaged for doing what other candidates must do to win any election.
  • As we have found out with Senator Obama, we won’t know how Governor Palin will wear until she faces unexpected questions.  Senator McCain, please put your honorable running mate in front of the press, again and again, well before the VP debate.  She will benefit from it, and the media will get it out of their system (somewhat).  Trust me – if the woman I saw tonight shows up for the presser, the upside is tremendous.
  • Governor Palin’s geopolitical discussion of energy was one of the most effortlessly comprehensive I’ve heard.  Her statement, in a few sentences, cast itself across the gas fields of the North Slope to the refugees of Georgia to the nuclear pretenses of Iran to the mother filling her gas tank in Omaha.  Her self-confidence (here and elsewhere) spoke volumes.  Democrats will tread lightly before challenging her on energy in the debate.
  • Thanks to Brit Hume for ending the pundits’ mentioning of the fact that a “speechwriter” gave her these words.  We never heard this for Hillary, or Obama, or Biden, or McCain, or Romney, or Huckabee, or….  As Fred Barnes said on Fox, she’s a natural.  Let her own it.  She earned it.
  • Wow.

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Obama in his speech tonight:

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to be the next Commander in Chief, that’s a debate I’m ready to have.

Oh really, Senator? Because you weren’t ready to have it anytime in the last three months.

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I don’t consider Michelle Obama’s convention speech to be some momentous statement of the campaign’s principles. It was pretty, it was quick, and it tried (although I don’t think it succeeded) to humanize the man who is being framed by McCain as too big for his britches. Nevertheless, it did strike some notes that, for me anyway, explain Barack Obama and his way of seeing the world. Michelle tells us that


“[Barack] talked about “The world as it is” and “The world as it should be.” And he said that all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and settle for the world as it is – even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.[…] And he urged us to believe in ourselves – to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be.”

Now I understand! When Obama is confronted by the “world that it is,” he feels compelled to strive for “the world as it should be.” If Obama is reminded that he lives in a world where he promised to take public campaign funding in the general election, he instead strives for a world where he made no such promise and he’s flush with private cash. “World as it should be,” 1, “World as it is,” 0. (We’re ignoring, of course, that “your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do.”)

When Obama is told that, in this world, the surge has worked, and that he can’t declare defeat in Iraq, he chooses to talk about a different world — one where the surge wasn’t the force behind success in Iraq and where our “win” in Iraq is really just a sign of our loss in Afghanistan.

If Obama wants to run for state senate and win, but the world he lives in has other candidates who might actually beat him, he creates a new world he’d rather live in — one where he uses technicalities and sharp-elbow politics to remove his opponents from the ballot and start his rise to the presidency. (Ignoring, of course, that “you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.”

If Obama reads in the papers that he’s been attending church for the past 20 years under the tutelage of a radical pastor who he called, in print, his spiritual mentor, Obama chooses to write his own story, where he sat through no hateful sermons and Rev. Wright made no outrageous statements. In fact, you can write him entirely out of your own narrative, just as easily as you wrote him in [no mention of church in Michelle’s speech, in case you were wondering].

And doesn’t this simple move, this metaphysical twitch, explain so much about the Obama movement? “All of us driven by a simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do – that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.”

Fantasy over reality. Emotions over facts. It’s a refreshing, exciting way to live, I have to say. As a way to run for president, though, it has its challenges. And it is NOT “why I love this country.”

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