Mike Huckabee’s was the best speech of the night, Mitt Romney’s the worst. Rudy Guiliani’s was feisty and funny and he gave the toughest speech of either party’s convention, but it was strange to see a former mayor of New York use the adjective "cosmopolitan" in a derogatory way. But the night belonged to Sarah Palin who showed herself to be the future of the GOP whether or not she is the next vice-president of the United States.
What was new about the speech was also at the beginning of the speech. Palin put her experience as a Mom front and center as she discussed her soldier son who is about to deploy to Iraq and spoke movingly of the special love she has discovered as the mother of a special needs’ child. Motherhood was at the heart of the best joke of the night, which Palin appeared to ad-lib when she saw a sea of "Hockey Moms" signs in the convention hall: "What is the difference between a hockey Mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
Who knew the pitbulls in Alaska use lipstick! What was not new about the speech was the rest of it. Palin delivered a hard-hitting attack on Obama, especially on the elitist charge, that he says one thing in Scranton and something different in San Francisco. Of course, John McCain said one thing in 2000, when he spoke against the influence of the religious right, and 2001, when he opposed the Bush tax cuts, and in 2006 when he supported humane immigration reform, and something different in this year’s primaries, caving on all three instances of his "maverick" resume. But, no matter. The GOP has decided that cultural populism is the strongest card they have to play and Palin played it effectively.
She kept up the attack on the media, saying that all the questions about her past were somehow a result of her not being a member of the elite.
She attacked the personality cult around Obama, with a sarcastic flourish about the styrofoam Greek columns used as a backdrop to his acceptance speech in Denver.
She belittled Obama’s experience as a community organizer.
"The Right has found its Obama" MSNBC’s Chuck Todd declared.
What Palin did not do is tell the rest of us about what motivates her or where she stands on any of the important issues of the day. She is a fan of John McCain, that she made clear and it is ironic that while she and others have poked fun at Obama’s personality cult, it is the GOP convention that has been dripping in biography. And, it remains to be seen if the best way to introduce yourself to the nation is with a speech that was mostly a sarcastic attack on your opponent and next to nothing about your public policy views. We know where the pitbull is, but where is the beef?
Michael Sean Winters