When Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was about to give her speech Wednesday night in St. Paul, Turner Classic Movies was about 15 minutes into "The Candidate" starring Robert Redford.
Now, TCM has no idea who John McCain would have picked for a running mate, but the channel did schedule the movie for when the Republican VP candidate would speak. Perhaps the channel's marketing people had ESP.
When Gov. Palin was finished with her speech, she looked all alone on a drab set, the huge video flag flying behind her. Nobody rushed on to meet her right away. No family, no supporters, nothing. The moment looked awkward. Waving, smiling, not knowing what was happening next. I almost wondered if she was asking herself: "What do we do now?" - the now famous line from the movie.
There are two names of Republicans that became more prominent in 2008: Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin. They could be the future of the Republican Party -- someday. But not in 2008.
Jindal was smart enough to see this, and though flattered, made it clear he wasn't interested. Palin should have realized that like a fine wine, drinking it too early is a huge mistake.
It's not easy for politicians to see this. Many in the Democratic primary, and not just Hillary Clinton supporters, wondered early on whether this was Barack Obama's time. But Obama has proven himself, not just in defeating the finest slate of candidates either party has pushed through in years, but in the way he has handled himself under pressure.
When Gov. Palin was asked by John McCain to be his running mate, she would have been better off saying, "Thanks, Sen. McCain, but no thanks."
When Palin compares her experience to Sen. Obama, think about this statistic: Palin has been governor of Alaska slightly longer than Obama has run for president.
Governorships are also like fine wine. You can't really tell too early whether they will be successful. Our own Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, is a prime example. After 20 months, he looked pretty good. Blagojevich is halfway into his second term, and every major leader in his own party, including the lieutenant governor, want to get rid of him.
Gov. Palin was a name that I had talked about for a few months. I thought she had an interesting story, and wondered if at some point, she would be part of the next generation of Republicans. I would argue that she should have spoken at the 2008 Republican National Convention - as a keynote speaker.
The keynote speaker has been a strong place to introduce a rising star. The Democrats use this tool well, with Mark Warner, Barack Obama, and Evan Bayh giving the previous three speeches. Gov. Palin could have given a great speech about herself, and her star would have had potential.
However, all the events since Friday has been under the cover of the McCain campaign, including Palin' speech last night. She was kept from speaking the entire time from Dayton in Friday to St. Paul last night. From Fred Hiatt of The Washington Post:
There was a flutter of attention when McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told a group of Post reporters and editors yesterday that his team was having to rework the vice presidential acceptance speech because the original draft, prepared before Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen, was too "masculine." While we all wondered to ourselves what might make a speech masculine or feminine, no one batted an eye at the underlying revelation: that the campaign was writing the nominee's speech before knowing who the nominee would be.
...Expect to learn something about the McCain campaign's assessment of its political standing with women, or working families, or social conservatives. Whether you're learning what Sarah Palin really thinks or feels is anybody's guess.
But because she accepted the nomination, and read a speech that she had little input into, Palin has been thrown into a whirlwind where she has lost control. Two good examples of this from the speech:
Palin had this line where she makes fun of the columns in Obama's speech, yet she had Mt. Rushmore behind her. Either she loves irony or didn't know what was behind her.
She had another line about how the presidency is "not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery." Does she know where she is right now?
Palin's self-propelled image is toughness. Going back to work 3 days after giving birth to a Down syndrome child. Giving a speech after her water broke, flying countless hours from Texas to Seattle and finally Anchorage, then going off to a clinic and having the baby.
So I thought we would get a tough speech. Instead we had a game of "Playing the Victim." "It's the media fault that they're attacking me." "I'm just a hockey mom who has run the PTA." If you think Gov. Palin is the future of the Republican Party, you were very disappointed by the speech last night.
Palin is similar to Bill McKay in so many ways. She couldn't be herself. In this spirit of toughness, do you think she wanted to sit on the sidelines for the last 5 days? Do you think she wanted her second public statement to be her acceptance speech?
This is how Wikipedia describes the fictional Bill McKay in the movie:
"Lucas saw McKay as an unpolished gem - a candidate who began with things you couldn't buy: good looks, confidence"
Does Sarah Palin fit that description?
Politics is timing. Many candidates don't become president or vice president for one reason or another due to timing.
If Sarah Palin had decided not to run in 2008, she could be forgiven. In 8-10 years, Bristol's alleged pregnancy wouldn't have been an issue, though Piper will be 17 in 2018. The birth of Trig wouldn't have been an issue. Track would have served his country well in Iraq.
But her ethics issues might have thwarted her chances at higher office. Perhaps Troopergate would have finished her. Perhaps her string of lies would receive more exposure.
So Gov. Palin decided to go for it. After watching her speech last night, clearly she wasn't ready. The only question remaining for Gov. Palin is whether she will reappear down the road or be as forgotten as Dan Quayle.
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.