Thursday, September 04, 2008

Palin Speaks

I worked last night. Missed Palin's speech completely. But I did read the transcript on The New York Times' website (the excerpts below are all from this transcript). Then I heard the clips on MSNBC this morning.

She read like a smart-aleck and she sounded like one. Or to use a phrase my mom used on me when I was much younger and acted liked a wiseacre, she was sounding cute. (No, that is not cute like a newborn babe). She got the applause lines in, the hooks were in the speech, but I am still glad McCain picked her and not Romney. Probably a better speaker (and attack dog) than Lieberman.

Too many places I wondered if anyone in the hall actually listened to this speech with being embarrassed by reality.

With their usual certitude, they told us that all was lost, there was no hope for this candidate, who said that he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war. But the pollsters...

(APPLAUSE)

The pollsters and the pundits, they overlooked just one thing when they wrote him off. They overlooked the caliber of the man himself, the determination, and resolve, and the sheer guts of Senator John McCain.

(APPLAUSE)

The voters knew better, and maybe that's because they realized there's a time for politics and a time for leadership, a time to campaign and a time to put our country first.

As I recall the Republican primary, it was like this: Romney turned people off by being a Mormon, Guiliani turned to dust by deciding not to campaign until Florida, Ron Paul was ignored when not being chuckled about, and Huckabee kept chugging along in the South and became a hit on Saturday Night Live, Thompson gave an award winning performance as a sleepwalker. Conservatives despaired of seeing the return of the Messiah, make that Ronald Reagan. The press wept more or less over the dwindling funds and mixed messages and staff turn over at McCain's campaign. The only pundits railing against were those far lefties Rush Limbaugh and crew. This is how I remember the Republican primary. Am I hallucinating?

Then came the war in Iraq:

Our nominee for president is a true profile in courage, and people like that are hard to come by. He's a man who wore the uniform of his country for 22 years and refused to break faith with those troops in Iraq who now have brought victory within sight.

Will someone please explain to what victory was/is to be in sight? Bush never told us what the goal was - well, he never stuck to one goal. Clearing out the terrorists? Been done. Create a stable environment for an Iraqi government? Think we have done as much as we can do there.

And does this mean that when the Iraqi government tells us to get out, that McCain/Palin will stay on? Will they say we have not had our victory, we have not had our ticker tape parades, we will stay till we have victory when someone - who know not who - will board the USS Missouri and sign the peace treaty with us.

I skipped over all the bilge about her family. The usual politician stuff that Dems and Republicans all do. I certainly do not care about her daughter and pregnancy. Then I got to this one:

To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message for you: For years, you've sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. And I pledge to you that, if we're elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.

Yep, good thing since there have not been any friends and advocates in the current White House but for the rich and well-connected.

I got to say that this woman does like Democrats. She gives a shout out to Senator Clinton when she is announced and she goes back to us in her speech:

Long ago, a young farmer and a haberdasher from Missouri, he followed an unlikely path -- he followed an unlikely path to the vice presidency. And a writer observed, "We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty and sincerity and dignity," and I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind when he praised Harry Truman.

She speaks of her family, her career in the PTA and as a mayor and then as governor, but she never mentions her career as a journalist. I read she has a degree in journalism, but no mention of her career?

Frankly, she never does tell us what she did as mayor but only uses it to spit out sarcasm:

Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska...

(APPLAUSE)

... I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involved.

(APPLAUSE)

I guess -- I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.

(APPLAUSE)

I might add that, in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they're listening and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening.

Good dig at Obama but anyone can throw stones.

Then back to feeling that hallucinatory illogic:

Well, I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment. And...

(APPLAUSE)

... I've learned quickly these last few days that, if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

PALIN: But -- now, here's a little newsflash. Here's a little newsflash for those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this great country.

Not sure who she is talking about in the media but maybe the people of this great country want - need - to know just how she is qualified for office in Washington. She tears up the crowd talking about her executive experience but does she have a clue about how to get legislation passed in Washington? Just how does her experience in Alaska help her advise McCain? Does she know what a vice president does?

I caught a few minutes of Newt Gingrich on Jon Stewart. He admitted that Palin's executive experience makes her more qualified than McCain. Weird but that is the ultimate end of this line of reasoning.

Did no one wince when she talked about the permanent political establishment? Did no Republican remember that they controlled the House of Representatives from 1994-2006, that they ran the Senate most of this decade and still have enough of a minority to control the Senate, that the President has been a Republican for the last eight, that the United States Supreme Court has only two Democrat appointees?

The Washington Post had this to say about her this morning which just sounds so terrible:

To question her readiness is not to doubt her talent or intelligence; nor is it a reflection of gender bias, snobbery or any of the other sins that have been ascribed to those who worry about Ms. Palin as vice president. Ms. Palin last night noted tartly "that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone." It is a good applause line. But the fact is that Ms. Palin has an astonishingly thin résumé -- mayor of a small town, governor of a sparsely populated state for less than two years -- for someone hoping to ascend to national leadership. The country will need to hear much more from Ms. Palin before being convinced of the soundness of Mr. McCain's judgment.

But she made a good point here:

Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reason and not just to mingle with the right people. Politics isn't just a game of clashing parties and competing interests. The right reason is to challenge the status quo, to serve the common good, and to leave this nation better than we found it.

Is there any better rebuke to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney than that last sentence? Yes, there is. She put it into this sentence:

No one expects us all to agree on everything, but we are expected to govern with integrity, and goodwill, and clear convictions, and a servant's heart.

Then she started talking about her run as Governor of Alaska. I know she was making a speech and was not under oath but I got to say whoa. She got applause over the bridge to nowhere that got Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) in trouble:

PALIN: We suspended the state fuel tax and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress, "Thanks, but no thanks," on that Bridge to Nowhere.

(APPLAUSE)

If our state wanted to build a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves.

But never mentioned she kept the federal money for other uses.

Here are some points made elsewhere about her run as Governor:

From Thomas Friedman in The New York Times, And Then There Was One:

“Back in June, the Republican Party had a round-up,” said Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “One of the unbranded cattle — a wizened old maverick name John McCain — finally got roped. Then they branded him with a big ‘Lazy O’ — George Bush’s brand, where the O stands for oil. No more maverick.

“One of McCain’s last independent policies putting him at odds with Bush was his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” added Pope, “yet he has now picked a running mate who has opposed holding big oil accountable and been dismissive of alternative energy while focusing her work on more oil drilling in a wildlife refuge and off of our coasts. While the northern edge of her state literally falls into the rising Arctic Ocean, Sarah Palin says, ‘The jury is still out on global warming.’ She’s the one hanging the jury — and John McCain is going to let her.”

Indeed, Palin’s much ballyhooed confrontations with the oil industry have all been about who should get more of the windfall profits, not how to end our addiction.

Also fromThe Times, The Unusual Challenges Palin Faced in Alaska:

In places where politics is closer to the ground, an insurgent like Ms. Palin, who challenged a governor from her own party in 2006 and won, has an easier road, Mr. Linky said. Ms. Palin’s storming of the gates was helped by the taint of the Alaskan money culture gone awry, as federal authorities investigated oil-cash corruption in the State Legislature in 2006, an inquiry which has since expanded to include Mr. Stevens and others.

***

But if Ms. Palin’s arrival in power just in time for a new boom was good luck, what she did in pushing her agenda — including a tax increase on the oil industry, building from a process begun by her predecessor — was more about how Alaskan politics is played. In the process, people here say that a steely populist emerged from behind the sweet smile and the hockey-mom-who-loves-to-fish story line. She worked with Democrats, who are in the minority in the Legislature, to trump members of her own party on several crucial bills, and was not above using her personal popularity in the state to suggest that anyone in the Legislature who disagreed with her was perhaps in the pocket of Big Oil.

Her version:

When oil and gas prices went up dramatically and filled up the state treasury, I sent a large share of that revenue back where it belonged: directly to the people of Alaska.

(APPLAUSE)

And despite fierce opposition from oil company lobbyists, who kind of liked things the way that they were, we broke their monopoly on power and resources. As governor, I insisted on competition and basic fairness to end their control of our state and return it to the people.

The thing is that we do not know how well she has succeeded in Alaska beyond getting herself elected. Again, from The Unusual Challenges Palin Faced in Alaska:

A debate is on now as to whether Ms. Palin’s policies will be wise for the state in the long run. Some economists have questioned, for example, whether the three-quarters of a billion dollars or so given to Alaskans this summer in the oil-bounty checks (a bill passed this summer with Democratic support in the Legislature), might have been better used in the state’s rainy-day fund.

And the oil tax overhaul, which linked state payments to net profits from the oil companies, rather than gross revenue, also exposes the state to potentially deep hits when oil prices decline. There are no neighboring states or regional economies to provide an alternative if the local economy dries up, nor is there a state income tax to fall back on.

“The state has always been exposed, but now it’s even more so because the state is now sharing the market risks more with the industry,” said Matthew Berman, a professor of economics at the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. What might happen if commodity prices plunge is untested territory, he said.

“Nobody knows how the Palin administration is going to react to that, because they haven’t faced that problem yet,” Mr. Berman said.

As for the concerns about her success for Alaska's energy economy, I think she has found a solution:

That pipeline, when the last section is laid and its valves are open, will lead America one step farther away from dependence on dangerous foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart.

The stakes for our nation could not be higher. When a hurricane strikes in the Gulf of Mexico, this country should not be so dependent on imported oil that we're forced to draw from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And families cannot throw more and more of their paychecks on gas and heating oil.

We buy from Alaska and she can keep her oil tax overhaul.

She goes directly from her record with Alaska's oil industry right to the Russians:

With Russia wanting to control a vital pipeline in the Caucasus and to divide and intimidate our European allies by using energy as a weapon, we cannot leave ourselves at the mercy of foreign suppliers.

Which then brings me back to this from Friedman's op/ed piece:

Palin’s nomination for vice president and her desire to allow drilling in the Alaskan wilderness “reminded me of a lunch I had three and half years ago with one of the Russian trade attachés,” global trade consultant Edward Goldberg said to me. “After much wine, this gentleman told me that his country was very pleased that the Bush administration wanted to drill in the Alaskan wilderness. In his opinion, the amount of product one could actually derive from there was negligible in terms of needs. However, it signified that the Bush administration was not planning to do anything to create alternative energy, which of course would threaten the economic growth of Russia.”

She speaks of alternate energy but how sincere is she? McCain has been ducking any support for anything but oil.

She goes into the usual Republican screed about Obama and Democrats being soft on terrorism, soft on defense. She does not mention the overreach caused by Bush where we cannot deal with anything militarily other than Iraq.

Finally, she ended with a paean to McCain. For all the bashing of Obama as a messianic figure, the Republicans have dropped any mention of the economy, of any policy in favorof a McCain cult of personality.

If character is the measure in this election, and hope the theme, and change the goal we share, then I ask you to join our cause. Join our cause and help America elect a great man as the next president of the United States.

I keep writng she said but as David McGrath writes in In the Words of My Speechwriter . ., Palin did not write this speech. Give them credit for finding a great mouthpiece and cheerleader.

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