Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin's Speech

Today will hopefully mark the last time I have a post about Palin for awhile. Personally I am kind of tired reading about her as I don't think all the attacks on her have been fair, nor in the end do I think she will actually matter when people go into the voting booth. When push comes to shove, the vast majority of people will vote for the name on the top of the ticket when they pull the lever (punch the chad, push the electronic check mark box, or how ever you vote in your state). 

I have just finished watching Palin's speech and my initial reaction is mixed. Overall, I think she delivered her speech well, there were no real speaking mistakes, and it only seemed one time that she went off script with telling a joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull (the punchline is that hockey moms wear lipstick). I am not sure how those types of jokes play in small towns in America, but I am willing to guess that the McCain campaign advisers will make sure we don't see that again from her. 

The positives of speech were that she attempted to clearly define who she is, how she got to where she is today, and how her story is a lot like Obama's in that she started small and is now in the big time. I think it is hard to question that she hit that part out of the park. She also clearly showed herself to be the champion of family values and not just talking the talk, but walking the walk on social conservative issues by trolling her family in front of the crowd. 

Where I think mistakes were made was in making her the attack dog. Her speech was incredibly negative and loaded with personal attacks on Obama, as opposed to attacks on his ideas/polices. I was keeping rough track during her speech and I counted 14 interruptions when the audience gave supportive boos to her remarks versus 11 cheering interruptions. While the speech was strong in many ways, it was extremely negative and I think incorrectly frames her in negative terms. If the goal of having her on the ticket was that she is like your next door neighbor and can pick off independents, why would you have her give a speech that was very hostile, negative, and derisive? Was a speech like that needed? Absoultely. But I am surprised they had Palin give it at the same time that she is introducing and defining herself to the public. 

I am not saying that Obama and Biden didn't take their shots at McCain. However, their speeches in almost all cases said, I respect McCain, just not his ideas. This type of civility was completely lacking in Palin's speech and for me and was the most disappointing part. Her speech demonstrated that republicans want to win the election by dividing the country, where as the democrats want to win by uniting. I know that this is a vast and unfounded generalization, but the tones of the speeches so far between the two conventions seem to fall that way. 

In the morning, the fact that is going to be most remembered of Palin's speech is that she aggressively attacked Obama personally. Perhaps she felt that she had to show she had a tough side based on the media backlash she has received. Maybe she was right and that this will get the critics off her back. But, I don't think the McCain/Palin ticket can win by running on a platform of "we are not Obama" or "Obama is not good". To win a presidential election you need to define yourself independently of your opponent, not merely attack your opponent and I feel Palin did little of that tonight. 

In the end, I think Palin did fine tonight, but if this marks the tone of how she will campaign, I think she will find little support from independents or disappointed Hillary supporters because she is doing little to reach out to them. Instead of trying to reach across the aisle, tonight was a speech that widened the divide. Palin proved she can be tough, but she did it at the expense of showing she could be a uniter, which I think the republicans are going to need if they are going to win in November. 

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