Friday, October 3, 2008

I Heart Sarah Palin

There - I've finally come out of the closet. I love and admire Sarah Palin. She had me at "howdy!"

That is quite an admission to make in my world, which is dominated largely by liberal-leaning, academia-loving, Democratic loyalists - in other words, most of my friends and colleagues are, like myself, members of the mainstream media. My admiration for Sarah Palin was first savagely attacked by one of my closest friends less than 24 hours after she was introduced to the world, and I have kept my affections close to the vest ever since. But now that the Palin/Biden debate is out of the way, I'm coming out to one and all.

My closeted burden has been lifted because the pressure is finally off Palin. Now that the debate is over, she is going to take a backseat to her running mate for the rest of the campaign, and this time next month, Barack Obama will be elected President, as he probably should be.

There is no doubt to anyone with a semi-objective eye watching the debate that Joe Biden clearly won on content. In fact, it may have been the best public speaking I've ever seen Biden do. He was crisp with his comments, and I found him to be warm and engaging.

But I was darn proud of Sarah Palin as well. She could have gone "Admiral Stockdale" right from the start, but she hung in there with Biden for an hour and a half and never conceded her ground. She also wisely ignored Gwen Ifil's questions and Joe Biden's challenges when she didn't know the answers or have a comeback, and I was OK with that. She did what she had to do to not completely embarrass herself, and she did it with class, and humor and warmth.

A lot has been asked of Sarah Palin since she was grabbed from obscurity to become John McCain's running mate just five weeks ago, and she has held up as well as anyone in her situation could possibly be expected to. She was a shiny apple who was asked to be an orange on extremely short notice. Was she properly vetted in advance? No. Did she know everything that a candidate for national office needs to know? No. But when Sarah Palin was asked to help her party and her party's Presidential nominee, she stepped up to the plate. And that counts for a ton in my book, considering the knee-jerk savage criticism she has had to endure and the wilting pressure she has faced. She also, by the way, faced knee-jerk public idolatry that did not serve her well in the end, as supporters envisioned Palin as some sort of fantasy Samantha Stevens who could deliver votes with a twitch of her bespectacled nose.

Palin has been painted as "dumb" and "stupid"... an anti-feminist and a fundamentalist Christian whacko. She is none of those things. What she IS is "you and me." She IS an average person - someone who is an expert within her sphere of influence (i.e., running Alaska), with considerably fewer skills in areas that she has not had to deal with. Could YOU, for example, give an intelligent response on which factions are harboring Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Pakistan? Me neither.

The difference between Sarah Palin and the rest of us is that she was pushed into a national spotlight and asked to pretend to be something she is not... and she had to do it knowing that we knew she was playing a role. Put yourself in Sarah Palin's red high heels for a minute and imagine how well you'd have done answering Katie Couric's questions.

About three weeks ago, actor Matt Damon said Sarah Palin is "like a bad Disney movie." Well, you know what? I love Disney movies (big surprise there)... movies like "The Rookie" and "Miracle" and "Remember The Titans", where teams or individuals in unlikely scenarios face long-odd chances of succeeding, but still, in the end use their guts and determination to win. Well, Sarah Palin is not going to win - this time. The economic crisis has taken too much of a toll on the McCain campaign, and Palin's own inevitable struggles with the media have not helped in that regard.

But there's also a very good chance this Disney film is not over. If we've learned nothing else about Sarah Palin, we have learned that she is a highly skilled politician and a very good, if not great, communicator. Her affair with the camera lens rivals those of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and we have not seen the end of her. Say what you will about Palin's premature debut on the national stage - she has put her state on the map in ways that no politician has ever done before, and I think she'll definitely end up in Washington as a member of the U.S. Senate if that's what she wants.

That's when the real education of Sarah Palin will begin. And, by golly, those Democrats better gosh darn watch out then!

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