Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin's RNC speech

Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin delivered her speech in St. Paul tonight at the Republican National Convention, and I have to say I was impressed, with perhaps a couple reservations.

Her family, including the overly-scrutinized 17-year-old daughter Bristol, joined her on the space-age stage as she discussed bringing what she called "real change" to Washington. In a comment leaked to the press pool ahead of time, she dismissed charges of inexperience, saying that being the mayor of a small town was "sort of like being a community organizer... but with actual responsibilities," an obvious barb directed at Sen. Barack Obama's own relatively recent beginnings in politics.

Speaking about her own experience as Alaska's chief executive, she said she had used her veto power to save state taxpayers about a half billion dollars in costly legislation proposed by the state legislature -- but she didn't mention any of the bills specifically, which means now I have to go look them up.

She criticized Obama (and really, the Democratic Party) for allegedly planning on adding billions of dollars in tax burden to the American economy, and talked about Obama's intention of raising the "death tax" (formerly known as the "Estate Tax") and further burdening American taxpayers.

It's worth noting here that Obama's stated position on taxes is to protect tax cuts to the low and middle classes, and reverse only the tax cuts Pres. George Bush instituted for the extremely wealthy -- a rather important distinction. But when have campaign speeches ever stuck entirely to the facts?

Palin made some hay with the notion that a Democratic administration would be for "bigger government" and "irresponsible spending." Again, these are bad things, but Obama's (who she never named) stated position is to eliminate these things, too. And it's also worth noting that it's been under a Republican president and administration that the federal deficit ceiling was increased to $9 trillon (which Obama as an Illionois state senator voted against), the apparently worthless Department of Homeland Security was established, and countless billions in federal dollars were awarded in no-bid contracts (here's looking at you, Kellogg, Brown & Root and Blackwater).

This is not to say her speech was anything less than impressive. Palin spoke with confidence and poise, and I can't not like her. She has a commanding presence and voice, and, unlike Sen. Hillary Clinton, doesn't sound like an alien from Mars Attacks!. It's clear that Palin is a leader and is comfortable in that role. 

On the subject of her running-mate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Palin praised his record of service in the U.S. Navy and his steadfastness during his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. She spoke of him, not surprisingly, as a change-oriented reformer with a maverick streak. It makes me wonder what happened to the bill he authored a few years ago that would have made the Army's Field Manual on the interrogation (read: torture) of war prisoners standard for all U.S. agencies (including the CIA, which proved to be too restrictive for Vice President Dick Cheney's tastes). McCain seems to have backed off on that position in the two years since it fizzled.

Some of Palin's material seemed designed to distance her campaign from the sitting president -- certainly a good move, given Bush's past 20 months of 33 percent or worse job approval rating. But she also made a few pandering moves, such as bringing up the stock-standard Republican paper tiger of the shadowy al Qaeda operatives lurking just beyond our borders and plotting our destruction. She derided Obama for being worried about them "not being read their rights," which drew jeers and applause from the crowd. Call me crazy, but I am and remain a big fan of due process. Oh, and the Constitution.

There's plenty more to say about the speech, but it's late and I have statistics homework to attend to. Sarah Palin is a remarkable candidate and, by all appearances, clearly cut out for an executive role. That her speech departed from or ignored certain truths is to be expected -- since, after all, this is all really just theater.