O Me of Little Faith

You don’t read my blog for political commentary — of that I’m pretty certain — but this has been a pretty political week, so I’m gonna cover Sarah Palin for a second.

My opinion of her has whiplashed at least three times over the last six days.

Friday, August 29: Her candidacy is announced. Wow, I think. The governor of Alaska is kinda pretty! Then I learn, along with everyone else, of her hard-nosed reform background, and her five kids (one of whom has special needs), and her views on guns and gays and the environment. It’s a weird, unexpected, but possibly brilliant choice. She’s got energy policy chops. She’s unafraid of big business. She’s as inexperienced as Obama but at least her experience includes a quick stint behind an executive desk. Could it be she’s — to use a way overused phrase — a game-changer? This is gonna be an interesting election.

Then I leave town for the mountains of New Mexico and unplug from the news cycle.

Monday, September 1: I come back home, boot up the computer, and all anyone’s talking about is Bristol Palin, who is 17 and several months pregnant (but engaged!). And there are rumors that Bristol herself might have been the mom of little Trig. A fake pregnancy?!? Good gravy. Now I’m annoyed. The McCain camp tosses a bone to the angry Hilary supporters by bringing a powerful woman onto the ticket — maybe the disaffected feminists will switch sides and vote Republican — but then all anyone is doing is talking about Palin’s family and motherhood and other issues that I’m pretty sure feminists wish we could, for once, set aside for a serious politician. At least, just for a little bit. And then the news media seems to be finding things out about Palin faster than the McCain campaign. The most important executive decision he’s made so far and it appears to have been hasty, improperly vetted, and flat-out dumb. And cynical. And wrong. And it totally deflates McCain’s Obama-is-not-experienced-enough argument, which is pretty much the only legitimate weapon the campaign has been able to use against him.

Suddenly I’m disappointed by McCain. He just shot his own campaign in the foot.

Wednesday, September 3: Palin speaks at the RNC and, boy, does she bring down the house. She grabs the spotlight and doesn’t let go. She gives a killer speech. She’s pretty, but she’s also…mean. Her speech is full of sarcasm and condescension hidden beneath a glossy smile. She says “community organizer” as if the job is equivalent to dealing crack. She attacks Obama relentlessly for being an empty celebrity — all while receiving the biggest applause the convention has seen so far (and for someone no one had heard of a week ago). She makes fun of Michelle Obama. I’m almost surprised she doesn’t tease the Obamas for only having two kids when they could have had five. Despite being so sneering, it’s a powerful, tough debut on a national stage, and suddenly it seems again that McCain has made a good choice. No doubt she’s great at giving speeches, she’s far more charismatic than her party’s nominee, and she can get away with being the attack dog for the ticket. I kinda like her…but am also a little afraid of her. Which, I guess, is exactly what McCain needed.

The upshot? I used to think this was going to be a blowout election, and that McCain had no chance. Two days ago, it was starting to really feel that way. Palin doesn’t change my vote, but she’s gonna make the next two months a whole lot more exciting.

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