Sarah Palin's Acceptance Speech
(Image from Wikipedia)
I'm coming late to this topic and have nothing of significance to add, no great insights, just some impressions and observations from watching Sarah Palin give her acceptance speech, which I finally saw on You Tube yesterday.
In my opinion, Ms. Palin gave a competent speech, a bit uncertain at the beginning -- her voice a little tense and nasal at the start as she acknowledged the cheers:
"Thank you."The most-effective line that she delivered was a sly insinuation about Barack Obama:
"The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of 'personal discovery'."This remark was effective because there's a sense in which it resonates with some truth. Obama's two autobiographical books are stories of self-discovery. At least, the first one, Dreams of my Father, is. I haven't read the second, so I'm making an assumption. Anyway, a story of self-discovery is a very American sort of narrative, and I'll bet that Ms. Palin will have a story to tell after this is all over.
The question is . . . is that all there is? To Obama, I mean. Just a voyage of self-discovery? I don't think so. He may have been discovering himself in community organizing, for example, but that work does have responsibilities even if they're not exactly gubernatorial.
A related question that I have about Obama, however, is probably the same that many other voters have: What else did he learn besides something about himself? Where does he stand at this point in his self-discovery? Is he to the left, or in the center? I'll have to listen to Obama's acceptance speech soon and start paying closer attention to the campaigns now that the two main parties have selected their candidates. I also have yet to hear McCain's speech.
But let me get back to Ms. Palin. The most touching moment, for me, was her depiction of the North Vietnamese prison camp for captured American soldiers in which a recently tortured McCain is described as giving a thumbs-up and grin to a fellow POW to let him know that they would get through the horror together.
Palin's earlier allusion to Obama and her later anecdote about McCain achieved precisely what she will need to do consistently if she wants to contribute to an effective Republican campaign, namely, raise doubts about Obama and give assurances about McCain.
Of course, she will also need to prove that she is no Dan Quayle. I remember Dan Quayle well. I've listened to Dan Quayle speak. Ms. Palin is no Dan Quayle. Thank God for that. Her speechwriters want to make sure that she doesn't come across as that sort of 'Quayling' candidate, but they also want to make sure that she doesn't speak like George Bush and pronounce "nuclear" as "nu-kyu-lur," so -- as my mysterious friend JK notes and Malcolm Pollack reports -- they are going to spell it out for her:
Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we're going to lay more pipelines . . . build more new-clear plants . . . create jobs with clean coal . . . and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative sources.And -- in a swipe at Obama -- they spell it out again:
Terrorist states are seeking new-clear weapons without delay . . . he wants to meet them without preconditions.I don't want to make too much of this, for all of us have accents, whether we know it or not. My family back in the Ozarks certainly has a strong one. My sainted maternal grandmother, for example, always pronounced "Batesville" as "Batchville," and I used to pronounce "wash" as "warsh" (and even spelled it that way). Nonstandard accents don't offer proof of either ignorance or stupidity.
But what the quasi-phonetic spelling "new-clear" does reveal is the degree of Republican concern about crafting the right Palin image. She can't appear to be some country bumpkin who doesn't even speak proper English, so the speechwriters will make sure that she makes sure to say things the right way. On that point, she succeeded, for I listened pretty carefully to her speech and didn't hear any "nu-kyu-lur."
The speech, as I noted, was competent. Palin didn't stumble, and she didn't appear overwhelmed to be standing exactly in the center of national attention. But from what I saw of her performance, she doesn't compare to Barack Obama or Bill Clinton in their ability to hold an audience spellbound. Nor does she merit comparison with good speakers like Hillary Clinton or Margaret Thatcher. She still has room for improvement. The cheers that she received were genuine, of course, and enthusiastic, for she said the right things for a Republican vice-presidential candidate to say -- raising doubts about Obama, offering assurances about McCain -- and she didn't blow her chance by giving a poor performance. But it wasn't masterful.
Now comes the hard part. The campaign trail, which will offer plenty of opportunity for proving herself . . . or proving herself inadequate.