Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was scheduled to begin speaking to the faithful gathered at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds at 9 a.m. today, but just prior to that time, KHOW yakker Dan Caplis announced that President George W. Bush would be addressing the nation at the same time, and she wanted to wait for him to finish before taking the podium. Twenty minutes later, former Colorado governor Bill Owens strode to the stage along with Palin and her husband, Todd. And the crowd went apeshit.
Owens focused on the Western credentials of Palin and her running mate, John McCain. "You learn about the West by living here, which is why I'm so proud of Arizona's John McCain and Alaska's Sarah Palin," he declared. He also attempted to burnish Palin's foreign-policy credentials by noting that she's the head of Alaska's National Guard and the mother of a soldier -- news the audience greeted with an ecstatic whoop! When Owens added that the two politicos wanted to finish the mission in Iraq with "honor and victory," the reliable "USA!" chant broke out again.
With that, Palin stepped into the spotlight, immediately commenting about the "spectacular" gathering and "beautiful Golden, Colorado." Then she shifted into folksy gear, talking about how our nation "needs some shakin' up and some fixin'," as if she were reading from an old Beverly Hillbillies script. And yet she didn't come across as phony. Her authenticity is her best weapon, and she wielded it with skill.
Before she could continue on this note, however, she spoke about the troubled financial markets, praising the Federal Reserve for refusing to bail out Lehman Brothers, the latest major institution to falter amid the seemingly bottomless mortgage crisis. But that was pretty much the last dollop of praise bureaucrats got. "Washington's been asleep at the switch," she maintained, announcing that she and McCain would put an end to "the mismanagement and abuse in Washington and Wall Street." Moreover, they'd "stop multimillion dollar payouts and golden parachutes for CEOs that break the public trust." Such efforts would be "one of the highest priorities of our administration."
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Afterward, things got even more predictable. Palin tried to connect with the Colorado crowd by name-checking athletes with Alaska roots who played here, including Avalanche enforcer/goon Scott Parker and ESPN commentator and onetime Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth. Then she introduced her husband as "Alaska's first dude" and boasted that he was a four-time winner of the Iron Dog race, prompting several Arsenio Hall-era woofs of acknowledgement. That was followed by some of her greatest hits, which worked so well in her Republican National Convention acceptance speech. The one about how some candidates use change to promote their careers while other candidates use their careers to promote change? You betcha! The boast about how only one person running for president really fought for his country? Score! Palin even trotted out the old bridge-to-nowhere line, which has been thoroughly discredited in nearly every media outlet in the U.S. and beyond. At this point, she apparently feels that skipping the reference would be a way of acknowledging that her opponents are right when they accuse her of hypocrisy -- and she sure as hell doesn't want to do that.
Palin spent a good amount of her remarks praising John McCain, but the mob seemed less excited about hearing his POW story again than it was in listening to her own tales, including the birth of her special-needs child a few months back. These people may not know loads about Palin -- few people do outside of Alaska. But that's actually an advantage under these circumstances. After the longest presidential campaign in U.S. history, many of us are thoroughly tired of Barack Obama and John McCain. But Palin is new. Palin is fresh. Palin is different. And for the true believers, that's good enough.
Twenty-five minutes after she stepped onto the Fairgrounds platform, Palin led one more "USA!" chant and said farewell. But she won't be gone for long. John McCain had a chance to win Colorado even before picking Palin as his vice-presidential hopeful. Now his odds are even better, and it's all because of people like those who took time out of their busy lives to listen to a star every bit as appealing as Obama (who Republicans continue to attack for his alleged celebrity status). Clearly, McCain's presence at the event was unnecessary. Palin can hold the stage all by herself. -- Michael Roberts