By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Sarah Palin’s debut

She projected strength but not authority. She made a reasonably good case for herself, but grossly exaggerated her reformist credentials on the “Bridge to Nowhere.” She was charming and well-spoken. Given that no one knows who she is, I suppose she had to go on about her family longer than most politicians would.

Surely Palin had a more difficult task than Joe Biden, who delivered a “B” speech last week. Biden’s been around forever, so no single speech was going to make or break him. Palin, too, turned in a “B” performance, or maybe a “B-plus,” under much more challenging circumstances.

I think Palin established herself as potentially an effective surrogate for John McCain, but she’s got a ways to go before she establishes herself as a credible potential vice president. Is she now going to do the Sunday shows? Hold a press conference? Given the McCain campaign’s blame-the-media strategy, maybe they’ve decided to skip all that.

The speech of the week so far, by the way, was Rudy Giuliani’s.

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  1. Rick

    Best line of her speech:”This man has authored two memoirs, but no major law, not even in the state senate.”It amazes me when I hear the pundits saying she doesn’t have the experience or knowledge to be VPbut say noting of Sen. Obama and his lack of experience I would give her speech a B Rudy had the best speech,He’s always good.

  2. Dot Lane

    I’d be more impressed if I actually had the sense that she’d written any of the speech, which consisted of non-substantive attacks on Obama, the same damn bio we’ve been seeing in the papers for days, and McCain worship. Listening to her trying to stretch her mayoral experience into something of importance was ugly, like having to interview someone for a job when you can spot the lies on their resume. But sure, the intended audience will eat it up like the early bird dinner special, the rest of the world will shrug and say “So John McCain doesn’t have any accomplishments that she could name and the GOP thinks smugness and insults are a way to win an election.”

  3. Gerard

    Wait, wait…. she had speechwriters??? Astonishing! First ever.As for the resume concept, you obviously did not witness Rudy’s speech just before where he handled the resume issue quite well, and not to Obama’s benefit.As for:”maybe they’ve decided to skip all that.”Oh, I don’t think that’s going to happen but it isn’t Palin that should be worred.

  4. Ryan

    watch out guys, there must be wet paint in here and i spotted some kool aide in that jug over there!

  5. Dot Lane

    Gerard:While I know that deliberately misunderstanding simple statements is typical conservative m.o., I said it did not sound like *any* of the speech was written by her. It was devoid of personality and ideas and had all the hallmarks of a rush job written by, wait for it, speechwriters. And that’s fine, if all you want is a candidate who can deliver a speech without sounding too shrill. But we don’t know anymore about Sarah Palin now than we did five days ago and I have a feeling the speechwriters want to keep it that way.I’m still waiting to hear the list of awesome legislative accomplishments John McCain has been responsible for in his senatorial career which has seen him be an apparently legendary Senator while at the same time not being part of the problem in Washington. I go back and forth in trying to decide if conservatives are delusional, in which case they don’t notice the hypocrisy–Palin’s earmarks which show up on McCain’s list of pork spending are a perfect example–or are simply craven opportunists, in which case they simply don’t care.

  6. O-FISH-L

    Dot, you lose credibility when you refuse to admit the truth, despite overwhelming evidence. Also, with Biden in the race, do you really want to examine who’s writing their material? Last week, Joe Biden was so good that I said, as a Republican, he scared the sh*t out of me.Palin, against all odds, and despite every possible effort to destroy her, was even better tonight. Even Dan begrudgingly gives her a B+ over Biden’s B.FWIW, I haven’t donated to a Presidential candidate since Reagan but, fighting back tears, I went on to McCain’s site tonight to donate a modest amount. If the wait to access the site is any indication, I wasn’t alone. Palin was mesmerizing. You don’t have to vote for her, but you must admit it.

  7. Dot Lane

    There is no *truth* as to the success or failure of Palin’s speech, only spin, so there is really nothing to “admit”. I seem to recall you’re the one who also thinks “everyone” knows Obama is a lightweight and that both Biden and Obama sounded like Republicans. So when you use words like “overwhelming”, I’m just a little, well, underwhelmed given your weakness for hyperbole.To this viewer, Palin was a collection of tired attack lines bordering on shrill. She certainly didn’t offer any substantive plans a McCain/Palin administration would offer, except drilling. I believe the only reason people are willing to grade her highly is because expectations were so low. Mesmerizing might be the right word, because the cheap shiny baubles of partisan politics were waved in front of our eyes, and five minutes later conservatives are barking like dogs.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Dot: Don’t be concerned, most of us understand your point. All high-level politicians have speechwriters, but most of them are deeply involved in writing their speeches nevertheless. I’ve read accounts of how GWB edits and rewrites his speeches, and it’s pretty striking given his reputation for not exactly being hands-on.That said, we don’t know how much or whether Palin was involved in writing her speech. She has a reputation for being a decent speaker, so I’d be surprised if she was as disengaged as you think.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: The honesty of my assessment is proven by the fact that you think Biden was much better than I did. Palin’s speech was well-delivered, but it was hardly vice presidential. Lord knows it was better than Romney’s.

  10. tvoh

    Dan,Your post met all my expectations. I could have written it for you.”but she’s got a ways to go before she establishes herself as a credible potential vice president.”She doesn’t have to do that. She only has to be less of a flake than Biden. You’ve heard the phrase someone, “has there work cut out for them.” Well she doesn’t.

  11. Chalicechick

    From the Washington PostSitting around a dining room table, the McCain team has talked to her about Iraq, energy and the economy but has focused on what she should say in her speech, struggling almost as hard as she has to prepare for what will be, along with a debate in October, her main opportunity to shape the way she is viewed by voters. Not anticipating that McCain would choose a woman as his running mate, the speech that was prepared in advance was “very masculine,” according to campaign manager Rick Davis, and “we had to start from scratch.” There’s speechwriting, and then there’s having the speech ready before you know who the candidate will be. CC

  12. Steve

    Rick – what you call “the best line of her speech” might be the biggest lie she told. From Ruth Marcus:”He helped pass a far-reaching ethics and campaign finance bill in the Illinois state Senate and made the issue a priority on arriving in Washington. Much to the displeasure of his colleagues, Obama promoted an outside commission to handle Senate ethics complaints. He co-authored the lobbying reform bill awaiting President Bush’s signature and pushed — again to the dismay of some colleagues — to include a provision requiring lawmakers to report the names of their lobbyist-bundlers. He has co-sponsored bills to overhaul the presidential public financing system and public financing of Senate campaigns.“My suggestion: stay away from the Kool-Aid.

  13. Ryan

    Blogger O-FISH-L said… Dot, you lose credibility when you refuse to admit the truth, despite overwhelming evidence. Also, with Biden in the race, do you really want to examine who’s writing their material? Last week, Joe Biden was so good that I said, as a Republican, he scared the sh*t out of me. Palin, against all odds, and despite every possible effort to destroy her, was even better tonight. Even Dan begrudgingly gives her a B+ over Biden’s B.It might have been a B+ for the base, and you might have loved it… but I think you need to hold off until we get some focus on what the general public, who have been moving away from the fringe right, say on this.Fact is, it was devoid of anything of merit, and was just one big rallying cry. They replaced the three G’s with an updated, big town vs. small town take, and will be trying to reignite the friction that divides and concurs the electorate. Where’s the policy? Where’s the plans? Where’s her views?I heard nothing but platitudes and vitriol.

  14. Esther

    I have to agree with Dan – while she was folksy and charming and all, she struck me as a bit of a lightweight. I mean, it’s all well and good to be Mrs. Average American, just like one of us. But I don’t think I’m qualified to be vice president – or president. Except for some vague ideas about “cleaning up” Washington (obviously from the Eastern elite liberals who have run the place for the past eight years, like the Andover and Yale educated George Bush) or promising “victory in Iraq,” I didn’t get any sense that she’s interested in or thought about or knows much about the pressing national and international issues that we face as a country. Well, except for energy. She just wants to drill, drill, drill. Nothing about conservation. And here I thought Republicans were big on personal responsibility.(And lets face it, once we leave Iraq, the sectarian warfare will resume. We’ll “win” just like we “won” in Vietnam – by getting the heck out of there.)Also, do I really care that her husband is a world-champion snowmobile racer? What does that tell me about her or her values or her family’s values? And I’m not the first to make this point, but being an advocate for special needs children is all well and good, but what those children really need is money for more and better early intervention education programs. But that involves government spending and we’re against that, right?Sorry, nice person and all but she didn’t strike me as someone who could step in and be the leader of the free world.

  15. mamamia

    The way I see it, the Democrats are putting someone with very little (and no executive) experience in the top job, with an experienced backup. The Republicans are putting someone with tons of experience in the top job with someone with at least some experience (especially executive) in the backup spot.

  16. mike_b1

    fish, I spit up in my mouth when I read Palin is “mesmerizing.” New glasses and hearing aids, please!

  17. mike_b1

    mamamia, McCain has no executive experience, zero, none, zilch, nada. In nearly 30 years in the Senate, he (co)authored one significant piece of legislation, and his party hates him for it.And he has no vision, no judgment, no ethics and no credibility. He is consistently on the wrong side of the issues and of the decisions.Why should we vote for him again?

  18. Rick

    From the not so credible Andrew Sullivan “10.40 pm. We’ve just seen a picture of a seven year old cradling and stroking the hair of a Down Syndrome infant. This, apparently, is relevant to deciding who should be the next vice-president of the United States.”This guy is beneath contempt. They show the children of candidates all the time during these speeches they showed Sen Obamas two beautiful kids and there is nothing political about it.Andrew needs to take it down a notch especially since the “Down Syndrome Infant” he speaks of was dragged into the spotlight by him. I’m sorry Dan, I know this is not the subject of your post. I just wanted to make an observation on what is being said out there in internet land. Apparently not liking a candidate and not voting for said candidate is not sufficient anymore. it’s now OK to ridicule ones family, The Atlantic is not helping itself with Andrew on the loose Thanks

  19. Rick

    “McCain has no executive experience”Neither does Sen. Obama or Sen.Biden Gov. Palin has more Executive experience than all three.

  20. blogger

    Alright. For someone to say that McCain has only coauthored one piece of legislation means that he has done one more thing than Obama, so lets not go there.I have heard that Palin is too shady to be a VP. In all honesty lets take a look at Obama’s run for office. Even if people in small towns “gling to their guns and religion” at least we know what we cling to and we don’t waiver in what we believe. Palin is the All-American woman. Someone who every woman across america would want to be. And for some of those that think Palin didn’t have credibility or did not write the speech because of the constant attacks against Obama, maybe just maybe you should learn more about politics. That is basically what politics has come to. rick… I am behind you 100%

  21. zadig

    blogger, Palin wants to ban books in libraries, restrict a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body, teach creationism in schools, attends a church that thinks you can “cure” gays, and she’s married to a man who wants his state to secede from the union (and reportedly she’s friendly with that group as well).I hardly think that “every woman across america would want to be” her, and it’s sad for those that do.

  22. Steve

    blogger: “For someone to say that McCain has only coauthored one piece of legislation means that he has done one more thing than Obama, so lets not go there“Oh, let’s. As I pointed out above, you are wrong (the Federal Funds Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 was co-authored by Senators Obama and Coburn). Don’t believe all those Republican talking points you’ve been fed.

  23. Al Toid

    Personally, I found her much more worrying. She clearly connected with her base, she’s photogenic and vicious in a way that can’t be as easily written off like Gingrich or Delay could have been. This could prove be a problem on the campaign trail.I hope that the Obama campaign can effectively counter her.

  24. mike_b1

    “”McCain has no executive experience”Neither does Sen. Obama or Sen.BidenGov. Palin has more Executive experience than all three.”Which furthers my point. Only Obama has the judgment and vision for the presidency. Palin has none. McCain has none. (Hell, McCain barely graduated college. I couldn’t say whether or where Palin even went. Snowmelters U, maybe?) The GOP has completely and utterly failed the American public and its own principles. Higher taxes? Check. Corporate welfare? Check. Wrecked economy? Check. Higher inflation? Check. International scourge? Check. What’s left?We will never have a simpler choice in our lifetimes.

  25. mike_b1

    al toid, Palin will face the same problem Hillary Clinton did/does: the “B” word. Come on too soft, you’re weak. Come on too strong, you’re a bitch.Women are catty. It took them 18 years to warm to Hillary, and that was the women in her own party. As Peggy Noonan so aptly noted, Palin is a nobody and should have stayed that way.

  26. Al Toid

    I hope you’re right, mike_b1.I guess, I’m just too pessimistic for my own good.

  27. Mark

    I love the line of attack that criticizes Gov. Palin for not writing her own speeches, and for reading off a teleprompter. How many politicians actually write every word of every speech that they give? I would venture to say none of them do.Barack Obama certainly doesn’t write his own speeches. I know this because I heard them in 2006 listening to David Axelrod’s other client, Deval Patrick. (We hold these truths to be self-evident… Just words.)There was hysteria in the media yesterday about how Gov. Palin’s speech had to be good, and when it was good, they said that anybody can give a good speech. Moving the goal posts a little, wouldn’t you say?

  28. Dan Kennedy

    We hold these truths to be self-evident …Uh, Mark — that was Jefferson.

  29. Mark

    I was referring to the Patrick/Obama response to opponents asking for more substance and less rhetoric. They both used Jefferson, Kennedy and King Jr. excerpts and followed it with, “… just words.”It was a pathetic attempt on both their parts to convince people that their rhetoric served a purpose other than covering up their insufficient grasp of the real issues.

  30. mike_b1

    So Mark, what are those real issues? Prayer in school? Ensuring everyone can own an AK-47? Running record deficits? Illegal torture?

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