Sep 4, 2008

Palin's RNC speech: nasty, divisive and a big hit

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The accolades have been pouring in after Palin's speech at the Republican convention. Grudging recognition even on some liberal blogs for McCain's secret weapon - 'barracuda' Sarah.

To what extent Palin's gender and youthful image was a factor that had many cutting her slack is hard to assess. On a superficial level Palin presents well. Cosmetic considerations already place her a few rungs up the ladder ... American-politics-meets-American-Idol ... and image does matter. But anyone who was really paying attention couldn't have missed the juvenile cadence in her delivery. She sounded like a 10th grader giving a rehearsed presentation in the early going.

The timing was off at times, with odd pauses apropos-of-nothing. Attempts to convey emotional conviction flatlined. The overall impression was of a speaker with undoubted charisma and confidence who nonetheless lacks emotional depth. Toward the end it sort of fizzled .... ran out of gas. If the low-key wrap up was a deliberate ploy intended to project gravitas and conviction it didn't translate. Palin doesn't do well with the rhetorical pause ... she needs to talk to score.

The right wing rhetoric she dished for the benefit of the Republican base is what America should be trying to deliver itself from, not embrace. Palin's line of thinking will make America more, rather than less unilateral in its approach. In some respects she out-Bushes Bush.

Obama is calling for healing and reconciliation. Palin seems determined to reignite the culture wars that pit small town America against urban America. Her rhetorical knifework aimed at Obama was delivered without an angry edge but when you read the text there is no mistaking this was a nasty speech.

Palin delivered under pressure. It remains to be seen how far she will stand up under scrutiny over the next couple of months.