In a world where a no-name Alaskan could suddenly become an aging heartbeat from the U.S. presidency, as Don LaFontaine might have intoned it if he hadn't died before I could hire him, the stunning desperation of that very move got glossed over by 99 percent of the U.S. media.
Matt Scully's speech at the Republican National Convention — recited by Sarah Palin last night — received the imprimatur from the New York Times: "Palin Assails Critics and Electrifies Party."
Like an ER team using the paddles to jump-start a dead patient.
As if they were reporting on the emperor's new clothes, Elizabeth Bumiller and Michael Cooper pronounced the Republican ticket healthy:
Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska introduced herself to America before a roaring crowd at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night as “just your average hockey mom” who was as qualified as the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, to be president of the United States.
An hour later Senator John McCain, a scrappy, rebellious former prisoner of war in Vietnam whose campaign was resurrected from near-death a year ago, was nominated by the Republican Party to be the 44th president of the United States after asking the cheering delegates, “Do you think we made the right choice” in picking Ms. Palin as the vice-presidential nominee?
What a shock that the delegates said yes.
Of course, Times reporters didn't have to play into the McCain campaign's hands by describing him that way. Closer to the truth is that McCain is an admiral's son who married an Arizona liquor magnate's daughter, carpetbagged into Congress, and built his career by sucking up to the rich and powerful, including financiopath S&L schnook Charles Keating and newspaper publisher/phony war hero Darrow "Duke" Tully.
They got Palin right, however. She really is a hockey mom — even the father of her accidental grandchild is a high-school kid who plays hockey with his buddies.
Is she really a good choice for the ticket? I don't know. Alaska.
A look-see at how the rest of the press handled the GOP's desperate move to offer a Snow White alternative to the Democrats' Negro candidate:
The Wall Street Journal was more rational, steering clear of the kind of glib labeling used by the likes of the Times and me. The lede by Jerry Seib and Laura Meckler:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin went straight at the critics of her vice-presidential nomination, using an intensely watched national address to portray her experience as governor as sufficient, her time as a small-town mayor as an asset, and the attacks on her record as the work of an elitist media and political establishment.
Speaking to a loudly enthusiastic crowd of delegates at the Republican National Convention, and to a national audience drawn into days of debate about her selection, Gov. Palin used the large stage to introduce both herself and her family. In the process, she also countered a grueling barrage of accusations that she's not ready for the job.
Perhaps influenced by Fashion Week, the big event going on this week in New York City, our hometown Post picked a glamor image and ran with it:
SHE'S A 'PIT BULL WITH LIPSTICK': PALIN WOWS 'EM BY POUNDING DC SNOBS
Michael Vick's pit bulls also had red mouths, but in their case it was blood. Anyway, here's Brendan Scott and Chuck Bennett's lede:
Sarah Palin introduced herself to the nation last night with a part-folksy, part-fiery convention speech, tongue-lashing Barack Obama
and her critics and saying she's been slammed simply for being a Beltway outsider.
Palin, who made history as the first woman to run as vice president on the GOP ticket, proved her chops as presidential nominee John McCain's tough attack dog.
Not the kind of tongue-lashing Larry Craig — the last unknown Republican from the West to make a splash in Minnesota — was prepared to give in that airport bathroom stall, but at least Palin got it done.
(By the way, she didn't "prove her chops." She tried to prove her chops. That's why the WSJ's "countered" is more accurate.)
The Daily News promo'd its coverage nicely with "Hockey mom drops gloves," but its lede slipped and fell:
Sarah Palin boasts she can take it — and boy, can she dish it out.
"Well, I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment," Palin told an adoring convention crowd of more than 20,000 in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.
In her one unscripted moment, she flashed her wit when some fellow "hockey moms" gave her a cheer.
"I love those hockey moms. You know they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick," she chuckled.
This is a theme with Republican pols. Rudy Giuliani in drag was also a pit bull with lipstick.
McClatchy noted that Palin "defined herself as someone irritated with the news media and Washington."
Well, who isn't?
Nice job by Newsday's Craig Gordon:
Capping a five-day rise from near-obscurity to the cusp of history, Sarah Palin accepted the Republican vice-presidential nomination Wednesday night with a wry but blistering attack on Barack Obama -- portraying herself as a no-nonsense PTA mom who will help John McCain take on the "Washington elite."
She also took a swipe at news outlets that have dug into her political record as Alaska governor -- and her family matters -- all week.
But so what. For all the talk about the feistiness of Palin's speech, you have to remember that the words came from former George W. Bush speechwriter Scully, who's been spraying similar vitriol at liberals since he was an Arizona college student harassing professors two decades ago.
A surprisingly humdrum lede by the Washington Post:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin electrified the Republican convention Wednesday night, pitching herself as a champion of government reform, mocking Democratic candidate Barack Obama as an elitist and belittling media criticism of her experience.
(Yes, a black man in America is accused of being "elitist," and it's reported with a straight face.)
But the WashPost deserves kudos for Dan Balz's front-page story yesterday that detailed the GOP's desperation and shoddy vetting of Palin:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was not subjected to a lengthy in-person background interview with the head of Sen. John McCain's vice presidential vetting team until last Wednesday in Arizona, the day before McCain asked her to be his running mate, and she did not disclose the fact that her 17-year-old daughter was pregnant until that meeting, two knowledgeable McCain officials acknowledged Tuesday.
Interesting blog analysis from the BBC's U.S. guy Justin Webb:
I liked the parliamentary-style jabs at Obama and they have peppered the news coverage, though I still think she is skating on thin ice. Rudy Giuliani stirred the crowd with a demand that "they" stop asking her how she can cope with her parental opportunities as well as this new job. Strikes me that it is a perfectly reasonable question - you could argue that tiny babies need mums more than dads - and anyway "they" are mostly on the right, as here.
Webb doesn't point this out, but it's pretty funny that Giuliani has the nerve to talk about what the GOP calls "family values." This is the same mayor who famously shucked his wife and shunted his kids to the sidelines. (See my colleague Wayne Barrett's 2007 piece "Public Displays of Disaffection.")
The Times (U.K.) had the guts to use the most accurate label for Palin:
She was greeted with a thunderous, sustained ovation by a Republican convention clearly smitten by John McCain’s fresh-faced, feisty, female and — above all — right-wing running-mate.
The most clever review of last night's sitcom pilot comes from Der Spiegel. The German outlet's headline and typically (in the foreign press) long subhed:
Resuscitating the Republicans with Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin's presence on the stage at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul was hardly impressive. But her party hasn't seemed so human in a long time. Palin's weaknesses may turn out to be her greatest strength.
Gabor Steingart's story is somewhat snooty, but at least it's original, so you can forgive him the factual boo-boo of confusing Alaska with Arizona. (How's a German copy editor going to catch that mistake unless he or she grew up reading Karl May's novels?) Quoting at length from Steingart:
Was Sarah Palin convincing on Wednesday night in St. Paul? There is a long and a short answer to that question.
The short answer is no.
The 44-year-old governor of Arizona recited in her thin voice a laundry list of accusations levelled at the Democratic candidate for president Barack Obama. One could describe her speech -- generously -- as brash. But it could just as easily be called hubristic.
The longer answer, though, is yes. Palin did a great service for the Republicans.
Her weakness, as it turns out, is her greatest strength. The party of George W. Bush, responsible for one unnecessary war (Iraq) and one necessary but unsuccessful war (Afghanistan), hasn't looked so human for a long time. Plainness, as it turns out, can be inviting -- and flaws can be beneficial.
Palin's manifest vulnerability goes a long way toward protecting the Republicans from the accusation that the party wants to seamlessly continue the tenure of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. She came out of nowhere, breezy, bold and inexperienced. She is not belligerent or devious enough to be seen as a hawk. Her conservatism may seem antiquated, but it is certainly not aggressive and arrogant.
We'll see about that, but congratulations to Steingart for working in a mention of Cheney, who has been our de facto president for the past eight years.
More to the current point, it probably takes a furriner like Steingart to observe our moralistic brand of politics at a safe remove:
Morally, Sarah Palin tends toward rigidity. She is a devout supporter of abstinence-only programs instead of sex education in schools, a position that her own 17-year-old daughter shows as being impracticable.
Indeed, at first blush, it seemed a profound embarrassment to both Palin and her party that, in the same week as the Republican National Convention, McCain's newly-crowned vice-presidential candidate had to admit to her own daughter's unplanned teen pregnancy. The Republicans wanted to talk about the myriad threats facing the world -- and suddenly they ended up in the bedroom of Palin's daughter.
But. This particular embarrassment is one that could turn out to be profoundly useful. Indeed, mixed in with the schadenfreude coming from the American left is a certain amount of respect for a family that has treated a potential disaster as little more than real life.
Steingart can get away with using "schadenfreude" in a daily news story. He is German, after all. And the Palin melodrama does have its enjoyable moments.