Obama Speech No Good, Palin a “Doer,” Gustav a Blessing, Say Rightbloggers


[Our weekly feature on conservative blogs’ recent offenses to reason.]

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at INVESCO Field in Denver was watched by a record-breaking 38.4 million television viewers. Between them and the 80,000 people who were on the scene, the chances of spinning his stirring address as a ho-hum event were never very good. But contradicting reality is what rightbloggers do best, or at least most spectacularly.

At National Review‘s blog The Corner, they started kibbitzing before Obama said a word. They criticized the warmup performance by Sheryl Crow. They angrily parsed the preview transcript: Kathryn J. Lopez found “insulting” and “America-bashing” the now-famous Obama line, “America, we are better than these last eight years.” “In the last eight years we’ve done some incredible things,” Lopez huffed, but declined to elaborate except to say the great things were done by “men and women of our country.” Andy McCarthy looked at the massive crowd at INVESCO Field and asked Jay Nordlinger, “Jay, doesn’t this seem so tiny?” Nordlinger compared the scene to the Beijing Olympics, and said how much he admired Dan Quayle.

During the speech itself they just lobbed insults — “Making people ashamed of themselves and our country,” “This Speech Isn’t All that Great,” “What about those food stamps? Was it once? Was it for a month? For a year?” — with little regard for relevance or coherence.

The Cornerites’ conclusion, you will not be surprised to hear, was that the speech, like everything else in the known universe, was bad for Obama. Their comrades elsewhere agreed. “Maybe the problem is that Obama has given too many good speeches,” said a “disappointed” Megan McArdle of The Atlantic. Her colleague Ross Douthat called it “surprisingly banal and jury-rigged”. “Not bad,” said Instapundit, polishing his nails on his shirt, “but not as good as Bill Clinton’s speech last night.” “He should have looked more often directly at the camera, and less at the audience,” advised public speaking expert David Bernstein of The Volokh Conspiracy. Bernstein also compared Obama to Joe Isuzu. Etc.

Don Surber “fact checked” Obama’s speech, though his notion of fact checking was unconventional (“‘Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it…’ FACT: His vice presidential candidate has a son who is a lobbyist.”)

The rightbloggers were waiting for change they could believe in, and found it in Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, elevated the following day to the GOP Vice Presidential nomination. We earlier noticed a boomlet for the extremely conservative Palin among some rightbloggers bored with John McCain. The ones who were then focused on Palin’s looks remain similarly enamored now.

As to Palin’s threadbare credentials for an office one 72-year-old away from the Presidency, this was no sweat for practiced spinners. Surber, who had earlier declared that Joe Biden’s experience called negative attention to Obama’s inexperience, decided that Palin’s inexperience also called negative attention to Obama’s inexperience. Macsmind asserted that “Palin has a more than 4-1 advantage over Obama on all facets of the ‘experience’ quotient,” but declined to give evidence.

Commentary‘s Jennifer Rubin stepped up: Palin is a “doer,” she proclaimed — she can “hunt, fish, have five kids, run for office, tackle old boys, slash the budget, and so on.” If you were to suggest that, on those terms, a decathlete might have made a more appropriate choice, rightbloggers would tell you that executive experience, of the sort mayors and governors enjoy, is what matters, and Palin’s dwarfs not only Obama’s and Biden’s but also McCain’s. If you pointed out that running a town of 9,000 and (briefly) a state with half the population of the Bronx is hardly comparable to the Presidency, then you would be returned to details of her “do”-y personal history, such “her decision to have a Downs child instead of an abortion,” which Marginal Revolution gushed is “the fact about her life and it will be viewed as such from now through November and perhaps beyond.” If you still withhold support from Palin on ideological grounds, it’s because you condescend to women, just like all feminists.

It would be useless to argue. Peculiar as the Palin choice may be on grounds of suitability for office, it is politically novel, if not unprecendented, and might help McCain peel off women voters from the Democrats.

No wonder rightbloggers were so cheerful that, when Hurricane Gustav threatened the Gulf Coast, some of them were elated, seeing opportunity in the forced absence of the unpopular Bush from the upcoming Republican Convention and a publicity landfall for the GOP (“This could be the best thing that ever happened to the Republicans,” cried UnCorrelated). It may be seen as symbolic that rightbloggers ended their weird week by spotting silver linings in a gathering storm.