The mainstream media (MSN) in the United States clearly has a high opinion of itself. Again and again they have expressed this view by telling us that they should have been directly involved in vetting Sarah Palin for the vice-presidency. Plainly they are not happy. But nothing, and I mean nothing, in either the history of this process, or the Constitution, requires the media to approve who a candidate chooses to run with them for the vice presidency. The candidate for president gets to make this choice, regardless of what we think. It is then for the voters, not the MSM, to decide if the candidate made a good choice or a bad one. Now the person chosen by Senator John McCain has presented a bit of her life to us, along with her political views. It will be our choice as to which ticket we now will elect on November 4.

The near unanimous opinion, even of McCain’s harshest critics, was that Governor Sarah Palin gave a truly great speech this evening. I watched commentators on NBC, ABC, CNN and Fox. Only Carl Bernstein, which is no great surprise, seemed unimpressed with Governor Palin. Even Democrats on the floor, serving as commentators, seemed stunned that this woman could knock the ball out of the park. They chose to focus on who wrote her speech rather than who delivered it. In its own way this subtly suggests the woman couldn’t have done this on her own. The problem with this argument is obvious. All the candidates use speech writers. But all have to deliver what they want to say and say it as their own words. 

Let me explain something about giving a speech before a huge crowd. I have done it. I have spoken, since I was seventeen years old, in public settings. Crowds I have spoken to have ranged from as few as 10 to 4,000. But in 2001, and again in 2003, I spoke for Promise Keepers conferences in large arenas where there were between 15,000 and 20,000 people. The bright lights, the energy in the crowd, the huge platform, everything but a national television audience was there. And there were live interviews and radio coverage to boot. I have almost never been intimated by crowds but these two events brought some unusual pressures. I wanted to speak clearly, without fear and right to the point. I must tell you that the first such event was very intimidating. It took me a while to get into the message and get over the things going on around me. Because of this experience I have a small understanding of what went on tonight. Sarah Palin was comfortable, confident and focused. Whether you liked the content of her speech or not she was brilliant. Obama was also very good last Thursday but in a different way. Palin was his equal and a week ago we did not know her name. In fact, John McCain will likely not be able to deliver as good a speech as what we heard this evening.

One speech does not make Sarah Palin qualified to lead. But it surely opened eyes and made a compelling case for the fact that this woman is not a lightweight as the MSM has been telling us. I said it last evening. McCain knew what he was doing in making this choice and the fact that the MSM didn’t get to know her or become involved in “vetting” McCain’s choice means nothing to him. My guess is that he is delighted by this fact. This is vintage John McCain. He didn’t get the label “maverick” from just showing up.

There is a deep well of conservative populism in this country. There is also a wide divide between the left and the right. This election just may swing people and themes toward a populist tone in the end. If it does then Obama is not a lock on winning the election. Palin just became the new “wild card” tonight. She was superb. When her family appeared on the stage, after she spoke, you would have to be a calculated ideologue not to have been moved.

I am also moved by Barack Obama being the first African-American major party nominee for the presidency. I have said so for months. But I am moved by Sarah Palin being the first Republican woman to be nominated for the vice-presidency. This election is truly unlike any that we have seen in many years. This woman, who most of us had not paid any attention to until last Friday, got me much more interested about the election than I was before tonight. She was compelling. I now look forward to how she does in her debate with Joe Biden and in her appearances on the interview circuit. I believe that she will look just as good in sixty days as she did tonight. Why? She is gifted, passionate and truly believes what she says. She represents a new generation, and a new politics, just as much as Obama does. Both Palin and Obama break new ground and speak in new ways. Many do not see this but astute observers recognize it for what it is. She brings to John McCain something that he really needed. Calling his choice "raw politics" is like suggesting that the other side is not political at all. Of course she was a political choice. Why not? This is a political race for an election. Now the American people can listen and then vote for who they want to lead them.

This is a great country and this process, though much too long, is still a great spectacle and a wonderful display of freedom. Anyone who doesn’t see this knows very little about political history or the world in our time. A peaceful election process is simply taken for granted in the U.S. I thank God for it and do not take it for granted at all. I am, frankly, awed by it. I was when I saw my first televised convention in 1952 and wore an “I like Ike” button. And I was again in 1960 when I saw John Kennedy become the first Catholic to be elected a U. S. President. I had the same feeling in 1980 when Reagan offered us new hope.

It will be interesting to see how the MSM treats this speech over the next few days. They have regularly reminded us, for eight years, that George W. Bush is not a great speaker who moves people. In his case they are right. Bush is a disappointing speaker. But what will they do now that there is a woman, who is not a radical feminist, who can speak with such grace, ease, power and forcefulness? Sarah Palin intentionally “stuck the political knife” into Obama several times tonight and smiled every time. A female CNN commentator said that a woman can do this much better than a man. I agree. Sarah Palin did it with amazing grace and profound political savvy. Even her critics on policy should admit that she passed her first test with flying colors.

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  1. Jack Isaacson September 4, 2008 at 5:10 am

    It was more like a ‘walk-off” than a grand slam. John, you may have to explain that to the “challenged” baseball readers of this blog.

  2. Adam S September 4, 2008 at 6:54 am

    I have not heard a single reporter say that they should be involved in the vetting. No reporter would say that. What they have been saying is that she has not been vetted. Or that the vetting that was done was incomplete. It is the media’s job, especially for an unknown candidate, to do some actual reporting.
    I do agree that it was a good speech.

  3. jls September 4, 2008 at 8:10 am

    The biographies of John McCain and Sarah Palin–not just their professional resumes, but their actual life stories–are impressive and authentic. These people are far from perfect. But at crucial moments in life, and at great personal cost, they made some right choices. These stories are not just political hype. (Peggy Noonan, whom I usually respect, was dead wrong in her off-the-air remarks yesterday. Narrative is important. It’s also biblical.) The McCain and Palin stories, if they are clearly told, could actually inspire some of our of young people to make right choices. They may be the kind of people who, as leaders, would have a positive spiritual influence on America–not by promoting right-wing ideology and right-wing policies, but by the example of their personal lives, warts and all. That’s why I’m now positive, even excited, about the McCain-Palin ticket.

  4. Helen September 4, 2008 at 8:27 am

    John, I guess you liked Sarah’s speech more than me.
    I posted my comments here, if you’re interested:

  5. Michael W. Kruse September 4, 2008 at 11:35 am

    One on the reporters last night said she hit a home run but it is only the first inning. There is a lot of potential here but as Yogi Berra says, “To say a player has potential means he hasn’t done it yet.” In other words, a wonderful beginning but the game just started.
    I think she is going to be formidable. The more critics demean her the more energized the Republican conservative base will become.

  6. Sean Nemecek September 5, 2008 at 12:46 am

    I agree that both Palin and Obama break new ground. They are both gifted speakers. I still long for a day when politicians aren’t “prepackaged.” I just want to vote for someone that is real. I beilieve Palin made a very small step in that direction. Thanks for your words, John. I really love to read your thoughts. They challenge and inspire (and rarely infuriate).

  7. John H. Armstrong September 5, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Sean makes such an interesting point. He wants someone who is “real.” I believe Obama came across that way for months and this drove him forward powerfully. I saw this two years ago and began to write about it. But having secured his party’s nomination he runs in a way that needs the approval of the far left side of his party. He seems a lot less “real” that he did early in 2008. Maybe he can shake this up and regain what he had. One pollster noted last evening that the percentage of under 35 voters that will actually vote has dropped. It was above 65% a few months ago. Today it is back under 50%, back where it is at almost every election. (Younger voters vote around 49% across their age group. The national average is much higher and older voters are well over 60%. This means Obama must re-energize this base or he cannot win.) Since Obama does need this vote in large numbers this may not portend well for him in November. How does he represent the powerful interests of his party, and unite the Labor Union bosses, National Education Association, NARAL, etc. and then not appear to be like every other Democrat? Clinton, as I have noted, understood this. I am not sure Obama does but he may get it before its too late. Watch for him to work hard on this problem.
    McCain has the same problem but there is one big difference. Say what you will but he has consistently done things that anger his own party and turn off the power brokers. (Right here in Illinois he is not liked by the mainstream Republican leadership. Why? They are corrupt and his message disturbs them, as it should.He has the record of naming names in his own party. As he said last night “I have the scars to show it.”) This came through loud and clear last night. Picking Sarah Palin underscores this and makes him look even more “in touch” with those who are tired of all of the Washington powerful.
    All of this is why I wrote, like others, that ONLY John McCain could win as a Republican this November. I still believe that even if he does not win. This is a Democrat year so Obama shold win but McCain is alive and well, much like his whole career has been. This may be the real “Comeback Kid” except that he is the “Comeback Grandpa.” As a grandpa I like the sound of that. I hope to make a comeback myself.
    The question: “Who is the really true and proven reformer?” will be heard for sixty days now. I would have counted McCain out a few weeks ago but by picking Palin, who did come across as both honest and real, all of this is different now. We may look back and say a VP candidate never meant so much to a ticket, ever. Does anyone doubt that if Obama had picked Hillary he would not be far better off today, maybe even a lock on the election?

  8. John H. Armstrong September 5, 2008 at 9:57 am

    No reporter openly “says” they should vet each candidate themselves but the assumption is so obvious for me that it is very hard to miss it. They are then astounded that they did not know who he would pick and could not question her in advance of her being picked. I think this alone proves my case.

  9. Adam S September 7, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Obviously we have different definitions of vetting. I think that reporters have the right and responsibility to report on the history and views of a candidate. I don’t view that as vetting. Vetting is the background checks by the candidate’s staff to insure that the potential VP is a good match, has views that will fit with the candidate and does not have any sheletons in the closet that the candidate can’t live with. There are overlapping results of what the reporters and the staff do, but the purposes are different.
    For instance I don’t believe research into Obama’s and McCain’s houses is vetting, it is reporting. But if similar background work was done by campaign staff before hand to prepare for a public response, that would be vetting.

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