- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2008

Her prime-time moment arrived, Republican presumptive vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin introduced herself to the nation Wednesday night as a feisty small-town mayor turned governor who was more qualified than Democrat Barack Obama to serve in the White House and more willing to challenge “Washington’s elite.”

Mrs. Palin said she would accept her historic nomination as the first woman on a Republican ticket and wasted no time challenging critics in the media who have picked at her record, her family and her qualifications since John McCain selected her Friday.

“Here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country,” she told the Republican National Convention, drawing loud boos at the mere mention of the press.

She also showed she could punch with the political brawlers, belittling Mr. Obama’s campaign as a “journey of personal discovery” and contrasting her path from PTA mom and city council member to Mr. Obama’s start as a community organizer in Chicago.

“I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities,” she said

During her 40-minute address, Mrs. Palin moved comfortably from storytelling hockey mom to red-meat political attacker. She flashed tenderness when she blew a kiss to a former prisoner of war in the crowd, then drilled into the policy details highlighting the dangers of Russian aggression in an oil-dependent world. Ans when she finished, leaving the crowd roaring on its feet, she comfortably picked up her 5-month-old baby and stood with her family to soak in the moment.

“Don’t you think I’ve made the right choice?” Mr. McCain said in a brief appearance at the end of the night.

Mrs. Palin’s address was the pinnacle of a day in which Mr. McCain warmly embraced Mrs. Palin’s 17-year-old pregnant daughter and her soon-to-be-husband before cameras and the campaign said it would no longer answer questions about her family life.

The campaign also began to go on offense, with surrogates both before and during the convention night activities saying the questions about Mrs. Palin are unfair.

“Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her children and be vice president. How dare they?” said former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who presented a key speech introducing Mrs. Palin. “When do they ever ask a man that question?”

Republican women called press reports about Mrs. Palin an “outrageous smear campaign,” and Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, accused reporters of treating Mrs. Palin badly because they were angry that the McCain campaign had been able to keep her nomination a surprise.

“What I think is the press is really disappointed they couldn’t figure out who it was in advance,” he said.

The campaign also announced a commercial stacking up the credentials of Mrs. Palin against those of Mr. Obama, calling her a reformer and him “the Senate’s ‘most liberal.’”

Democrats said they expected an impressive performance from the governor, but said she won’t do anything to change the policies of President Bush.

“The speech that Governor Palin was well-delivered, but it was written by George Bush’s speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we’ve heard from George Bush for the last eight years,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

Earlier in the day, Obama campaign aide Robert Gibbs told reporters that Mrs. Palin wouldn’t change the election.

“It doesn’t make a ton of difference who that second name is on the bumper sticker,” he said.

Before Mrs. Palin took the stage, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Mr. Giuliani all one-time challengers to Mr. McCain spoke, and the jousting for leadership of the conservative movement was apparent.

Mr. Giuliani accused Mr. Obama of flip-flopping on undocumented wiretapping and on taking public financing for his campaign and blasted the Democrat for repeatedly ducking tough votes in his time in the Illinois Senate “nearly 130 times he was unable to make a decision yes or no. It was too tough. He simply voted ‘present.’”

“”I didn’t know about this vote ‘present’ when I was mayor of New York City. Sarah Palin didn’t have this vote ‘present’ when she was mayor or governor. For president of the United States, it’s not good enough to be present. You have to make a decision,” he said.

The man who earned the nickname “America’s mayor” after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks said Mr. Obama has “never had to lead people in crisis.”

“This is not a personal attack, it’s a statement of fact — Barack Obama has never led anything. Nothing. Nada,” he said.

Speaking earlier, Mr. Romney delivered what amounted to a manifesto of party governance, saying the Republican Party needs to combat “pornography, promiscuity and drugs” and fight for families with a father and a mother. He said liberalism has been in control in Washington for the past three decades.

“It is time to stop the spread of government dependency, to fight it like the poison it is,” he said.

Mr. Huckabee brought his particular brand of populist conservatism to the stage, saying he understands those hoping for change this election in the face of high gas prices and housing problems.

“I’m not a Republican because I grew up rich, but because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life poor, waiting for the government to rescue me,” said the former Southern Baptist pastor, who easily mixed jokes with harsh barbs against Mr. Obama.

“Barack Obama’s excellent adventure to Europe took his campaign for change to hundreds of thousands of people who don’t even vote or pay taxes here,” Mr. Huckabee said. “It’s not what he took there that concerns me. It’s what he brought back lots of ideas from Europe he’d like to see imported here.”

Democrats attacked the surrogates, accusing Mr. Giuliani, for example, of being a poor messenger for reform because of charges of cronyism that popped up during his time as mayor.

Mr. McCain was to be officially nominated by his party in a roll-call vote late Wednesday and will address the convention on Thursday. Mrs. Palin also will be officially nominated Thursday.

But Mrs. Palin’s speech may overshadow even Mr. McCain’s performance, with Republicans saying it was the most important event of the four-day convention a chance, for better or worse, to set the conventional wisdom on her for the rest of the campaign.

Her challenge was to introduce herself to a curious nation while still fulfilling the traditional booster role the No. 2 slot requires.

She took to the role, slamming Mr. Obama and his running mate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. for saying they’re fighting for Americans.

“Let us face the matter squarely. There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you, in places where winning means survival and defeat means death, and that man is John McCain,” said Mrs. Palin, whose 19-year-old son will be deployed to Iraq on Sept. 11.

She had the audience on its feet repeatedly.

“Amazing. Brilliant choice, spot on, everything we expected her to be,” said Chris Daniel, a delegate from Texas who said she “put it right to Biden and Obama.”

While Tuesday night’s session of the convention focused on Mr. McCain’s biography, Wednesday was more substantive, and taxes were at the forefront of the discussion.

Among the speakers, Republicans featured Christy Swanson, who with her husband owns a small business in Virginia filtering vegetable oils and reprocessing the waste to make biodiesel fuel. She was an Obama supporter until she heard Mr. McCain speak three months ago.

She said Mr. Obama’s tax plan, which would raise taxes on upper-income families, and therefore on many small businesses, would hurt.

“Quite frankly, higher taxes scare the biodiesel out of me,” she said.

Republicans also hit on energy, calling for an all-of-the-above energy policy that would include expanded drilling.

“Drill, baby, drill, and drill now,” former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said.

Still, nobody mentioned the tricky issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Mrs. Palin supports but Mr. McCain opposes.

James Armstrong contributed to this article.