Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Friday that Sarah Palin represents a “threat” to modern feminism and to Democrat Barack Obama’s quest for the presidency, and that is why the “elite media” is trying to tear her down.
“Governor Palin violates every norm they have: she is tough, she is smart, she is articulate, she is happy, she has five kids, she has a very hardworking husband who is a union member, she is an NRA life member, she actually goes to church and prays. The list just gets worse,” he said.
Speaking to about 1,500 Christian conservatives at a Value Votes Summit hosted by the Family Research Council, Mr. Gingrich said that “if the person I just described can survive as a national figure, she has shattered the ability of left wing feminists to define legitimate behavior by women.”
Members of the crowd inside the Hilton Washington stood and roared.
Mr. Gingrich also said that Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, committed “the biggest political mistake of his career” by choosing not to pick Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate, and that Mrs. Palin’s selection by Republican nominee Sen. John McCain had stolen the Democrat’s thunder.
“Had he shown that he was strong enough to have both Bill [Clinton] and Hillary with him without being intimidated … he would have had a ticket that would have been hard for us to beat. But he didn’t. He flinched,” Mr. Gingrich said.
And Mr. Gingrich then turned to the topic of the press, seizing on Mrs. Palin’s interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson on Thursday as the latest example of liberal bias.
Mr. Gingrich said that one of Mr. Gibson’s questions to the Alaska governor — about past comments on the Iraq war — was “stunningly distorted” and out of context.
“There’s a point where [ABC newsman] Charlie Gibson asks Gov. Palin about whether or not you believe our soldiers are on a task from God. And he quoted one fourth of something she had said at her church,” Mr. Gingrich said.
In the interview, Mrs. Palin made clear she was referencing President Lincoln, who said “let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time. But let us pray we are on God’s side.”
The crowd booed, and one or two people hissed.
Mrs. Palin had been scheduled to attend the summit after participating in a deployment ceremony Thursday for her eldest son, Pfc. Track Palin, who is being deployed to Iraq with 4,000 soldiers of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division. The 19-year-old will provide security for his brigade’s top officers, an assignment that is expected to take the unit to Diyala, one of Iraq’s most violent provinces.
The Christian Broadcasting Network reported that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told the McCain campaign that its offer of a video message from Mrs. Palin was “not enough.”
Mr. McCain also chose not to attend, despite his presence in Washington and the absence of any public schedule.
“Clearly, we would have liked to have had [Mr. McCain] here,” Mr. Perkins said at a news conference. But he said that “this is far from being a discouraged crowd.”
“It’s hard for us to be in any way discouraged when you look at where we stand today,” he said, pointing to the Republican Party platform adopted at its convention in St. Paul, Minn., and then mentioning Mrs. Palin.
“We also have a running mate for this presidential running mate, John McCain, that embodies most of the issues we care about,” he said. “What people see is that while it may not have been a vigorous conversation, John McCain and his campaign were listening … to the concerns of the pro-family community.”
Some conservative religious leaders, however, were unhappy with Mr. McCain’s nonattendance.
Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Lanham, Md., said he thought Mr. McCain’s decision to skip the event, which he skipped two years ago and then reluctantly attended last year, was ill-advised.
“These are your Navy SEALS, your Marines,” he said of the grassroots conservatives in attendance. “To not come is an attitude of, ‘I’ve got this wrapped up.’ Well I don’t think they do have it wrapped up.”
Summit attendees said they were not perturbed by the absence of Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin.
“I don’t see any issue with that,” said Daniel McConchie, vice president of Americans United for Life Action. “We recognize there’s a lot of work for them to do.”