The little lady from the wild has dispatched rafts of butterflies - the big monarchs - to unsettle the tummies of Democrats. Throwing a handful of dirt at a girl and her mama didn’t work the way everybody thought it would.
Sarah Palin is the match waiting to ignite a convention eager to get on fire for its own American idol, to rage against the Democrats and the pious arrogance of the insufferable media machine, whose campaign of intimidation of the convention has so far failed. The convention is still crazy about Sarah.
Barack Obama, trying to calm his crazies, is reduced to boasting that he does, too, have as much executive experience as Sarah Palin. He’s weary of being told that she’s a governor and he’s only a senator. He reminded everyone that his campaign is bigger than Wasilla, the little Alaskan town (population 8,400) whence sprang the governor and where there’s not a single marble, cardboard or plaster column, Doric or Corinthian.
“My understanding,” he told CNN, “is that Governor Palin’s town … has, I think, 50 [city] employees. We’ve got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. Why, we have about three times that just for the month.”
Wow. How can anyone say a man who has been in the U.S. Senate for three years and a state senator even before that has no executive experience? His Senate staff numbers in the dozens, and he’s made lots of speeches to Lions, Kiwanis and even Rotarians. If you add it all up, he has enough executive experience to run Texarkana, the jewel of the Ark-La-Tex, or even East St. Louis. But what an odd comparison for a man who would be president of the United States to make.
Joe Biden kept his cool at a home for retired geezers in Florida, when someone, imagining himself to be Wolf Blitzer or Keith Olbermann, asked what he “really” thought about a 17-year-old girl who gets pregnant. The audience applauded lustily when he told them common decency renders such questions irrelevant to a civil campaign. “I don’t know the governor,” he said. “Everything I know about her, there’s no reason not to respect her and believe she’s qualified to be the vice president. I’m not going to make that judgment. That’s for the people, for you all to make. She’s a governor, that’s no mean feat, and she seems to have a strong personal story.”
True enough, but true heresy in the clutter and chaos of the makeshift newsrooms and cardboard sets in the media city called St. Paul. Panic reigns. Many of these worthies are hysterical at the thought that a woman who didn’t have judgment enough to abort her baby when she had the opportunity, if only to show solidarity with the spirit of radical feminism, might be elected vice president of the United States. You might expect them to join the clutch of anarchists in the streets outside the arena to smash windows, slash tires and throw empties of Red Bull. A columnist for the Baltimore Sun complains that “the Palin pick is insulting on so many levels.” A “faith columnist” in The Washington Post is losing her religion over “McCain’s cynical choice.” A columnist in the Philadelphia Daily News predicts that if the Republicans win, we must “look for full-fledged race war.” This sounds pretty scary, and pretty insulting to black Americans, as if they won’t be able to contain their disappointment and will set fire to the cities in the way of a Super Bowl celebration. A “full-fledged” race war suggests weapons bigger than Molotov cocktails and AK-47s, maybe even tanks and shoulder-fired missiles with nuclear weapons held in reserve. Once the fledges are fully loosed, you never know. Rusty plowshares lying around in junkyards amongst the dogs of war might be beaten into swords.
The media panic and hysteria will only grow when Sarah Palin steps on stage at the Xcel Energy Center. She will get a reception the Gipper would have envied, as if the delegates hadn’t heard a word of the advice the New York Times has been giving them. The much-derided evangelicals, who understand the difference between sin and sinner, extend the kindness, charity and understanding expected and required of Christians. The pundits, bloggers and other blabbers, with neither charity nor mercy for parents who can’t raise perfect children, only vie to cast the first stone.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times. He is filing a daily column from the Republican National Convention.