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Live from RNC: How Can McCain Top Last Night?

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times supplied the audience reaction as well as the transcript of the speech:

Here's how I look at the choice Americans face in this election. In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change. (Cheers, applause.)

They are the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms, not just on buttons and banners or on self-designed presidential seals.

AUDIENCE: Ooh! (Applause.)

Another hand grenade, this time exploding under Michelle Obama for her statement that she had never been proud of America until her husband ran for the presidency:

And I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind when he praised Harry Truman. I grew up with those people. They're the ones who do some of the hardest work in America, who grow our food and run our factories and fight our wars. They love their country in good times and bad -- (cheers, applause) -- and they're always proud of America. (Sustained cheers, applause.)

That was Sarah the Barracuda, a traditional role for vice presidential candidates but one many didn't know if she would be able to fill. Wonder no longer:

Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska -- (cheers, applause) -- I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. (Cheers, applause.) I guess -- (interrupted by chants of "Sarah! Sarah!") -- I guess a small-town mayor if sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities. (Cheers, applause.)

Perhaps Palin was no more engaging, no more down to earth than when describing her husband of 20 years:

And Todd is a story all by himself. He's a lifelong commercial fisherman and a production operator in the oil fields of Alaska's North Slope, and a proud member of the Untied Steelworkers Union. (Cheers, applause.) And Todd is a world champion snow machine racer. (Cheers, applause.) Throw in his Yupik Eskimo ancestry, and it all makes for quite a package. And we met in high school, and two decades and five children later, he's still my guy. (Cheers, applause.)

Maybe it is a sexist observation, but I could not imagine any Democratic woman referring to her husband as "my guy."

From Sarah the Barracuda to Sarah the Mom and Wife to Sarah the Avenger:

And though both Senator Obama and Senator Biden have been going on lately about how they're always, quote, "fighting for you," let us face the matter squarely. There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you. (Sustained cheers, applause.) 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. (Cheers, applause.)

Sarah the Compassionate:

You know, from the inside, no family ever seems typical, and that's how it is with us. Our family has the same ups and downs as any other, the same challenges and the same joys, sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge. And children with special needs inspire a very, very special love. To the families of special needs -- (cheers, applause) -- to the families of special needs children all across this country, I have a message for you. For years, you've sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters.

Sarah the Reformer:

I came to office promising major ethics reform to end the culture of self-dealing, and today that ethics reform is the law. While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the Governor's Office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for.

That luxury jet was over the top. (Cheers, applause.) I put it on eBay. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) I love to drive myself to work. And I thought we could muddle through without the governor's personal chef, although I got to admit that sometimes my kids sure miss her. (Laughter.)

And Sarah the Comedienne:

(Laughs.) I love those hockey moms. You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)

The word "lipstick" clipped and delivered with the precise timing of stand-up comic.

The speech was not perfect. The insertion of a passage on foreign policy dangers in Russia and Iran didn't fit the mood or the tenor of the speech. It was a useless exercise in trying to establish at least some foreign policy cred for Palin. It didn't convince anyone and only served to draw attention to the deficit.

And she is going to have to get better at grabbing her audience and not letting go. The partisans in the hall were eager to give her every benefit of their attention and support. But out on the hustings, she is going to have to learn how to pace a speech. She needs to understand that each audience is different and that she will have to recognize their mood in order to engage their full attention. There were times where she did indeed have the convention crowd eating out of her hand, ready to leap to their feet when she drove her point home. It will be harder out in the real world where attention spans and commitment to her and her running mate are not as long or strong.

But this is nitpicking. The speech was very well written and delivered in singular fashion by the candidate. If she has accomplished nothing else with this speech, Sarah Palin has thrown a switch and pumped 50,000 volts into the entire Republican party -- top to bottom, east to west, north to south, and from down home conservative to the Maverick wing of the GOP.

But will some of that fairy dust rub off on John McCain? Tonight's acceptance speech will go a long way toward answering that question.