Palin's Advocacy: The Turning Point in Health Care Reform Debate

The media rushed to Obama’s defense to debunk Palin’s critique. But when the Senate Finance Committee announced a week later that it was removing end-of-life counseling provisions from the bill it was negotiating, the game was up. The White House was exposed and Palin stood vindicated.

Palin returned to the debate on the day before President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. She skillfully refuted points made by Obama in a New York Times op-ed and made the case for Republican alternatives to the top-down government-run plan that the president espoused. It may be giving Palin too much credit to say that her criticisms influenced the tone of the president’s address. But there is no doubt that she took Obama off his game.

Obama responded with one of the ugliest and most partisan speeches ever delivered by a president of the United States from the rostrum of the House chamber. Gone was the soaring rhetoric, the confidence, and the hope. The spectacle of the most powerful man in the world attacking a private citizen -- calling her a liar -- in that setting was extraordinary. Obama abandoned all pretense of honest debate, making claims about his plan that are not born out in the actual legislation. It was a small speech, delivered by a very thin-skinned man.

Now, even unapologetic liberal Charlie Rangel admits that Obama’s speech may have hurt chances to get his health care reform plan passed.

How many political figures are there in America who could be so thoroughly derided and written off as Sarah Palin, yet still manage to command so much attention and wield so much influence? The number can likely be counted on one hand.

Sarah Palin challenged a popular president in the arena of ideas, armed with little more than the force of her personality and a steadfast belief in her principles, and emerged victorious. Not bad for a cruel political joke.