Sarah Palin delivered a great speech tonight -- for her party, for John McCain, for herself, for what she set out to accomplish. This was America's first real glimpse at the Alaska governor, and what we saw was a boffo politician who speaks in a plaintive prairie voice that channels America's Heartland like a chilling breeze rippling a field of wheat, who knows how to tell a joke, how to bring down the house and bring a tear to a few eyes. She is proud of her family, as she should be, and there is much to admire in her own "personal journey of discovery" (don't we all have these, by the way?) including her efforts to raise her son Trig. It is indeed nice to think that there would be an advocate for such children inside the corridors of the White House, although I'd surely like to hear what -- if anything -- she's done for special needs kids as governor of Alaska.
But...it was a great speech -- written for someone else, a male in fact, days before the Palin selection was even a gleam in John McCain's eye, but a great speech nonetheless. The pundits are fawning over it as I write this -- Tom Brokaw said she could not have been "more winning and more engaging" -- and in a world that is dominated by horse race journalism I can understand why, because I agree that Palin's one-of-a-kind story has given her long shot running mate a decent chance now of pulling this one out at the finish line.
It's a good metaphor, a horse race, because in the end it finishes right near where it started -- just as it will be for America if John McCain and Sarah Palin are sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009. Yes, it was a great speech politically, and a great night for her family, but an empty speech for America -- and for America's families. It was defined by its lowest moment, Palin's shameless lie about "the Bridge to Nowhere."
This was a Speech to Nowhere.
It was a Speech to Nowhere when Palin said that "I told the Congress 'Thanks but no thanks' on that Bridge to Nowhere, because that was a lie, and the worst kind of lie in American politics, a blatant falsehood that showed utter contempt for the American people that Palin pledged to serve, assuming we are too stupid to look up or know that truth, that she pushed for those funds in Congress and while she got great political mileage out of announcing that she was killing the project, she still has not returned the funds to American people.
It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin also boasted seconds before that other lie of fighting against wasteful earmarks in Congress, even though she pushed for and accepted $27 million of such grants when she was mayor of Wasilla.
It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin said that "we've got lots" of oil and gas this country, and while one supposes that all depends upon what you definition of the words "lots" is, the production of oil in the United States has been irrevocably on the decline since 1970, and with her words she showed this nation that she and John McCain will perpetrate the dangerous myths that began with Ronald Reagan at his acceptance speech in 1980, that sunny optimism is the solution to all our energy woes, and not a posture that put energy research on a war footing, or requires moral leadership on conservation, mass transit, or any other common sense answers whatsoever.
It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin boasted that "I stood up to the special interests, and the lobbyists, and the Big Oil companies," and the audience cheered -- after eight brutal years of the same crowd's cheering for two oilmen in the White House who fiddled while $4-a-gallon gas burned and while American men and women died in a needless war fought on top of an oilfield, and while lobbyist friends like Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed got rich at the same time.
It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin had the nerve to talk at length about John McCain's "torturous interrogations" in the very same speech when she all but condoned the continuation of similar, abhorrent practices that have been directed for eight years by our own U.S. leaders, when she stated that Democrats are "worried that someone won't read them [terrorism suspects] their rights."
It was a Speech to Nowhere because Palin belittled "community organizers" -- thousands of Americans who work long hours for little pay in some of the toughest neighborhoods, trying to assist the American Dream that even the poorest among us can pull themselves out of the muck with a helping hand. Palin and other GOP speakers have turned a noble job into a dirty word tonight -- shame on you! Listen to what CNN's Roland Martin said after Palin's speech was over.
It was a Speech to Nowhere because it made no mention of the men that Sarah Palin and John McCain are running to replace -- their names are Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, in case you've forgotten this week -- and no acknowledgment that as many 80 percent of Americans believe this country is on the wrong track, or that you can't solve a nation's problems when you deny they exist.
It was a Speech to Nowhere because...well, I urge everyone to read the text, without Palin's sharp delivery or her adoring fans in the crowd and in the press box, and tell me where there is any kind of policy at all -- except for the short boilerplate passage on energy -- or any mention of the issues that concern everyday Americans, including the No. 1 issue of the economy. Show me the part where this "grand slam" of speech touches on how citizens can afford health care or sending their kids to college.
But more than anything else, it was a Speech to Nowhere because for all the acclaim, the great bulk of it was devoted to one thing, and that is the one thing that millions of Americans are talking about in 2008 when we talk about "change" -- to the ugliest kind of "pit bull" politics, to use Palin's words, that tear down the other side with cheap ad hominem attacks, surrounded by a cloud of half-truths (uh, those "Greek columns"...did you actually even watch Obama's speech? Because there weren't any) and ridiculous innuendo about "parting the waters" which means nothing but fires up a big hockey rink full of Dittoheads. These kind of vicious attacks -- without having the grace to acknowledge that, despite some real differences on issues with Obama, that he has already accomplished something impressive that says something positive about America and the progress we've made -- were utterly lacking in class. And this is what Tom Brokaw considers "winning" -- have we really sunk that low as a nation?. The people of America want and deserve a real debate, now trash talk from the basketball point guard who was once called "Sarah Barracuda."
I hope America wakes up tomorrow and realizes that Sarah Palin's words were rousing -- and completely empty, that they offered no road map (let alone bridge) for America other than more of the bogus partisan name-calling that has gotten us into the mess that we're in now.
Actually, let me rephrase that.
I hope America wakes up tomorrow.