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The Gloves Are Officially Off: Palin's Speech Makes Her Fair Game

10/05/2008 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

I spent the weekend watching the feeding frenzy over Sarah Palin from the safety of the boat. I decided to bide my time, stay out of the water, let the frenzy die down, and wait until last night to see what her weapon of choice would be when she finally decided to fend off the sharks.

After last night's speech, I think it's abundantly clear to everyone what that weapon is: a good old-fashioned yarn peppered with some knee-slapping yuks and a few zingers so sharp that they almost left a welt. To those of you out there who have been wringing your hands over poor Palin's fate, rest assured: if she can dish it out, she can sure as hell take it.

So to all you fellow sharks out there: Move out of the way. I'm getting in the water.

What Palin's speech tells us is that the Republican Party's warbling cry of sexism over the past few days was merely a politically expedient stalling tactic. They never believed it for a moment. All they were doing was calling for a figurative time out, a little breather to let "Sarah Barracuda" get used to her new and improved fishbowl.

But tonight's speech has rendered that little trope useless. By lambasting Obama's purpose, experience, motivation, and vision, she has crossed the velvet rope, marched willingly into the political arena, and made every facet of her political life fair game.

Now, I don't take claims of sexism lightly. I am a raging feminist - which, by the way, Carly Fiorina, means promoting justice for women and championing for women to be treated as equals, not trumpeting the bankrupt theory that women have the sensibilities of children and can't defend themselves - and I don't like intrusive probes into the lives of children or questions about the values of working moms, but let's get real. This a campaign. Rude questions and tasteless comments are par for the course, as John McCain himself very well knows. He could have warned her.

Unfortunately, it's just Palin's bad luck that the Republican vetting machine broke down on the job and now she has to suffer in the space of a few days through the same kind of overwhelming media scrutiny of family, values, career, background, and much, much more that Obama, Biden, and, yes, McCain have had the luxury of suffering for months. So, in deference to this political match-up, let's all lock our righteous indignation in the basement for a while and play fair. Heck, as a good faith effort, I'll even take Palin's family, her religion, her stance on abortion, and her ridiculous claim that she is following in the footsteps of Hillary off the table.

What Palin's speech also tells us, however, is that playing fair isn't what this election is about. In the same breath, Palin offered us a compelling but inflated personal story meant to pluck our heartstrings and a vengeful, and frequently false, excoriation of her opponent that provides little tangible evidence as to why she herself is qualified for this esteemed office.

Palin lauded her accomplishments as mayor and governor, including ethics reform and reforming the "abuse of earmarks", but she forgot to acknowledge her missteps, including her original support for the mother of all earmarks, the Bridge to Nowhere, and the pending investigation into her own potentially unethical behavior in what's now known as "Troopergate."

Palin said Obama never "authored a single major law or reform - not even in the State senate," a claim that we have long known to be false.

Palin tells us that she want to "challenge the status quo, to serve the common good, and to leave this nation better than we found it," while representing a party that, in the past eight years, has not delivered on not one of those promises.

Palin mocks Obama's position as a community organizer as one without "actual responsibilities" and says that's not what we need in the White House, but forgets that community organizers are by very definition bi-partisan champions and were driving forces behind the Civil Rights movement and feminism. For those community organizers out there whose valuable contributions to the heart of the democratic process were also discounted by the McCain campaign, the Obama camp thanks you in advance for your vote.

This, of course, is only the beginning. But boy, was her delivery spot on.

Despite Palin's poise and the poisonous rhetoric that stirred her party's base, what the McCain campaign has given us is not a candidate, but a contradiction.

Instead of a defined vision of foreign policy, Palin trots out jingoism. Instead of a discussion of how to help a suffering economy, she gives us well-worn truisms about McCain that are somehow supposed to placate us. Instead of a detailed vision of what change in America means (something Obama explicitly outlined in his history-making speech last week), she champions the war abroad while ignoring the raging battle at home.

I don't know about you, but Palin's rhetorical slap-and-tickle didn't seal the deal for me. Instead, it took a great deal of the shine off of the GOP's newest star. Not only does her speech stand in stark contrast to Biden's pointed but professional one, but it also doesn't hold a candle to Obama's. And why? It has nothing to do with the fact that he's a masterful speaker or that he packed a stadium. It's because Obama's speech, in form and in function, held up a mirror to his voters and said, "Look at you. Look what you can do to improve your lives, improve your country, improve the world," and then it showed the voters exactly how to do it.

Palin's speech, however, simply held up a mirror to herself in an attempt to perfect her own image as a maverick and a firebrand.

That tells me exactly which ticket is really putting "Country First."