The Repubs were in fine fettle Wednesday night, showing off their sense of humor in back-to-back speeches packed with biting barbs, alliterative jibes and irony-laden vocal inflections by erstwhile presidential candidate and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (video) and vice presidential nominee AK Gov. Sarah Palin (video). Both speakers – especially Giuliani, who mugged his way through his remarks with wry facial expressions and gesticulation and kept cracking himself up – clearly enjoyed themselves and so did the audience.  

To warm up the crowd for the Main Event, Giuliani kept throwing out chunks of red meat, first with suggestion that voters think of their choice as “hiring someone to do a job, an important job, a job that relates to the safety of yourself and your family”:

Imagine that you have two job applications in your hand … They’re both good and patriotic men with very different life experiences that have led them to this moment of shared history. You’ve got to make this decision, and you’ve got to make it right.

On the one hand, you’ve got a man who’s dedicated his life to the service of the United States. He’s been tested time and again by crisis. He has passed every test. …

On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer. What? He worked – I said – I said, OK, OK, maybe this is the first problem on the resume.

He worked as a community organizer. He immersed himself in Chicago machine politics.

Then he ran for the state legislature and he got elected. And nearly 130 times, he couldn’t make a decision. He couldn’t figure out whether to vote “yes” or “no.” It was too tough. …

For president of the United States, it’s not good enough to be present. You have to make a decision. …

The choice in this election comes down to substance over style. John McCain has been tested; Barack Obama has not. Tough times require strong leadership, and this is no time for on-the-job training.

And then he threw in several jokey jibes:

They would have you believe that this election is about change versus more of the same, but that’s really a false choice, because there’s good change and bad change. Because change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy. …

For four days in Denver, the Democrats were afraid to use the words “Islamic terrorism.”

I imagine they believe it is politically incorrect to say it. I think they believe it will insult someone. Please tell me, who are they insulting if they say “Islamic terrorism”? They are insulting terrorists. …

The Democratic Party had given up on Iraq. And I believe, ladies and gentlemen, when they gave up on Iraq, they had given up on America. The Democratic leader of the Senate said, and I quote, “This war is lost.” Well, well, if America lost, who won, Al Qaida, bin Laden? …

Obama promised to take public financing for his campaign, until he broke his promise. … Obama was against wiretapping before he voted for it. When speaking to a pro-Israeli group, Obama favored an undivided Jerusalem … for one day, until he changed his mind. Well, I’ll tell you, if I were Joe Biden, I’d want to get that V.P. thing in writing.

The set-up for the last section of his speech, where introduced Palin, started with this direct attack on Obama’s foreign policy experience:  

When Russia rolled over Georgia, John McCain immediately established a very strong, informed position that let the world know how he’ll respond as president at exactly the right time. …

Obama’s first instinct was to create a moral equivalency, suggesting that both sides were equally responsible …

[A]fter discussing this with his 300 foreign policy advisers, he changed his position, and he suggested the United Nations Security Council could find a solution. Apparently, none of his 300 foreign policy security advisers told him that Russia has a veto power in the United Nations Security Council. … So he changed his position again, and he put out a statement exactly like the statement of John McCain’s three days earlier.

I have some advice for Senator Obama: Next time, call John McCain.

For her part, Palin did not take the vicious and sexist attacks on her (some journalists demanded to see Trig’s birth certificate, for instance) lying down.

At several points in her speech, Palin took on the media pundits and the Washington establishment:

It was just a year ago when all the experts in Washington counted out our nominee because he refused to hedge his commitment to the security of the country he loves. With their usual certitude, they told us that all was lost, there was no hope for this candidate …

I’ve learned quickly these last few days that, if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But here’s a little newsflash: … I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this great country.

Not content to let the media define her, Palin likened her “ordinariness” to that of “a young farmer and a haberdasher from Missouri” who “followed an unlikely path to the vice presidency,” referring to Harry Truman when she told America who she is:

I’m just one of many moms who will say an extra prayer each night for our sons and daughters going into harm’s way. Our son, Track, is 19. And one week from tomorrow, September 11th, he’ll deploy to Iraq with the Army infantry …

I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town. I was just your average hockey mom and signed up for the PTA. …

And when I ran for city council, I didn’t need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and I knew their families, too.

Palin also refuted assertions that she was “an affirmative action pick” and unqualified to be vice president:

Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska … I was mayor of my hometown. … I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities. …

[W]hen I took on the old politics as usual in Juneau, when I stood up to the special interests, and the lobbyists, and the Big Oil companies, and the good-old boys. Suddenly, I realized that sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power-brokers. That’s why true reform is so hard to achieve. …

I came to office promising major ethics reform to end the culture of self-dealing. And today, that ethics reform is a 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. I put it on eBay. [Note to pundits: The “hick chick” knows what eBay is!] …

Our state budget is under control. We have a surplus. And I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending, nearly $500 million in vetoes. [Note to Obama: You take credit for your campaign manager’s ability to run a campaign that’s burning through $12 million a month. AK’s 2007 operating budget was $6.6 billion.]

And – Joe Biden, beware – Palin neither shied away from assuming the vice presidential nominee’s traditional role as the campaign’s attack dog, nor showing that she has some foreign policy chops, too:

[I]n small towns, we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they’re listening and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening. No, we tend to prefer candidates who don’t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco. …

When a hurricane strikes in the Gulf of Mexico, this country should not be so dependent on imported oil that we’re forced to draw from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. … With Russia wanting to control a vital pipeline in the Caucasus and to divide and intimidate our European allies by using energy as a weapon, we cannot leave ourselves at the mercy of foreign suppliers. To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of the world’s energy supplies, or that terrorists might strike again at the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia …

And now, I’ve noticed a pattern with our opponent, and maybe you have, too. We’ve all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers, and there is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the State Senate.

This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word “victory,” except when he’s talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot when that happens, what exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? … [T]he answer is to make government bigger, and take more of your money, and give you more orders from Washington, and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.

After her speech, some in the media began backpedaling (even if only half-heartedly), though others remained defiant in their double-standard of attacking Palin on the same things for which Obama gets a pass. One Times reporter even decided that being the governor of AK is not an inconsequential credential, after all!

The Washington Post’s media critic Tom Shales gave Palin her due:

If the Republicans win the presidential election in November, it may well be said that they won it last night – the night that John McCain’s brilliantly screwy choice for a running mate changed from laughingstock to national star. …

She proved herself in the great arena; that’s what counts politically. Nobody could watch that speech and still consider her a joke, no matter how flimsy her credentials and qualifications may seem on paper. The joke, it seems, is on those who’d been laughing at her. Last night the laughing ended – and the cheering began.

But Alessandra Stanley, his counterpart at The New York Times couldn’t resist another dig, because the MSM are miffed that the object of their derision shunned interviews during the height of the media feeding frenzy over her qualifications, her special-needs child and her teenage daughter’s pregnancy:

Republican delegates holding up “Palin Power” signs greeted Wednesday’s speech as a Norma Rae moment, but for viewers it came closer to Garbo Speaks.

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska spoke and did it forcefully, confidently and with humor, and that was plenty, because the most damaging part of the last 48 hours was her silence.

No, the most “damaging part” were comments like this, from Newsweek‘s Eleanor Clift on the “McLaughlin Group”:

Clift:  This is not a serious choice. It makes it look like a made for TV movie. If the media reaction is anything, it’s been literally laughter in many places across news …

McLaughlin: Where is that? See that?

Clift:  In very, very many newsrooms.

And op-eds like this, from Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer:

 Palin’s personal story is very compelling, but it reads more like a movie pitch than a resume for national leadership.  

Champion high school athlete, beauty queen. Married to her high school sweetheart. Car-pooling supermom who went from PTA activist to mayor of her tiny (population 9,000) Alaskan town. [Note to Reimer: Substitute “Obama” for “Palin” and try to defend his resume: High school athlete (he scored just two points for his HS basketball team during the game in which they won the state championship); married after law school, where he was the editor of the Harvard Law Review but produced no serious scholarship; community organizer who got elected to the IL state legislator by disqualifying the incumbent and the other candidates so he ran unopposed in the primary (second item).]

And this op-ed from Sally Quinn, who may have flopped as a TV anchorwoman but whose career has been immeasurably helped by her marriage to then WaPo executive editor Ben Bradlee:

Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job? She is the mother of five children, one of them a four-month-old with Down Syndrome. Her first priority has to be her children. When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make? … A mother’s role is different from a father’s. [Note to Quinn: You seem resentful that this conservative woman “has it all” – kids, a hunky stay-at-home husband and a credible shot at an office in the West Wing.]

Sorry, ladies, but more than a few commentators echoed this enthusiastic thumbs-up of Palin and her speech from Time magazine Washington Bureau Chief Mike Duffy: “Only a few times in the last 25 years have we seen what we saw here tonight. It happened in Chicago in 2004 with Barack Obama and it happened here tonight: a star was born.”

In other words, get the smelling salts because if Sarah Palin does not make it to the White House this time around she has launched her own bid for the presidency with this boffo speech.The Boston Globe’s Washington Bureau Chief Peter Canellos summed up the convention program with this pithy observation:  

Each of the former rivals showcased his own style – with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney offering some partisan sarcasm, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee providing a preacherly parable about children having to earn their school desks, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani launching attacks on Obama’s fitness and patriotism. 

None were close to being as effective as Palin, and their presence on the rostrum almost seemed designed to validate McCain’s choice of her over them. 

But Palin still has some hurdles to overcome before she proves to the country that she can be an effective president, if the need arises. Last night, she showed she was a worthy vice-presidential nominee. 

And then there’s this back-handed (rather, back-stabbing) “compliment” from New York Times columnist Gail Collins: “For all her great skills at presentation, many people … believe that Sarah Palin is a terrible choice for running mate. But you have to remember who the other options were.”

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).

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