September 7, 2008 at 8:01AM
by Jim DiPeso
You had to be there.
Once Sarah Palin stepped to the microphone, the reasons for her extraordinary appeal to Republican faithful and for the impression that she made on John McCain became instantly apparent.
Even veteran commentators jaded by political windbaggery likened her to Ronald Reagan, the gold standard of GOP charisma. Best speech at a GOP convention in years, they said.
Thats not media hyperbole. The hockey moms command of the audience in the St. Paul hockey arena was real, even from up in the rafters where I was seated. Those who dismiss Palin as a former beauty queen chosen for her double-X chromosomes do so at their peril. They'll be wondering what just hit them. Just ask Frank Murkowski and Tony Knowles, the veteran Alaska pols whom Palin flattened.
Quite a promotion for a former small town mayor and governor of a faraway state who could have walked incognito down any street in the lower 48 only one week before.
Yes, yes, say environmentalists, but look at her record of promoting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
, her doubts about the human imprint on climate change
, and her state governments opposition to listing the polar bear as a threatened species
. Her energy policy is all about drilling rigs and pipelines. Their fear is that she will cast a spell on McCain and make him change his mind about climate change and the Arctic refuge.
Legitimate concerns. Theres no doubt that the Palin pick is risky.
But the old warrior who thrust Palin onto the national stage is not the pushover that environmentalists fear. The desert curmudgeon who took the unprecedented step of scolding the party that had just awarded him its presidential nomination knows his mind on the environment, particularly on climate change.
John McCain will set his administrations policy agenda. He has other plans for Sarah Palin, the biggest surprise yet in this too-long campaign.
We have to say that we didnt see it coming. The hearts of many within REP were beating for Joe Lieberman to get the nod as a dramatic break from the partisan rancor that has hardened DCs arteries. Picking Lieberman would have been just the sort of dice-rolling, cage-rattling gambit that McCain is known for.
But the Palin pick is a different sort of cage rattling. In addition to excessive partisanship, DC is afflicted with a cynical smugness that presidents come and go, but the old DC crowd and their old ways of looking out for No. 1 will never change. McCain chose Palin to signal that he plans to turn a fire hose onto the self-dealing power brokers of the nations capital.
In reflecting on McCains surprise choice of running mate, perhaps that is what will be necessary to move a climate bill through the gauntlet of resistance and win enough bipartisan support to have a chance of working.
Well see. In any event, buckle up, because the next two months will be a wild and unpredictable ride.