Sarah steps out: Republican candidate a pit bull with lipstick
A week ago, few Americans outside Alaska knew anything about Sarah Palin. Now, the 44-year-old first-term governor of the 49th state could become the vice president of the United States, one heartbeat from the presidency.
So, as John McCain's running mate, her job in her speech to the Republican National Convention was to explain to America who she is, to make herself not only a household name but someone the voters know. In that sense, the speech was a cross between a social visit to a living room and a job interview.
Sarah Palin portrayed herself effectively as the exemplar of small-town American virtues, a hockey mom who went from the PTA to high elected office. She also came across as a woman with real executive experience and responsibilities, first in a small town, then in a governor's office. Her performance had the ring of authenticity - the Western twang in her voice, the direct delivery, the unaffected talk about guys and gals. We understand now why people in Alaska say that with Sarah Palin, what you see is what you get.
The speech also was a no-holds-barred political harangue, perhaps a bit surprising for its sharp elbows, that praised John McCain as a military action hero and skewered Barack Obama as a man of lofty words but few deeds.
It included the line, "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick." Clearly, in Palin, McCain has found the political attack dog that every good vice presidential candidate is expected to be. The former sports broadcaster knows how to deliver a line.
The larger question for voters, however, is whether Palin's record stands up to her claims of authenticity. Reporting this week has revealed that this crusader against wasteful spending was a master at winning $27 million in congressional earmarks when she was a small-town mayor and that she stands accused of misusing her authority as governor to try to get her sister's former husband, a state trooper, fired.
Beyond that is an even larger question of whether she has the temperament and knowledge to serve as vice president to a man who, if elected, will be the oldest president in history at his inauguration. While her stands against abortion, comprehensive sex education, stem cell research and gay marriage put her in good stead with social conservatives, her statements to her church that the Iraq war and a natural gas pipeline for Alaska are God's work may give others pause.
Wednesday night was a good introduction, but America still needs to know much more about Sarah Palin.