She's brilliant, and we dismiss her at our peril

Rick Perlstein warns us about Sarah Palin's brilliance ala Nixon; cloth coats (parkas) and the rest. You need to read it, so expand your mind...

Enormously gratifying to see how many bloggers have found my book NIXONLAND illuminating of Sara Palin's speech last night, and of the Republicans' convention narrative generally. It really is textbook: Rudy Giuliani braying how Sara doesn't wear a mink coat, she wears a respectable Republican cloth parka; Sara herself, with a genial fury that frankly recalled for me Ronald Reagan at his most effective, pulling out all the stops for the pity-party strategy I describe in the book thusly:

[you] jab at a bunch of bastards who were piling on, kicking a man when he was down, a regular guy, just because they could do it and he couldn't fight back.... you inspire a strange sort of protective love among voters whose wounds of resentment grow alongside your performance of being wounded. Your enemies appear to die of their own hand, never of your own. Which makes you stronger.

It was, even more—Sara's the Veep pick, after all—Spiro Agnew: a whimpering foreign policy, a mulish obstructionism in domestic policy, and a pusillanimous pussyfooting on the critical issue of law and order.... The troglodylic leftists who dominate Congress...work themselves into a lather over an alleged shortage of nutriments in a child's box of Wheaties." They "cannot get exercised over that same child's constant exposure to a flood of hard-core pornography that could warp his moral outlook for a lifetime."

I watched the speech couch-bound and spellbound, at the home of a tall and taciturn prominent St. Paul radio personality, his gracious wife, and a staffer from a liberal magazine. I found that watching the speech with fellow liberals turned out to be more useful to me than watching it in the hall, for reasons I hope to explain later. I scribbled the most salient lines madly in my Moleskin. Forthwith, an annotation:

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 who said that he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war. But the pollsters and pundits overlooked just one thing when they wrote him off. They overlooked the caliber of the man himself - the determination, resolve, and sheer guts of Senator John McCain. The voters knew better.

And so, in the the lingering afterglow of a staggeringly intense standing ovation, the keynote is struck: the media hates John McCain. That is because the media hates victory. The media, by association, also hates you. John McCain will protect you from them.

Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge.
And children with special needs inspire a special love. To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters.

Richard Nixon always pulled out stories of cute children and animals at crucial moments. Trig, passed from hand to hand between Palins and McCains with the rhythmic regularity of a Bob Fosse routine, is Sarah Palin's Checkers: attack me, and you're really attacking him.

(A visual note: Liberty Bell projected in the background, then the Washington Monument.)

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.

Barack Obama is a lazy welfare cheat. Rudy Giuliani, speaking in front of a background of a Twin Towers-less Lower Manhattan skyline, warned voters not to buy in to the welfare cheat's affirmative action scam: "You've got to make this decision right. Who would you hire? On the one hand, you've got a man who has dedicated his life to the service of his country. He's been tested time and again by crisis. He's 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, and immersed himself in Chicago machine politics.... This is not a personal attack....it's a statement of fact - Barack Obama has never led anything." Sarah kicks in on this theme later: "the author of two memoirs but not a single major law."

But who is the real welfare cheat? Alaska is a state that receives massively more federal dollars than it pays in to the system. And, later: "My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of 'personal discovery.' This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn't just need an organizer"—he's a hippie, too!

We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.

In case you didn't know, there sure are a lot of faggots in San Francisco.

(Visual note: Liberty Bell projected in the background, then the Washington Monument.)

Here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country. Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reasons, and not just to mingle with the right people.

Hey now! Here's how I put it in NIXONLAND: "The 17-year-old blossomed when he realized himself no longer alone in his outsiderdom: the student body was run, socially, by a circle of swells who called themselves the Franklins, and the remainder of the student body, a historian noted, "seemed resigned to its exclusion." So this most unfraternal of youth organized the remnant into a fraternity of his own. Franklins were well-rounded, graceful, moved smoothly, talked slickly. Nixon's new club, the Orthogonians, was for the strivers, those not to the manor born, the commuter students like him. He persuaded his fellows that reveling in one's unpolish was a nobility of its own. Franklins were never photographed save in black-tie. Orthogonians wore shirtsleeves. "Beans, brains, and brawn" was their motto. He told them "Orthogonian"--basically, "at right angles"--meant "upright," "straight shooter."... He beat a Franklin for student body president. Looking back later, acquaintances marveled at the feat; this awkward skinny kid the the yearbook called "a rather quiet chap about campus," dour and brooding, who couldn't even win a girlfriend, who attracted enemies, who seemed, a law school classmate later marveled, "the man least likely to succeed in politics." They hadn't learned what Nixon was learning. Being hated by the right people was no impediment to political success. The unpolished, after all, were everywhere in the majority."

(Visual note: Mount Rushmore. Stony. Severe.)

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. I also drive myself to work. And I thought we could muddle through without the governor's personal chef—although I've got to admit that sometimes my kids sure miss her. I came to office promising to control spending—by request if possible and by veto if necessary.

In the Checkers speech, Nixon talked about his modest two-year-old Oldsmobile.

(Close up of the Liberty Bell.)

Thanks but no thanks on the Bridge to Nowhere.

Well, like Nixon, she lies.

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.

Translated from the original Nixonese: "In San Francisco a few weeks ago, I saw demonstrators carrying signs reading: "Lose in Vietnam, bring the boys home. Well, one of the strengths of our free society is that any American has a right to reach that conclusion and to advocate that point of view. But as President of the United States, I would be untrue to my oath of office if I allowed the policy of this Nation to be dictated by the minority who hold that point of view and who try to impose it on the Nation by mounting demonstrations in the street."

Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?

Interestingly, the transcript includes a question mark. She's not accusing—she's asking! Like when RN called Dean Acheson and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson "traitors to the high principles in which many of the nation’s Democrats believe." Democrats responded. Whatever do you mean?, Nixon said in wounded tones, claiming he’d been misunderstood—he wasn't accusing them of treason against, you know, the nation.

Then, they hand the cocker spaniel baby to the king. Apotheosis; cue curtain.

Look. There may be very little juice le[f]t in the Republican culture war narrative. But there might be just enough to win one more election. What Sarah Palin just did was squeeze the last drops with the rhetorical equivalent of an industrial-strength vise.

She's brilliant, and we dismiss her at our peril.

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