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Sarah Palin slams Obama at Republican convention

Matthew Schneeberger | September 04, 2008

In her first highly publicised address, Alaska Governor and vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin [Images] cemented her reputation as a hunter.

But rather than Kodiak bears, elk or wolves, Governor Palin got her crosshairs set on one man: US Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama [Images].

With media speculating that the McCain camp has been pushed onto its backfoot following multiple revelations regarding Governor Palin's past, some might have thought the 44-year-old, mother of five would adopt an understated, defensive tone. Not so.

Governor Palin provided a dramatic close to the third day of the Republican National Convention by slamming Barack Obama while simultaneously touting her small-town government and energy issues experience.

Though Governor Palin carries the reputation of a fighter, before Wednesday night, the rest of the world had not yet seen her tenacity live and in action. But her intentions and style were clear, when she early on, in a particularly pointed barb, attacked Senator Obama's past as a community organiser in Chicago.

"Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown," she said. "And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organiser, except that you have actual responsibilities."

In a classic 'when life hands you lemons' routine, Governor Palin chose to address the media frenzy surrounding her family head on. Bristol Palin [Images], the 17-year-old, pregnant and unmarried daughter of the governor, was brought on stage with the rest of the family, including her 18-year-old fianc�e Levi Johnston.

Much has been made of Governor Palin's support for abstinence; only education, rather than safe sex education, with her own daughter's pregnancy underscoring the differences in policy preference. But the Palins have insisted that they are proud of Bristol's decision to go through with the pregnancy, rather than have an abortion, as Governor Palin is extremely pro-life.

In her speech, she also addressed several of her other supposed weak points, each time twisting them into positives.

Discussing the media hype she's been generating, much of it negative, she said:

"I've learned quickly, these past 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 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."

Where others have pointed to her Washington DC inexperience as a weakness, Palin framed it as a net positive, claiming she has a long history as a reformer.

"Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reason and not just to mingle with the right people. Politics isn't just a game of clashing parties and competing interests. The right reason is to challenge the status quo, to serve the common good, and to leave this nation better than we found it� This was the spirit that brought me to the governor's office when 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."

But ultimately, the speech was directed at Obama, for whom she saved the strongest attacks. "It's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs, but not a single major law or 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."

After getting in a dig at Obama's soaring rhetoric and dramatic setting at the Democratic National Convention, she asked, "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? The answer -- the 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.

America needs more energy; our opponent is against producing it. Victory in Iraq is finally in sight, and he wants to forfeit it. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay; he wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda [Images] terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he's worried that someone won't read them their rights."

Because Alaska is one of America's most oil-rich and natural gas rich states, Palin also pushed her qualifications as an expert on energy issues.

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, or that Venezuela might shut off its oil discoveries and its deliveries of that source, Americans, we need to produce more of our own oil and gas. And take it from a girl who knows the North Slope of Alaska: We've got lots of both."

Criticising the Democrats position on off-shore drilling for oil in American waters, Palin said, "Our opponents say again and again that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems, as if we didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling, though, won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we're going to lay more pipelines, and build more nuclear plants, and create jobs with clean coal, and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative sources."

At the conclusion of her speech, Senator McCain joined her on stage and asked, "Don't you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?"

The crowd cheered in response, clearly energised by Palin's forceful tone and no-nonsense approach. On a night in which Senator McCain was formerly nominated by Republicans, the party base seemed more coherent than it has in months.

Palin's speech, of course, was only the nightcap, the evening's final speech. On this, the second full day of the Republican National Convention, three popular conservatives hit the stage and weighed in on the upcoming election: former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

All three were highly critical of Senator Obama, but Giuliani was the most forceful, at one point describing Obama as "the least experienced candidate for president of the United States in at least the last 100 years. He then added that Senator Obama is a "man with an Ivy League education who worked as a community organisation" and who spends "most of his time as a celebrity Senator."

Giuliani further mentioned, "Obama's never had to lead people in crisis. This is not a personal attack; it's a statement of fact. Barack Obama has never led anything. Nothing. Nada. The choice in this election comes down to substance over style. John McCain [Images] has been tested. Barack Obama has not. Tough times require strong leadership, and this is no time for on-the-job training."

Huckabee, a current favourite among far-right, religious conservatives, attempted to portray Obama as weak on national security and as someone who will not put America first. "Maybe the most dangerous threat of an Obama presidency is that he would continue to give madmen the benefit of the doubt," he said. "If he's wrong just once, we will pay a heavy price."

In addition, he used Obama's recent trip to Europe and the Middle East to drum up concerns that Obama has too much a world focus and too little an American one. "Barack Obama's excellent adventure to Europe took his campaign for change to hundreds of thousands of people who don't even vote or pay taxes here. Let me hasten to say it's not what he took there that concerns me. It's what he brought back. Lots of ideas from Europe he'd like to see imported here," he said.

He also repeated the Republican talking point that the media is unfairly questioning Governor Palin's credentials. "I'd like to thank the elite media for doing something that, quite frankly, I wasn't sure it could be done, and that's unifying the Republican Party and all of America in support of Senator McCain and Governor Palin. The reporting of the past few days have proven tackier than a costume change at a Madonna [Images] concert."

Romney, the Republicans' economic guru, claimed that big-government liberals are responsible for the recent uncertainty swirling around the US economy. "We need change all right," he said. "Change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington. We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington: Throw out the big-government liberals and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin. It's the same prescription for a stronger economy. I spent 25 years in the private sector. I've done business in many foreign countries. I know why jobs come and why they go away. And I know that liberals don't have a clue."

Though the night was clearly Palin's, it appears that not all Republicans are sold on her electability. Two prominent Republican commentators, Peggy Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the political strategist Mike Murphy, were overhead on an open MSNBC microphone discussing the choice of Governor Palin. "It's not going to work," said Murphy. "It's over," added Noonan.

Within minutes of the evening's curtain drop, the Obama campaign issued a statement about Governor Palin's address:

"The speech that Governor Palin gave was well delivered, but it was written by George Bush's [Images] speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we've heard from George Bush for the last eight years."

Text: Matthew Schneeberger
Image: US Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin acknowledges the audience after her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention 2008 at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday.
Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

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