Unlike what I suspect is true of many of the denigrators of Governor Palin’s speech at CPAC, I was actually there. Not very close, because it was packed, but there.
In terms of both style and substance, it was a tape measure home run.
It started with a very nice introduction by a young woman from the NRA emphasizing Palin as an example to young conservatives, especially women. (I will post a transcript when I find it.) Then, just as the crowd began to roar in anticipation of Palin, out walked, instead, Ted Cruz. He delivered a short introduction reminding the audience of Palin’s importance in recent elections, including a comment that without Palin, Texas would not have Ted Cruz as a senator. Then Palin did come out, to an even greater roar than the first abbreviated one.
She has become an excellent speaker. You can tell from the leftist media that the current equivalent of Journolist has sent out the talking point for the day — “she’s just an entertainer.” The line was repeated too often in the early commentary for it to be an accident. Well, she is an entertainer, just as Reagan was an actor, Franklin Roosevelt was a radio personality, and Winston Churchill was a writer. She entertains her audience with humor and wit, using them as tools to get across serious messages.
Beneath the fun, and it was a fun time, this was a serious speech. Some important points:
- She spoke as an American and not as a Republican. Conservatives are out to “rebuild a country,” not “rebrand a [political] party.” The unsaid part of this thought was pretty clear: if the Republican establishment wants to help, fine, but if it does not then she will go her own way.
- Candidates should come up from the grass roots, not be dictated by the top of the party.
- There was no give in her determination to fight against Crony Capitalism, Beltway Banditry, and the other diseases of the imperial capital.
- Ordinary people in fly-over country are hurting and Washington is ignoring them. Conservatives must speak to the concerns of the middle class.
- She repeatedly addressed young conservatives, the future of the movement. And they cheered back.
- She was silent about the social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage. She emphasized inclusiveness, but kept that part of the speech abstract.
- There was no give on the Second Amendment.
Business Insider has the 10 best one-liners, as well as the stupid remark that “she is semi-retired and semi-irrelevant.” All 10 are good, though I particularly like: “More background checks? Dandy idea Mr. President. Should’ve started with yours.”
Her style choices were interesting, too. She was dressed in casual but elegant black pants and shirt. Her hair was also casual, but disheveled in a way that takes considerable skill. She is tanned and looks very healthy. She is too thin, but that probably comes from the need to be in front of TV cameras, which add pounds. She spoke to the audience as friends, with lots of expression and gesture, and throughout the talk she was clearly enjoying herself, especially when she delivered the one-liners. The look was casual, but the presentation and packaging were not. I have seen some good speakers, and she is formidable, in a way that meshes with her person, her history, her message, and her target audience.
To repeat, it was a serious speech, and it should be read as well as watched, especially given Cruz’s double-down on their relationship.
So pass the popcorn, because if this is entertainment I can’t wait for the next act to start.