It seems as if everyone has an opinion on Sarah Palin, and most people are willing to share what they think of the former Republican Vice President nominee. I’m no different. Going into last Friday night’s event, I had shared my opinions about Mrs. Palin with reporters, activists, and whoever else asked for my opinion about her.
Like a number of people, I have my doubts about Sarah Palin as legitimate presidential candidate. Her abrupt decision to step down as Alaska’s governor because of personal reasons raises questions about whether or not she could handle the awesome responsibilities of being the leader of the free world. Her ongoing feud with the news media, as well as the tabloids’ fascination with everything Palin, has made it almost impossible for her to be considered a serious thinker. And, her lack of any semblance of a political apparatus around her makes everything she does seem unorganized or without purpose.
Still, despite all of the negative perceptions about her, Palin is a force to be reckoned with. Instead of validating my list of concerns at last Friday’s event, her thirty-five minute speech made me think that maybe I’ve been a little too tough on her. Maybe people like me are holding her to a higher standard than we have for other potential 2012 candidates. And maybe all of those things that people like me think are negatives are actually positives that could make her a truly unique national candidate.
I walked away from Palin’s speech impressed. Obviously, I had low expectations for her, but a number of people that I spoke to following the event were also pleasantly surprised. While Palin will never have as much issue substance as someone like Newt Gingrich, there was plenty of red meat in her speech on Friday night, especially in an area where most candidates lack any real credentials – foreign policy.
Palin ripped President Obama by calling his administration’s foreign policy enemy-centric.
Palin said, “The president writes friendly letters to Iran’s leaders, and yet, picks a fight over housing policy with Israel, our strongest ally over there. He reset relations with Russia, but cancels missile defense plans with our NATO allies. He’s eased sanctions with Cuba, but failed to move forward on trade agreements with Columbia and South Korea. And he can’t muster spending time or meaningful support for Iranians risking their lives by opposing Ahmadinejad, but he found the time to send a report to the United Nations claiming our own countries alleged human rights violations.”
“There is a disturbing pattern here of reaching out to sworn enemies, while slighting our proven friends. Folks, that’s not foreign policy, that’s just foolish. And how long can that go on?” Palin added as the crowd came to a roar.
Palin’s hard-hitting critique of Obama’s foreign policy is the toughest talk out of any of the potential 2012 presidential candidates. It’s also interesting, and maybe telling, that she used her speech in Iowa to deliver that message. Foreign policy always becomes an issue during the presidential nominating process.
In 1999, George W. Bush failed a surprise pop quiz on foreign affairs, which was a huge embarrassment to his campaign. In 2007, Mike Huckabee drew a blank when asked about the National Intelligence Estimate. If Palin is interested in a 2012 presidential run, she would be wise to continue to stress foreign policy issues. Not only did she skewer Obama’s foreign policy, but she was comfortable delivering such a message.
As for her combativeness with what she calls the “lame stream news media,” Palin has nothing to lose by going after them. It is obvious that many of the political reporters have already cast judgment on her and seem to be just waiting for her to step in it. However, her confrontation with the press isn’t going to hurt her any with voters in the Iowa caucuses or any other primary. In fact, if she’s able to withstand their scrutiny throughout the primary process, the general election should be a piece of cake.
While Palin still has some large obstacles to overcome, I’m more interested in watching her do things the way she wants to do them instead of the traditional way longtime political operatives and media types are used to seeing them be done. There is no doubt that she does things differently than most potential candidates, but that doesn’t mean it will not work or be successful.
Sarah Palin made one thing abundantly clear on Friday night – she does things her own way. What many of us have failed to admit is that, despite of all of the criticism that she has received, she’s been extremely successful in doing things her way.
People thought she was finished after her interview with Katie Couric. Then they thought her political future was over after leaving the governor’s office. Yet, we seem to overlook the fact that 1500 people were interested enough in what she had to say to spend a Friday evening in Des Moines to listen to her speak. Those same reporters, who like to write her off all of the time, also keep showing up to see what she has to say even though her remarks often times take them to task.
By visiting Iowa, Palin has put down her marker to hold a spot if she does want to mount a presidential run in 2012. What we learned last Friday is that, despite what the media says about Palin, Iowans will reserve judgment on her and any other candidate until they get the opportunity to look these candidates in the eye and see how they stack up against the other candidates seeking their support.
There is no reason why Plain couldn’t do extremely well here in Iowa. It’s doubtful that any other potential 2012 candidate could pull in the size of crowd that she did and keep the entire focus of the event clearly on her. As for how serious she is, we will know more when and if she decides to visit the First-In-The-Nation Caucus state again in the near future.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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