By Phil Perkins
In baseball terms, when Sarah Palin delivered her stirring speech at the Republican Convention last month, it was a Rookie of the Year performance-off the charts great. She followed with what's often called the "sophomore jinx" during her rather forgettable interviews with "mainstream" media liberals Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, whom she allowed to play "gotcha" game to put her on the defensive. Friday night, she returned to her previous form in a spirited debate with the old plagiarizer himself, Sen. Joe Biden.
Governor Palin is at her best when she speaks from the heart about what makes America great and why Obama's plan for the country would make it less great. She scored a lot of points with attacks on Obama's ongoing support for tax increases that he claims would target only the "rich" but in fact would hurt many small, family-owned businesses as well. She also scored well on the Iraq surge, making it clear that Obama and Biden did not support it and now insist on an exit strategy that is unrealistic.
Biden tried to sound smooth and unflappable, but in fact his arguments were the same old tired ones the Democrats have been using for years, liberally sprinkled with exaggerations and outright falsehoods. Especially annoying was his repetitious slandering of the Bush Administration. And to her credit, Palin called him on it each time he tried it. Unfortunately, she framed the argument in "let's not rehash the past but instead look to the future" instead of making any effort to defend the seemingly radioactive Bush. Biden used the usual egregious insults and hyperbole such as "Bush policies have produced the worst economy in years" and "Dick Cheney is the most dangerous vice president in the nation's history."
It wasn't Palin's fault that these scurrilous charges went unanswered. The controversial moderator, Gwen Ifill of PBS, was under something of a microscope herself because of her clear conflict of interest (her book about black politicians in the era of Obama comes out on Inauguration Day 2009). So, she kept her questions reasonably balanced but found other ways to subtly discriminate against Palin. The most obvious was allowing Biden the last word in several situations, especially when he had just gotten off a real whopper that was begging a rejoinder. The Cheney and Bush remarks plus one that supposedly refuted Palin's claim that small businesses would be hurt by Obama's tax increases all went unanswered as a result.
Palin spoke plainly about her positions on gay "marriage" and so-called "climate change." It takes guts for any politician these days to question the orthodoxy of "man-made" climate change, and she did it in such a way to leave the door open that her mind could be changed with sufficient evidence. She also showed respect for the rights of same-sex couples without backing down on her firm belief that the only true marriage is between one man and one woman.
Whether Palin's clear win, which of course was muted or denied by the drive-by media establishment, will have any real impact on McCain's election chances remains to be seen. Friday's passage of a bloated, pork-filled bailout package by the House of Representatives, which both McCain and Obama supported, takes a potentially key issue away from the Republicans. McCain is pulling his operatives out of Michigan, in essence surrendering that battleground state. Perhaps McCain's best and only chance in these waning weeks is to turn Sarah Palin loose in as many states as possible and let her be herself. The debate showed that she definitely connects with many hard-working, responsible Americans-the kind who make the country work and who vote in large numbers.