Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sarah Palin Goes to Opryland and We Can't Stop Talking About It

Posted By on Sun, Feb 7, 2010 at 8:42 AM

click to enlarge Scandal of the evening: the scribbling on Sarah Palin's palm.
  • Scandal of the evening: the scribbling on Sarah Palin's palm.
The chattering class truly does love to chatter about Sarah Palin. She was the life of the tea party Saturday night, and all the blogging and tweeting about her big Opryland appearance is making Pith's head spin. She's lost weight, hasn't she? Maybe she's chopping wood to stay in shape. Did you see her fabulous strands of pearls? And that small pin in her lapel? It had two flags--could you tell?--one for Israel and one for the USA.

But what was that scribbled on the palm of her hand? And you thought she was so clever and off the cuff during the Q&A after her speech. Hah! Some eagle-eyed tweeter discovered she was reading little notes she had written on her hand. Blow up the picture and you can make out the words "Energy", "Budget [crossed out] (Cuts)", "Tax" and "Lift American Spirits." Pith thinks it's endearingly folksy, but this HuffPo blogger is outraged:

Crib Notes? This potential presidential candidate and "movement" leader was using crib notes to answer basic questions? This would mean:

A) That she knew the questions beforehand and the whole thing was a farce. (Likely.)

and

B) That she still couldn't answer the previously agreed-upon questions without a little extra help.

If true, this is supremely rich coming immediately after a speech in which Palin took a shot at President Obama for using a teleprompter to read his prepared speeches.

As for the ultimate meaning of the speech itself, which included many memorable new lines and a lot of the same conservative pablum, there's much disagreement. Is she running for president or not? That's all we need to know. Newsweek's Daniel Stone thinks Sarah was so polarizing that this looks like the beginning of the end of her presidential ambitions.

Elections are won and lost in the middle, not on the extremes. And Palin's fiery rebuke of Washington may have firmed her base, but it did little to widen her appeal to moderates and independents, two groups without which she'd have a real tough time passing the threshold of electoral votes. (At one point, she even mocked the majority of voters who voted for President Obama, asking them "How's that hopey changey thing working for you now?")

Which is to say that electorally speaking, tonight's speech may have been a self-inflicted wound for Palin, offering ammo to opponents to argue that she's simply too far right and too niche to win widespread support for national office. Speeches like this make the people who love Palin love her even more, and the people who don't ever more certain why they don't. In other words, Palin further polarized herself to the American public.

Is that hope? Nope. For that, we must go to the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, who's pretty sure Sarah's going for it. "Sarah Palin gave a campaign speech," he writes. "And that's pretty much all you need to know. So much of a campaign speech was it that I am revising upward my estimate of the chances she runs for president in 2012."

It looks like Ambinder is right on. Sarah tells Fox News she "would be willing" to challenge Obama in 2012.

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