Outside editorial: Palin impresses Lower 48, but questions remain

Posted: Friday, September 05, 2008

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's acceptance speech at the convention Wednesday night was an impressive debut on the national stage - well-delivered, with an appealing combination of charm and bite befitting her description of a hockey mom as a pit bull in lipstick.

The Alaska governor proved herself more than capable of making a strong case for nominee John McCain and landing some pretty good zingers, aimed at both the Democratic nominee and the "Washington elite." Mocking Sen. Barack Obama's resume, she observed that "a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

Palin's speech will be scoured more microscopically than the typical vice presidential nominee's. But it's not realistic to view the speech as revealing much about her positions on issues or her capacity to be vice president. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, noted in an interview with The Post this week that a "very masculine" draft of the speech had been written before Palin was chosen; Palin delivered a different sort of address, plain-spoken, personal and bespeaking a self-confidence that should serve her well on the campaign trail.

Palin promoted more drilling for oil and gas - "and take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska: We've got lots of both," she said. She promised that a McCain-Palin administration would bring change to Washington rather than merely talk about it, but she offered few specifics of what a reform agenda would include. She also did not touch much on her own record of social conservatism, although she promised to advocate for children with special needs and to govern with "a servant's heart."

It was common to refer to Wednesday night's speech as a test for Palin, but the real tests will come in the weeks ahead, when, or so we hope, Palin will submit to searching interviews and open town-hall forums as well as participate in one debate with the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.

We mean no disrespect to our colleagues at People magazine, to which Palin gave her first and so far only interview since McCain chose her, to suggest that an explanation of how she juggles her responsibilities ("Morning person. Yup. We don't sleep much. Too much to do. What I've had to do, though, is in the middle of the night, put down the BlackBerries and pick up the breast pump. Do a couple of things different and still get it all done.") is insufficient assurance that she is up to the task of assuming the presidency, should that be necessary.

To question her readiness is not to doubt her talent or intelligence; nor is it a reflection of gender bias, snobbery or any of the other sins that have been ascribed to those who worry about Palin as vice president.

Palin on Wednesday night noted tartly "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." It is a good applause line. But the fact is that Palin has an astonishingly thin resume - mayor of a small town, governor of a sparsely populated state for less than two years - for someone hoping to ascend to national leadership. The country will need to hear much more from Palin before being convinced of the soundness of McCain's judgment.



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