Politics & Policy

Let Sarah Be Sarah

The coolest governor from the hottest interview.

I thought Palin did well for her first interview.”

So said my 30-something Ohio mom friend when she pinged me around 7 P.M. last night. I missed the ping until 11:30 or so. Had I seen it earlier, I would have saved myself a lot of time thinking and talking (and for Palin’s sake, blogging) about the first part of Sarah Palin’s interview with Charlie Gibson.

Sarah Palin did just fine.

#ad#First things first, a complaint: Why did the McCain campaign let this interview become such a big event? I suspect that before long there will be many interviews and this will seem like less of the event it appears now. And it may long be forgotten if so. Especially if subsequent interviews reinforce what the first did, what the acceptance speech did, what rally speeches have: that this is an authentic American, ready to serve her country. People seem to like the sense they have about her. And why wouldn’t they?

The most fascinating thing about the interview Thursday to me was her talking about wiring. It’s a sense of that wiring that have Americans talking about “Sarah.” She said she didn’t blink when McCain offered her the slot, because you can’t blink. She didn’t blink (well, literally, she did — or she’d have looked pretty odd) during the interview either. In her first national interview since entering the race, after a whirlwind two weeks away from home and on the day she was sending her first-born off to Iraq, Gibson did his job and gave her a hard time. And she did hers and refused to get flustered. She refused to tell Pakistan that the next vice president will be encouraging maneuvers on its border. She supported Israel. She said of course Putin has a different view! She had the mature answer as Gibson tried to break her on the climate-change debate. We all agree the climate is changing, why would we debate that endlessly? Let’s talk what policies make sense.

When, in what seemed at times to be more like an oral exam than an interview, Gibson seemed to gotcha! Palin on the Bush Doctrine, one wonders if Ronald Reagan would have felt her pain. Long after a disappointing first debate with Walter Mondale, he recalled, “I just had more facts and figures poured at me for weeks than anyone could possibly sort out and use, and I call it overtraining. When I got there, I realized that I wracking my brain so much for facts and figures on whatever subject we were talking about, that I knew I didn’t do well.”

Perhaps the best part of the interview was what I didn’t see until most normal people were in bed. She announced, when prompted, that she’s “working on” John McCain on drilling in Alaska. “I’m going to keep pushing that.” She expressed her confidence that everyone’s going to come together on the issue.

This woman, only in her first term as governor, has the self-confidence to make such an assurance, in the face of an old warhorse (literally!) and Washington vet like John McCain?

You really do get the sense that no one is going to mess with Sarah Palin.

Sure, I wish she answered some things better, I’m sure everyone watching, wanting to cheer her on and know her better, did. But, bottom line? In that first part of her interview with Gibson, Sarah Palin expressed poise and confidence. She kept her voice. She kept to the mission. Did we learn that much about her? Not the type of things that will help in the writing of an intellectual biography. But we learned what many Americans have already fallen for: her attitude. Her, no-surrender, take-no-crap, conservative sense that she’s just so fortunate to be given the opportunity to be where she is today and she’s going to serve as best she is able because she’s called to it and she’s ready to roll. She believes in American exceptionalism and inspires others to do the same because her life is an example of what is possible in this country.

And take that all of you feminists who have made your living pretending that it wouldn’t be possible for a gal who didn’t have Title IX quotas and exercised her freedom of choice to have five kids with her husband.

If NRO readers are any indication, nothing was lost in Gibson’s “blizzard of words there.” Sarah and her increasingly signature accent did just fine Thursday night. No one should try to over coach her. Let Sarah be Sarah. She’s gotten pretty far already with that strategy and might just take McCain-Palin to victory in November with it.

Note: This piece has been amended since posting.

 – Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

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