Hockey Moms and Lipstick: Roll Call Officially Nominates McCain, but It’s Palin’s NightSeptember 04, 2008
Wednesday dawned at the Republican National Convention with an unmistakable air of anticipation. Today was essentially Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) coming-out party. Yes, she had her maiden voyage at the Ohio event announcing her selection, but a lot of water has splashed under the bridge since then and inquiring minds wanted to know what Sen. John McCain’s handpicked number two had to say to the world.
In the wake of the media furor since Palin was named, some Republican women held a press conference today to show their staunch support for the Alaskan governor and denounce the sexism that has been directed toward her in the media. Indeed, the ridiculous questioning about whether a mom can handle this job — as if a woman should be disqualified from any job simply because she is a mother — I find very problematic. But I do wish the Republican women had jumped on the anti-sexism-in-the-media bandwagon when Hillary Clinton was firmly in the bull’s-eye, but that’s politics. It does, however, make their righteous indignation a little less, well, righteous. Still, I am glad people are talking about the issue, and I hope the experiences of both Clinton and Palin will improve things for future women candidates.
Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and a well-known McCain surrogate, was part of the press conference. She was also a headliner at the convention proceedings this evening, where she shared her belief that McCain “values the contributions of women to our economy.” While this may very well be true, AAUW could still wish for the good senator’s support on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act; he was not in town for the vote, but did later tell the press that had he been present he would have voted against the measure. I’m assuming that means a President McCain would not sign such a bill.
Former Lt. Governor Michael Steele (R-MD), who headlined a Women’s Majority Network tea on Tuesday afternoon to raise money for Republican Senate candidates, received a very warm reception tonight. It was clear from his remarks that the gloves weren’t just off tonight — the gauntlet was being thrown. “In times such as these,” Steele said, “we need a leader who will work for the public interest, not clamor for public applause.” Steele also spoke in favor of public school vouchers, an issue AAUW’s member-adopted Public Policy Program has long opposed because vouchers drain public funds from public schools, siphoning dollars to less accountable private schools that are exempt from civil rights laws such as Title IX. However, by far Steele’s biggest applause line of the night came when he said, “Let me make it very clear: drill, baby, drill — and do it now!” The crowd immediately began to chant “drill baby drill!” and that refrain was heard throughout the night from a crowd that was more involved and enthusiastic than on Tuesday night.
In a night filled with former Republican presidential candidates, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) received a big cheer from the crowd. He told the country it should “throw out the big government liberals and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin.” And in a not-so-subtle jab toward Michelle Obama, Romney’s statement that “just like you, there’s never been a day when I wasn’t proud to be an American” was greeted to chants of “USA!” from the arena. Recent polls have shown that Romney is already the Republican presidential frontrunner for 2012 should McCain’s bid be unsuccessful.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) also left the kid gloves at the door, saying “Gov. Palin got more votes running for mayor than Joe Biden did running for president!” He also thanked “the elite media for doing something that frankly I wasn’t sure could be done — uniting the Republican Party!” And in the last of the presidential also-rans — underscoring tonight’s theme of politicians in executive positions speaking on behalf of the McCain-Palin ticket — former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani delivered the official keynote address of the convention. I say official because, although Giuliani was given the honor, the convention’s compressed schedule meant that Wednesday was really Palin’s night — sorry, Rudy. However, Giuliani delivered to the crowd, staying away from the social issues on which the moderate Republican differs pretty starkly from the rest of his party and sticking to taking pokes at the Obama-Biden team. Pundits have already called it a “red meat” speech. Giuliani went so over his time limit that convention organizers were not able to show the introductory video about Palin, but the crowd clearly didn’t mind or notice.
There was a huge ovation as Palin walked out to accept her party’s nomination and deliver her acceptance speech. There were wonderful homemade signs throughout the arena with slogans such as “Hockey Moms 4 Palin” and “Palin Power!” Palin introduced her family and told the parents of special-needs kids across the country that, if she is elected, “you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.” It was quite a good speech; regardless of political persuasion, as a woman I was pleased to see her deliver it so well. While there were biographical moments, it was with her sharp tongue softened by a smile that Palin belittled Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and praised her new running mate: “A small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer except that you have actual responsibilities,” Palin told the enthusiastic crowd. In fact, many speakers throughout the evening seemed to disparage Obama’s community organizing work — something that, as an advocate working for an organization like AAUW, an organization that relies on grassroots organizing, I found a little troubling. But still, Palin delivered one of the best political lines I’ve ever heard, and the comment not only described her speech tonight but also perhaps foreshadows the kind of candidate she will be: “I love us hockey moms. You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.”
I should note that Huckabee was the only speaker of the evening to give a sincere nod to the historic accomplishment of Sen. Barack Obama. Of course, were McCain to carry the day, Palin would be the first woman vice president. Isn’t it extraordinary that we have a history-making outcome no matter what? What an amazing election year this has been — and it’s not over yet!
P.B. (post blog): One note regarding the political theater for tonight’s events at the Xcel Energy Center. The “homemade” signs seen on the floor of the Republican National Convention tonight were actually a bit of stagecraft. Floor volunteers worked their way across the hall handing out the paper posters with slogans such as “Hockey Moms for Palin,” “Palin Power,” and “Environmentalists for McCain.”