The Mac Weekly Managing Editor Zac Farber reported from the Republican National Convention at the Excel Center in St. Paul Sept 1-4. The following is his report from Day No. 3.As Hurricane Gustav subsided, the Republicans were able to step off the political tightrope of balancing convention festivities with catastrophe sympathies Wednesday night and turn their efforts toward calming the storm surrounding their vice presidential nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
The Republicans tried to turn Palin's string of scandals--firing a state trooper, soliciting pork for her hometown, mothering a pregnant 17-year-old--into peccadilloes.
In an effort to quash the media frenzy, Bristol Palin was offered as a sacrifice to the eager cameras. The teen posed with a baby (her mother's), a fiancé (her own) and the wholesome Cindy McCain, providing photographic evidence that the Palins are a happy family.
The speakers also played a roll in reshaping the image of Gov. Palin., casting her as a reformist, independent-minded governor. The convention's organizers imported a female governor and a Hispanic state senator from Democratic stronghold states Hawaii and California to attest to Palin's moderate skills in defeating the "bridge to nowhere" and "fighting corruption."
"Gov. Palin," former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani said in his keynote address, has "already had more executive experience than the entire Democratic ticket combined."
Still, Sen. John McCain chose Palin as much for her strong social conservative ideology as for the shock value of picking a woman and the publicity value of picking an unknown.
Her political philosophy elicited excitement among the delegates, a group farther right than the party.
In a homogeneous group of delegates-white, well-groomed and middle-aged-T.J. Augustine of Iowa-white, well-groomed and 19 years old-stands out. He said he won the delegation by arguing that "we can't give up the youth vote to [Sen. Barack] Obama." He is typical of the delegates in his effusive praise for Palin. "She's a great choice," he said. "She comes from an everyday family like most Americans [and] I think she's going to bring great judgment, great character and great leadership to the ticket."
John Haggard lives in Charlevoix, Mich., is a member of the Michigan delegation and likes to brag about how his father was Palin's daughter-in-law's fifth-grade teacher in Wasilla, Alaska, the town where Palin served as mayor. Haggard was wearing a hockey uniform to support Palin, who he calls with pride, "a hockey mom."
"Palin is going to be the greatest thing that happened to this country," Haggard pronounced. "She represents 20 percent of this country."
During Palin's address to the convention hall, she recited her biography painting herself as a small-town American and political outsider. She used her provincial resumé as a license to attack and lambasted Obama for his lack of executive experience. "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,'" she said, "except that you have actual responsibilities."
Palin riled up the crowd with a dig against media bias, prompting the circumspect Republican delegates to playfully jeer the reporters in their midst.
When John McCain made his convention debut and joined Palin, her husband, Todd, and their five children on stage, one could be forgiven for momentarily forgetting that McCain was, in fact, the nominee.