In the address that introduced her to a party and a nation, newly minted Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin electrified the Republican base as few have done over the course of the campaign, slamming the Democrat's foreign policy platform and playing up her own feisty personality and small-town roots.
After press time Thursday, John McCain will take the stage at the Xcel Energy Center in this unassuming Midwestern city looking to create a little lightning of his own, a charge that will win over not only the party faithful but the independents and moderates who are weighing whether to back him or the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, who was able to draw some 85,000 people to his own acceptance speech in Denver last week.
In her address, Palin began an argument that McCain is sure to try to drive home on Thursday: not that Obama's message of change is the wrong one for these times, but that the GOP's self-branded reform ticket is the one that can deliver it, particularly when it comes to the Middle East and energy policy. And that in these realms, with the continued threat of Islamic terrorism, McCain's military background and international experience should trump Obama's own claims on the title of commander-in-chief.
In making the case, Palin delivered stinging attacks on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for his pedigree, oratory and stance on issues including Iran. Alluding to Obama's stated willingness to personally meet with Iranian leaders as president, Palin charged, "Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay; he wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America; he's worried that someone won't read them their rights."
Her words were greeted by a chorus of appreciative laughter, as the cheering throng held signs praising "Palin power" and "Hockey moms for Palin." Palin got one of her best reactions of the night when, noticing their support in the crowd, she told them that "the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull" was just one thing: "lipstick."
Like Joe Biden, who emphasized the issue of energy independence in his speech accepting the Democratic vice presidential nomination, Palin also focused on the need for more energy sources.
"To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of world energy supplies, or that terrorists might strike again at the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia, or that Venezuela might shut off its oil deliveries, we Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas," said the Alaskan governor. "Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems - as if we all didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all," she said.
Obama's campaign spokesman Bill Burton responded afterward with a statement calling Palin's speech "well delivered" but charging that it "was written by "George Bush's speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we've heard from George Bush for the last eight years."
Palin's barbs were backed up by the zingers of Rudy Giuliani, who warmed up the crowd before her appearance. The former New York mayor, who himself challenged John McCain for the nomination, lambasted Obama for his stance on terrorism and the Middle East, particularly Israel.
Giuliani accused the Democratic nominee of flip-flopping on the issue of Jerusalem and drawing a "moral equivalence" between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
He recalled Obama's support for an "undivided Jerusalem" before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference this June. "Well, he favored an undivided Jerusalem - don't get too excited - for one day, until he changed his mind," Giuliani said to supportive boos from the audience, which turned to laughter when he added: "I'll tell you, if I were Joe Biden, I'd want to get that VP thing in writing."
He also delivered broadsides to the party as a whole, referring to its convention in Colorado. "For four days in Denver, the Democrats were afraid to use the words 'Islamic terrorism,'" he said, with responsive booing from the crowd. "I imagine they believe it is politically incorrect to say it. I think they believe it will insult someone. Please tell me, who are they insulting if they say 'Islamic terrorism?' They are insulting terrorists."
He continued by saying that the Democrats had also rarely mentioned the attacks of September 11. "They are in a state of denial about the biggest threat that faces this country. And if you deny it and you don't deal with it, you can't face it," he said. "John McCain can face the enemy. He can win, and he can bring victory for this country."
McCain deputy foreign policy advisor Kori Schake also emphasized McCain's commitment to fighting terrorism in a briefing she gave to foreign correspondents earlier in the day.
When asked about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and whether he supports the current efforts of the Bush administration, she said, "Senator McCain is a strong supporter of peace in Palestine and a strong supporter of negotiations to get there."
But she cautioned that "a negotiated peace, an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, requires a partner on the Palestinian side that is both willing and able to carry out the agreements, and I think there are some reasons for concern on that."
She also repeated McCain's assertion that "a "nuclear-armed Iran would be an unacceptable danger for us all."
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