I got home late last night after a thrilling softball playoff game (losing in our last at-bat, goshdurnit) just in time to catch a replay of Sarah Palin's address to the Republican National Convention. I briefly fantasized that she'd announce, "I'm honored to be nominated, but woefully unprepared for this awesome task," then gracefully withdraw from consideration for the good of the nation.
But no, with a sparkle and a grin, Ms Palin blew us a kiss, denied her sordid past, and turned us all on. I'll admit it, she was good, especially if you enjoy red meat political sarcasm and cynicism wrapped up in a tight bun tossled with a healthy dose of resume fluffery and a few out'n'out lies.
But, then again, give me a professional wordsmith, three days of lockdown practice with a team of political image coaches, and expectations so ridiculously low following five days of embarrassing revelations about my family and (brief) political career, and I think even I could've lit a fire under a few thousand previously passionless partisan white folks with exaggerated tales of my hardscrabble suburban middle class life and limited executive experience.
Sarah Palin's highly touted and subsequently lauded speech was, of course, not of her own creation, but the carefully crafted words of bush aide Matthew Scully, read from the rolling screen of a plexiglass teleprompter. In fact, Palin's speech was originally written for an unknown male VP nominee (Romney perhaps?) and later dolled up to fit the new gender and family fairy tale that is McCain's hail mary choice for a ruling partner.
"Not anticipating that McCain would choose a woman as his running mate, the speech that was prepared in advance was "very masculine," according to campaign manager Rick Davis, and "we had to start from scratch." (Washington Post, 9/03/08).
That modern day political speeches are often ghosted by others more clever with words than the candidates themselves, is certainly no secret. But in the midst of her able recitation of Matthew Scully's script, this self-styled pitbull in lipstick had the cajones to attack Barack Obama for writing two books which thoroughly outline his own life story, his political philosophy, and his vision for the nation. Obama has also written all of his own major speeches that represent, (from Palin's lips and Scully's pen) "the idealism of high-flown speechmaking in which crowds are stirringly summoned to support great things".
I'm a lover of words and what words can do to provoke and inspire. Presidential campaigns are most certainly more than mere words. But I prefer knowing that the words coming from the mouths of those who yearn for my vote and my trust, emanate from their own thoughts, their own experiences, and their own dreams, not wholly created by clever underlings to be poured into the mouths of polished and pressed political mouthpieces.