Now you’ve seen Sarah Palin, and now, I’m guessing, a lot of you are more confused than ever.
Whatever your expectations, Palin passed her first test. She was confident. She was occasionally funny. She was reliably very, very, extremely conservative.
All Palin had to do to pass her test was sound as if she belonged up there on the stage, taking a few shots at Obama in the process, while reminding us that she’s a proud hockey mom and a believer in drilling for oil wherever and whenever possible, especially in her very large state of Alaska.
Check, check, check and double-check.
She didn’t look like a small-town mayor who had just become one of the first 21st-century governors to dine on moose stew. She sounded pretty much like the rest of the Republicans on Wednesday night — even if she looked decidedly different from any of them who had ever been a vice presidential nominee.
I mean, when it was over, there she was standing among her large family, with her infant son in her arms, smiling and waving before an adoring crowd. And if that wasn’t enough to make the TV pundits fall all over themselves while falling in love with a new face, I don’t know what would.
But if she passed her test, it’s going to be a little bit tougher for the rest of us. After all, we don’t get speechwriters.
Once more in this wild and weird and often wonderful presidential campaign, our world has turned upside down, and it may be a while before we get it turned right again.
I don’t think John McCain understood exactly what he was doing picking Palin. He was looking for a new face in a party dominated by old faces, a Republican who wasn’t tied to the rest of the Republicans (read: George W. Bush). But what he also got was another battle in the culture wars.
I leave it to Rudy Giuliani, of all people, to give us the lesson.
It’s Giuliani — not your typical Republican on issues such as abortion and gay rights and wearing dresses at New York balls — who was Palin’s warmup act. And in fact, he did about 20 minutes of standup, mostly mocking — and that’s the right word — Barack Obama to the delight of the crowd, but in way that had to be cringe-making for much of the rest of America watching at home on TV.
I’m sure that many of those watching are glad to see Giuliani heading back to the lecture circuit and not anywhere near the White House. But he did ask a question that needs an answer:
"How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her child and be vice president?" he asked, presumably of Democrats.
"How dare they do that?" he asked. The crowd of Republicans roared. I know, your mind reels.
"When did they ever ask a man that question?"
It’s a fair question. The answer, of course, is never.
But how do you explain that it’s a Republican asking these questions? Palin is a definite she-can-have-it-all-and-more woman. She’s got five kids, including an infant with Down syndrome and a high school student in crisis, and she’s going to be spending 20-hour days on the road as an attack dog (can you say that about a woman?) on Obama and the Democrats.
Dr. Laura, not exactly a Democrat, has already questioned what kind of "role model" Palin is. Imagine if the roles were reversed and she was on Obama’s ticket and what Rush and the boys would say.
OK, you don’t have to imagine. You just have to know that with a woman running for vice president and an African-American running for president, America doesn’t look quite the same any more, even if the crowd in the hall here looked very much like Republican crowds have always looked. If you were in the hall, you couldn’t miss the contrast, although nobody I talked to would admit to the irony.
But if McCain was looking for a way to latch on to the change theme — and he was — he found it.
(E-mail Rocky Mountain News columnist Mike Littwin at littwinm(at)RockyMountainNews.com.)