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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chicago Tribune On Sarah & Todd Palin: New Fondness & Respect For Both Of Them

Clarence Page, of The Chicago Tribune, attended Washington’s Gridiron Club and met Tood and Sarah Palin: Palinpalooza goads media into laughter 

Palin not only interrupted her book tour, dubbed Palinpalooza by headline writers, to speak to a roomful of those darned media representatives Saturday all gussied up in gowns and tuxedos, but she held her own against this year's Democratic speaker, the liberal master of pithy one-liners, Rep. Barney Frank of MA.

If Palin won the evening -- and even my own Hyde Park-raised, liberal wife believes she did -- it is largely because everyone expected Frank to be funny, which he was. Palin defied expectations. I was so accustomed to her attack-dog role in last year's presidential campaign and the angry spirits of many of her supporters in the tea party wing of her party, that I was surprised to see how cheerfully and gracefully she poked fun at herself without actually being Tina Fey in disguise.

A sampling:

--"It is good to be here and in front of this audience of leading journalists and intellectuals. Or, as I call it, a death panel."

--"To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, this has to be the most extraordinary collection of people who have gathered to viciously attack me since the last corporate gathering at CBS."

--"I've been touring this great, great land of ours over the last few weeks. I have to say, the view is much better from inside the bus, than under it!"

And her timing was impeccable. She has a former sports announcer's -- and former Miss Alaska finalist's -- way of projecting her sincerity, a quality that the late George Burns famously called the secret to success: "Fake that, and you've got it made."

Yet, as much as her politics are not mine, after chatting with her and her husband, good-natured former "First Dude" Todd Palin, I came away with a new fondness and respect for both of them. If they were faking their enjoyment at being there, they certainly sounded mighty sincere about it.

They were warm and friendly in the infectious way that helped Ronald Reagan rise from B-movie actor to California governor and U.S. president. The fact that Palin's next book-signing date was in Iowa only enhanced talk of her possibly taking the presidential plunge. More bizarre things have happened, like Reagan's rise.

Although I still think Palin will use her new fame and political pull to influence politics from some television talk show studio somewhere, her potential in politics awaits one something she has not shown us: a big speech.

Reagan polished his skills, ideas and delivery as a campaigner for AZ Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential nominee in 1964, and as a broadcast commentator before he ran for office. Then Sen. Obama memorably leaped to the national stage with his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. Palin has yet to deliver a similarly original vision on such a grand scale. WRONG! HE MISSED HER RNC SPEECH. But she's young. At this moment, she excites more voters than any of the other known Republican hopefuls, even if polls show that quite a few more voters love her than say they will vote for her.

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