The Palin Show Comes to Virginia
Obama gets pummeled on Rev. Wright and more at a McCain-Palin rally.
by John McCormack
09/10/2008 6:45:00 PM
Before a packed crowd of 23,000 supporters in Northern Virginia today, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and their spouses took the stage as "Eye of the Tiger" boomed from 15-foot high speakers. The anthem of the Rocky films was a fitting theme song for the day's hard-hitting speeches.
The hardest blows to Obama were landed not by the candidates, however, but by McCain surrogates who brought up the Democratic contender's anti-American pastor of 20 years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright--a topic that until now seemed to be treated as a taboo by the McCain campaign.
Before McCain and Palin arrived, Lynett Long, a former Hillary Clinton supporter delivered a full-throated feminist endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket. She argued that it's shameful so few women are represented in government and then trained her sights on Barack Obama. In response to Obama's "lipstick on a pig" jab yesterday, Long said, "Well, Mr. Obama--MISTER Obama--calling girls names is something you do in fifth grade and I don't want a fifth-grader running my country."
She unloaded on Obama and the Democrats for standing by as "Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Pfleger openly mocked Sen. Clinton" at Trinity United Church of . Minutes later, Fred Thompson struck a similar note. Obama is "not telling us what he believes. We don't know what he believes," Thompson said. "He's telling us what he believes we want to hear."
"I think Rev. Wright was correct when he said [Obama's] just doing what politicians do" to get elected, Thompson said.
Barack Obama and his campaign are
criticizing Sarah Palin for backing the "Bridge to Nowhere" while running for office in Alaska and then changing her position after being elected, but Thompson said Obama "has changed his position on every issue" that's important, including the FISA terrorist surveillance bill, NAFTA, Israel, public financing, and attending town hall meetings with John McCain. "That's not the kind of change this country needs," Thompson told the enthusiastic crowd. "Barack Obama must be the first fellow in the history of presidential politics who thinks that running for president is a qualification for being president."
Thompson said that Sarah Palin is facing "the most vicious assault that anyone's ever seen in public life" because "she is a threat to the power that [the Democrats] expect to inherit and they think they are entitled to." He noted reports that dozens of Democratic operatives are descending on Alaska to dig up dirt on Palin. "I hope they brought their own brie and Chablis," Thompson quipped. He also lashed out at the press for criticizing Palin for not having appeared on any of the Sunday morning talk shows during her tenure as governor. "Who's fault is that?" Thompson asked. "She hasn't been hiding anywhere."
The crowd of 23,000--more than twice the size of an Obama rally in Northern Virginia in early June--reveled in Thompson's remarks. Signs of the sheer enthusiasm for the McCain-Palin ticket were visible at 9:30 this morning, when the line to get into Van Dyck Park resembled a long red snake stretching a half-mile or so with three or four people abreast. Those in attendance had been encouraged to wear red to remind everyone to "keep Virginia red."
Why had so many shown up? Palin sure seemed like the top draw. Jonathan Elkhouri, a 34-year-old owner of a hair salon in Fairfax, said he hopes that government will "tax us a little less and make life a little easier for us." His wife Jennifer said she strongly identifies with Sarah Palin: "I respect her completely. I work two jobs and raise a family. And she shows it can be done." Today is the expected due date of the Elkhouris' second child; they agreed to name the baby John or Sarah if he or she is born today.
Palin's addition to the ticket led to lots of displays of girl power at the rally. One homemade sign read "Change is Coming"--the letters cut from shiny red foil were set against a white poster covered in lipstick-kisses. Three high school girls from Alexandria sported homemade "McCainiac" T-shirts; all said they had cut class with their parents' permission. A sophomore at George Washington University, Eden Sutley--"like the Garden," she said--modified her sign by writing in eyeliner "Sorority Girls [heart symbol] McCain-Palin". Like everyone I talked to, Sutley insisted she would have been at the rally even if McCain had selected a different running mate. At least that's what they said.
When McCain and Palin arrived around 11:00 a.m. the crowd roared. Both the governor and the senator largely echoed the stump speeches they've given since last week's Republican convention, sounding off on the need for bipartisan reform, while emphasizing their intention to stop wasteful spending, win the Iraq war, and achieve energy independence. "I broke the monopoly that had controlled our state," Palin said, referring to the "the lobbyists and the special interests who controlled big oil."
Palin said she was honored to be a member of McCain's "team of mavericks" and said her running mate "doesn't run with the Washington herd. He's willing to shake things up."
When McCain spoke, he touted Palin's reform credentials, saying: "She took on a Republican incumbent governor, and by the way, beat him like a drum." McCain, as well as Palin, both criticized Obama for requesting nearly $1 billion in earmarks since he's been in the Senate. McCain said his running mate "has vetoed half a billion dollars worth of pork barrel earmark projects."
McCain noted that this week marks the one-year anniversary of the Petraeus-Crocker congressional hearings on the surge. "Sen. Obama said the surge wouldn't succeed," McCain said. "He still fails to acknowledge that he was wrong." Palin, whose19-year-old son Track is set to deploy to Iraq tomorrow, also hit Obama on Iraq. "Our opponent can't bring himself to acknowledge the coming victory in Iraq," she said.
McCain told the crowd that "Virginia is a battleground state, and we must win it, and we will win it with your support." A McCain-Palin victory would be extraordinarily difficult without Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Though McCain has seen a double-digit surge in the polls in some red states since the Republican convention, he leads Obama here by a slim two-point margin--49 percent to 47 percent.
Tuesday's rally certainly shows that McCain intends to fight hard to win Virginia. He and his campaign are not going to pull any punches.