Before I start into her speech, let me just say that Palin, as a person, is unfailingly nice. So nice, in fact, that last night, she spent close to an hour in the hotel’s lobby bar taking selfies with college Republicans and shaking hands. She even took a photo with yours truly. And we need more people in the movement who are unfailingly nice. Because in this ridiculous line of work, literally no one is unfailingly nice.
To my great surprise — yes, I’ll admit it — Sarah Palin’s speech was not about Sarah Palin. She was tasked by CPAC to talk about veterans, and that’s what she did. As the mother of a veteran who has served in Iraq, she was well placed to give the address, and given a subject to talk about — a purpose — she did well, showing why she’s still important to the conservative movement, even if she’s long since passed out of political relevance.
And I’m not saying this just because she had the least offensive flag sweater I saw in less than 24 hours, but because I think Sarah Palin is on her way to finding her place. When she spoke as the Vice Presidential nominee about being a mother, she was at her best because she speaks from the heart and from experience. When she speaks about being the parent of a man who served the country in a war zone, she speaks with an authority and an emotional impact she doesn’t always have. She had ideas (giving veterans vouchers for treatment outside the VA), she had a purpose (demanding the vets be in line before illegal immigrants to receive the government’s care), and she had fire and passion (to help veterans receive credit for time served and experiential education acquired in the field) — all things we haven’t seen from Sarah Palin since that first time she took the stage. Sure, she made the same points she usually makes, but with an end game, she made them with more clarity.
Since the amassed media was clicking away and recording like there was no tomorrow, I suspect, because, like me, they were prepared to file a story immediately about the disjointed, incomprehensible Palin speech they thought they were getting, it’s easy to admit that maybe Sarah Palin’s days are over. She’s a punchline waiting for a joke. But perhaps she’s finally learned that that an audience can be used to achieve an end. And there’s really no better end than an improvement in lifestyle for our returning military. And there seems, inexplicably at least in my mind, no better advocate.