[Viewpoint]An unverified PalinA star is born. She must feel like Lord Byron who said, “I woke up one morning and found myself famous.” She is indeed a Cinderella in glass slippers. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, emerged as the star of America with an acceptance speech to be John McCain’s running mate at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Americans raved about her so passionately that I got curious and looked her up. I typed two words, “Palin” and “speech” and Google returned 6.85 million search results. I found a video and watched the 36 minute-long speech from beginning to end. If I missed anything, I checked the text to make sure I understood right.
Governor Palin delivered the speech flawlessly, thanks to her career as a television reporter. She looked good on television as well. She might not have written the speech by herself, but it was not bad. The style of developing her points based on her family history and personal experience was refreshing. She suddenly asked the audience about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull while talking about how the hockey moms were busy supporting their children’s sports activities. Her answer, “Lipstick,” with her finger pointing at her lips, reminded me of sex appeal.
Republican presidential candidate McCain made a great comeback with Governor Palin’s speech. It was a smash hit. Right after the Democratic National Convention, Senator McCain fell as much as 10 percentage points in polls behind Senator Obama, but McCain caught up at once with the speech. On Sept. 8, the USA Today/Gallup poll showed that McCain was leading Obama by 10 percentage points. Such a turnaround between the presidential candidates in only a few days is unprecedented. Naturally, we are hearing a lot about the “Palin syndrome” and the “Palin phenomenon.”
There are various analyses on Palin’s contribution to the advantage. Some say that she evokes family values and her image as a strong working mom proved effective. Others call it a victory of the ordinary over the extraordinary and a revolt of the periphery against Washington, D.C. While all these interpretations might be logical, I cannot help but ask, so what?
Governor Palin has performed one great act for the public - reading the teleprompter. Nothing has been verified about whether she is ready to lead the United States as a partner to the president. Her speech does not provide any evidence.
All she did was to publicize herself with her experiences as the mayor of a small town with a population of 7,000 for six years and as governor of Alaska for two years, while praising McCain and attacking Obama. She did talk about energy independence and tax cuts, but she failed to address the issues the United States is facing, such as educational and health care polarization, financial deficits, infrastructure problems and immigration. Also, she did not mention the United States’ falling image and status in the world. In short, she failed to show vision for national administration.
However, as Americans were raving about Palin as if she would save the country, I was reminded of a beauty pageant, in which Palin herself participated in her youth. When an unexpected fresh face appears on stage, a dull contest suddenly becomes lively.
Romans used to go crazy when a young white gladiator appeared in the Coliseum, where gladiators were mostly old and non-white. Senator Obama became a star with a speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, but he is running for president because he passed the rigorous verification process of a long primary. Verification of Governor Palin has only begun.
American voters are voting for their president, not the vice president. Just as you do not choose your bride based on the mother-in-law, you don’t choose your president based on his running mate.
The U.S. presidential election is too serious for the country to be on a roller coaster ride because of a single, unverified vice presidential nominee.
We Koreans know too well how reckless it is to ignore content and make a choice based on image alone.
*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok