Was It Sarah Palin’s Speech or Not?

“Of course, Sarah Palin’s speech was written by someone else.”

How many times did we hear that from the media last night? I lost count. Keith Olbermann will say anything to make sure people know he’s on the far end of the liberal left. So when he said it, it really didn’t count. But others chimed in.

During the panel discussion on “Special Report with Brit Hume,” both Mort Kondrake and Nina Easton made the point. Brit Hume asked about that. Why stress this when it’s been true of all the speeches, at both conventions? Nina Easton tried to explain, saying that in Sarah Palin’s case we simply don’t know what she can do when she isn’t scripted.

That’s what justifies the constant mention of Sarah Palin’s choreographers? Give me a break.

Consider the following:

  • No self-respecting speaker will “read” a speech that isn’t an expression of her own ideas and persona.
  • A talented speech-writer must take the measure of the speaker, her gifts, her ideas, values, and convictions, and render them in a way that fits her persona.
  • A gifted speaker, confident of her message, will look like she isn’t reading, even during those moments when in fact she isn’t reading. In other words, she will be free to make extemporaneous remarks.
  • A speaker who connects with her audience deserves the credit, not the speechwriter. Just imagine Paris Hilton delivering the same speech.
  • Sarah Palin knows that she will have to answer for what she said last night, not her speechwriter. If she knew what she was doing, she believes she can do all the follow-up that’s necessary.
  • News anchors like  and a host of commentators had decided before Palin delivered her speech that they would stress the point that she didn’t write the speech. And why would they do that?
  • We do know what Obama sounds like when he’s speaking without a script, and it isn’t pretty. But he gets kudos for being a great orator, as if this qualifies him for the presidency.
  • The talking heads will look pretty silly if Sarah Palin acquits herself with equal effectiveness when they get their chance to speak with her. But do they deserve that opportunity?

As Michelle Malkin writes, “no Beltway speechwriter imbued [Sarah Palin] with the poise, humor, experience, grace, and savvy that made that speech a smashing success.” Last night, there should have been more talk about what it takes for a candidate, new to the national stage, to be able to do that. If I’m not mistaken, that’s more-or-less what they did do when the totally unknown Obama delivered a speech at the last Democrat convention of 2004.

Hume panelist Fred Barnes was exceptional. He said there’s only one explanation for Palin’s performance: “She’s gifted. She’s a natural. You can’t teach this.” He’s right. And it’s definitely an advatage for a candidate, as Joe Biden must be thinking now. Having experience debating on university campuses, I can tell you that plenty of it is scripted. But the real power comes in the delivery. And if you’re considered the underdog—and Palin will be during her debate with Biden—you get the benefit of the doubt. I imagine he’ll be as busy as she is preparing for their encounter.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

One Response to Was It Sarah Palin’s Speech or Not?

  1. Clark Venable says:

    I even saw this mentioned by two commentators on Fox News, for God’s sake. To his credit, Chris Wallace did point out the fact to both of them.


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