Charlie’s Blog

By Thomas Nagorski

Sep 4, 2008 3:49pm

One of the unanticipated downsides to writing a daily blog is the guilt that sets in when things get too busy to write. Such was the case Tuesday and yesterday. Tuesday we spent hustling from New Orleans to Minneapolis. I ask for no sympathy — ABC chartered a plane for the "Good Morning America" and "World News" personnel that had to get to the convention. But by the time we got to the St. Paul convention site, I was so far behind in preparations for the program that there was no time to blog. Then yesterday we had the only interview with John McCain during the convention. The only interview he will do while he is here in the twin cities. The interview took some thought. And I fretted about it for hours. The major development in his campaign obviously is his surprise choice of Sarah Palin. It took some time in thinking about it, but I finally decided not to even bring up the issues with her family,for they are issues of family and should remain so. Once you know about her daughter’s pregnancy, once you know about her husband’s political interest in the Alaskan Independence Party, once you know about special nature of their latest child, I think that’s enough. The relevant questions about Governor Palin, the questions that go to her suitability to serve as vice president, all relate to her experience, or lack thereof, and her policy positions as a mayor and governor in Alaska. Once I decided to restrict the Palin questions to those areas, the interview kind of formed itself. The Republicans are making an issue of the media’s investigation into her background, and it is a time-honored tactic to go after the press. Both political parties have done it at times. Many individuals have used that strategy as well. But I don’t think the stories about Governor Palin stem from any kind of malice. Nor are they improper. To the contrary. She’s a great story. A PTA housewife, hockey mom who gets involved in politics and winds up in just a few years governor of her state, and who is extraordinarily popular in that state. Who is she? What is she? And does she have the experience and capability to be vice president, much less president? Those are valid questions. One of our staff made the point, and it’s a good one, that we’d be asking the same questions of Barack Obama if he had chosen Tim Kaine, the Governor of Virginia, as his vice-presidential nominee. Kaine is also in his first term, just like Governor Palin, and has very little international experience, just like Palin. So the questions for McCain, as they would have been for Obama had he picked Kaine, revolve around whether he could look the country straight in the eye and say "this person has the experience and has the capability to be Commander in Chief." If you saw the interview you can judge McCain’s responses for yourself. He gave a spirited defense of his choice, and the interview was most interesting to me — especially since it was the only one he will give at this convention. By the way, we’re going to use a bit more of the interview tonight. I asked him if he could actually enjoy this moment, internalize it, appreciate it, even revel in it a bit. For what a contrast it presents from five and a half years in a POW camp, and how few people ever get to be nominated for the Presidency of the United States by a major political party. His answer was very genuine I thought. We’ll use it to close "World News" tonight. Now the question on everyone’s mind — the question everyone is asking — "What did you think of the Palin speech?" You can’t go anywhere in this town without hearing that. Thirty seven million people watched her speech. 37 million! That is very close to the number who watched the Obama acceptance speech. I can’t imagine the pressure she must have felt. There were twice the number of people in the hall as lived in the town she mayored for six years (if I am allowed to make up a verb). And there were those millions of people watching on television forming their first impressions. And we all know the importance of first impressions. The speech obviously played very well in the hall. But how it played to the television audience is the most important. I thought her delivery was just right for almost all of the speech. It surprised me a bit that they would allow a new figure on the national scene to be so specific and so direct in her criticisms of Barack Obama. I wondered if some people didn’t think to themselves, "who are you to be criticizing so directly? We don’t know you yet. You have to earn that right." However, my presumption is that the speech played very well, that the reaction across the country was very positive, and that she allayed many of the concerns about whether she was up to the job. We honor the idea in this country of citizen politicians. We have no ruling elite. We have no privileged class with a monopoly on leadership. So people were looking at her last night thinking to themselves, "Can a new governor whose office is more than 3,000 miles from Washington, go to that city and govern wisely and effectively?" I will be fascinated to see how people answer that question. We’re doing some polling today about how the speech played, and what were reactions to it and to her. We should have the results tomorrow,first on "Good Morning America" and then on "World News." Overall, I thought it was a very successful night for Governor Palin. Very successful. The difficult hurdles are to come I think. The first interviews she’ll face on issues. The first time she’s closely questioned on positions she’s taken in her state. And then, of course, the debate with Joe Biden, who is much more experienced on the national stage, and who knows a great deal about foreign policy. But the first test was passed admirably. I was with some strong Obama supporters last night. Both of them expressed considerable concern about Sarah Palin — that she could be a real force for John McCain. Now tonight will be John McCain’s night. His speech will be a long one. More than fifty minutes when anticipated applause is factored in. That’s what we hear from the campaign. Tonight’s ten o’clock ET hour will start with a Republican film made about McCain, and then his speech. Republicans are worried about the Redskins-Giants football game that they are HOPING will be over by ten. They don’t care who wins, they just don’t want overtime. There had been some talk the speech would be delayed until the game is over. But that’s not the case. They go at ten with the film and speech no matter whether the game is over or not. McCain will deliver it from teleprompter — he’ll read the whole thing. That is not his favored means of speechmaking, but that’s what he’ll do. He has spoken at many Republican conventions in the past so it’s not a new experience. I wonder if he’ll get a larger audience than Governor Palin? Who could have anticipated a week ago we’d be asking a question like that?

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