Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It's Sarah Palin's turn: What she must say tonight

Now it's Sarah Palin's turn.

Seldom has someone who hopes to introduce herself to a nation gotten such an unwanted introduction by her critics beforehand.

Tonight, she has to define herself. The media has already painted a picture of her, but tonight she can show the country who she is for herself.

So far, we know the personal story of the 44-year-old mother of five and a soon-to-be grandmother. There is the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol,who is playing a surprising role in the campaign. Tonight the soon to be father, 18-year-old Levi Johnston, plans to join the Palin family at the convention, presenting something of a three-generation tableau on stage.

But tonight should be more the political story of someone who may be highly popular in Alaska, but is largely unknown throughout the nation. It turns out that, as mayor of tiny Wasilla, she hired lobbyists to draw earmark money from Washington - the evil that McCain promises to eliminate as president - raising questions about how much of a "reformer'' this running mate of a self-styled "original maverick'' really is.

It turns out that as a longtime member of the Wasilla Assembly of God - she since has changed churches - she espouses a faith that may carry a lot of appeal to the Evangelical Christian base of the Republican Party but cause pause among independent voters: On the stage of that church this year, she called the war in Iraq "a task that is from God'' and a new pipeline "God's will.''

Supporters say she knows something about foreign policy because Alaska sits next door to Russia. But Palin's own world travels, with a not-long-issued passport, appear to center on her visit to the Alaska National Guard deployed in Iraq. It is said, too, that Palin has more executive experience than Democrat Barack Obama - presiding for less than two years over the government of a state of 670,000, and having run and served on the council of a city that had about 5,500 citizens at the time.

Now it will be Palin's turn to tell her story, and there is a potential for a big audience here at this convention that got off to such a slow, storm-soaked start.

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