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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Sarah Palin's speech tonight (transcript) was electrifying. I can't think of a campaign speech I've heard (and, sadly, I've listened to far too many of them) as masterfully delivered and resonant as the one she gave. I had my doubts about her addition to the ticket—nothing to do with her experience (the less time spent in government the better) and everything to do with her religious beliefs—but it's clear that she is McCain's presidential salvation. They are going to win in November if they can keep the fight at this level.

My trepidation about her beliefs is still very real. They're made even worse because of this speech before her hometown church earlier this year. The words from that video could have been uttered by any of millions of fundamentalist Christian women around this nation, but none of them might be second in line for the presidency. Her faith is a concern to me, but I would gladly excuse it if she came out and explicitly advocated the wall of separation. I will watch her in the coming months to see if there is any indication along those lines.

There is much to recommend her as a breath of fresh air in politics. She's strong, humorous, and eloquent. She's started businesses and lived a normal life outside of the rarefied air of government. She has clearly not had the characteristic political ambition that motivates most politicians. Her skewering of Obama was spot-on and trenchant. I would, for once, gladly tune in to the vice-presidential debates.

But she is not intellectually moored. Her values and ideology are helter-skelter. She taxes "windfall profits" on oil companies, wants clean government but doesn't mind big government, and never once mentions freedom, liberty, or individual rights. Transparency in government does nothing beyond letting you know exactly how much you're getting shafted. "Reformer" is like "atheist": it tells you nothing beyond what you're against.

If McCain/Palin wins in November, I suspect that we'll see a lot more politicians like her. Hollywood and Washington have a lot of similarities: they both revere image, attempt sequels, and copycat successes.