Palin touts reforms, critizes Obama?s campaign

By Jed Layton, Hinckley Institute Journalism Program

ST. PAUL8212;Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin spoke Wednesday night before an electrified audience at the Xcel Energy Center, centering her speech around her family, encouraging drilling for oil and criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Palin’s first order of business was to introduce her family, which has been under scrutiny this week since she revealed that her 17-year-old daughter Bristol is pregnant. The crowd responded positively as her children, husband and parents stood to greet and wave to their supporters.

“From the inside, no family ever seems typical,” Palin said. “That’s how it is with us8212;our family has the same ups and downs as any other, the same challenges and the same joys.”

Palin promoted Republican presidential candidate John McCain, characterizing herself as a political reformer and saying that the McCain ticket would do the same in Washington.

“I stood up to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies and the good old boys network,” she said. “Our nominee doesn’t run with the Washington herd. He’s a man who’s there to serve his country and not just his party.”

Sen. McCain surprised supporters by coming out on stage to join Palin and her family in the same way Obama came out after Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s acceptance speech.

“She and John McCain are going to work miracles,” said Bethel Johnson of Texas. Johnson was about to leave the Xcel Center prematurely when her friend called her back to see McCain come out onto the stage. “I am glad I didn’t leave early,” she said.

Before McCain’s appearance, Palin had a surprise of her own; she went on the offensive against the opposition by attempting to poke holes in the Obama campaign.

“This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word “victory’ except when he’s talking about his own campaign,” she said. “But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away…what exactly is our opponent’s plan?”

Her criticism delighted convention goers. Some said they expected Palin to shy away from that role and leave it to other, more veteran speakers.

“I thought she would just talk about herself and McCain,” said Ethel Turner of Michigan with a smile. “But she did a fantastic job. She is a fighter and if I were the Democrats I would be running.”

About halfway through her speech, audience members gasped as two members of CODEPINK8212;a political group that protests against the Iraq war8212;attempted to rush the stage. According to CODEPINK’s Web site, the two women were Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, co-founders of the organization.

Both wore bright pink dresses and yelled, “Women say no to war!” and “Women need a vice president for peace!” The two women were quickly subdued; the only distraction came as delegates booed them on their way out, forcing Palin to stop talking for one brief moment.

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Editor’s Note8212;Jed Layton is reporting from the Republican National Convention in St. Paul through the Hinckley Institute of Politics and Shantou University Political Journalism Program.