"You arrogant ass! You've killed us!" So said the executive officer of a Soviet submarine to his captain in Tom Clancy's novel "The Hunt for Red October" after the captain had recklessly fired a torpedo that homed in on his own sub.
NBC's David Gregory must have had similar thoughts as he noted, ruefully, that the news media's assault on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin boosted substantially the television audience for her acceptance speech Wednesday night.
No friend of Barack Obama and the last week has demonstrated he has no better, nor more unscrupulous, friends than those in the news media can be happy about that.
Journalists last week cast aside the mask of objectivity to reveal they are so deeply in the tank for Mr. Obama most have grown gills. For six days, Sarah Palin and her family were subjected to a relentless barrage of innuendo. Journalists were trying to "define" her before she had an opportunity to introduce herself to the people in the lower 48. She was portrayed as an ignorant redneck from a hick town who should be home caring for her children instead of running for high public office.
Then Sarah Palin got her opportunity to speak, and her enemies learned firsthand why her nickname is "Sarah Barracuda."
Dismiss if you will the rapturous response to Ms. Palin's speech by the delegates in the convention hall and the posters on conservative blogs. The best testament to its power was the lame response of the Obama campaign. They noted she had the help of a speechwriter (the very talented Matt Scully) in preparing her remarks. Well, duh. Every major political figure has speechwriters. Sarah Palin works fine without a script. It's Barack Obama who ums and ahs without a teleprompter.
In my lifetime, I've only heard three or four speeches (all by Ronald Reagan) that I thought were as good or better than Sarah Palin's. She's as much a natural in politics as Michael Jordan was in basketball.
"Several moderate Democrat friends of mine have been e-mailing few if any would ever vote for McCain but all agree Palin was very strong," Michael Crowley wrote on The New Republic's blog. "The more liberal among them are a little panicked."
With good reason. With a smile on her face, Ms. Palin sliced and diced Barack Obama with the skill she dresses a moose she just shot. There were a host of good lines which I'm sure we'll see in McCain commercials in the near future. But ultimately the most effective may be this one: "In small towns, we don't know quite what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening."
What gives this line its power is that Sarah Palin is definitely part of the "we" the small town, blue-collar Americans who will decide this election.
Only once in modern times has a vice presidential candidate swung an election. Lyndon Johnson brought Texas and Alabama to John F. Kennedy in 1960, states that otherwise would have been suspicious of a Catholic liberal from New England. I think Sarah Palin will be the second. She has changed the nature of this race in ways ominous for Mr. Obama.
First, this race is no longer between a candidate who advocates change and the status quo, as Democrats would like to frame it. It's between two different visions of change, and between a ticket that's actually delivered reform, and a ticket that just talks about it. The argument that John McCain represents a third term for George W. Bush was strained to start with. It's ludicrous now.
Second, the Republican base is more fired up, and the party more united than it's been since Ronald Reagan ran for his second term. Conservatives see in Sarah Palin Ronald Reagan in a dress, the brains and backbone of Margaret Thatcher in a younger, prettier package. The Grand Old Party has a bright new face.
Mr. Obama owes much of his new troubles to his friends in the news media. Republicans and independent and Democratic women appalled by their sexism were enraged by the vicious assaults on Sarah Palin and her family.
After he learned his fleet had attacked Pearl Harbor before a formal declaration of war, Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto is reputed to have said: "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
The vice presidential debate is Oct. 2. If I were Joe Biden, I would be very, very afraid.