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Snickering at Palin's Simplistic Patriotism

Patrick Healy thinks Sarah Palin's "partisan zeal" and "with-us-or-against-us message" could "repel some independent voters," and her speeches have "holes in logic." Does the gaffe machine Joe Biden ever get this treatment from the Times?

On the trail in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, reporter Patrick Healy profiled Sarah Palin's stump speech with a condescending tone in "A Riveting Speaker, Waving the Flag."


Here is the thing about Gov. Sarah Palin: She loves America. Really loves it. She loves the smell of cut grass and hay, as she told Ohio voters Sunday. She loves Navy bases, she said in Virginia Beach on Monday morning. She loves America's "most beautiful national anthem," she told a crowd here a few hours later.


Apparently there are people who do not feel the same way about America as Ms. Palin does, she said at campaign rallies over the last two days. Those people just do not get it.


"Man, I love small-town U.S.A.," Ms. Palin told several thousand people on a field in Ohio, "and I don't care what anyone else says about small-town U.S.A. You guys, you just get it."


Ms. Palin did not identify who "anyone else" was. But listening to her campaign speeches three weeks before the presidential election, an informed voter would not need two chances to guess between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. (The posters reading "Barack Bin Lyin" at the McCain-Palin rally in Virginia Beach might be a hint, too.)


Healy estimated the crowd at the Richmond International Raceway as "more than 10,000 people," but the text box knocked that down: "Gov. Sarah Palin addressed 10,000 people on Monday at a raceway in Richmond, Va." A Washington Post blog entry puts the crowd at 20,000. More from Healy:


But Ms. Palin's partisan zeal could repel some independent voters in closely contested states like New Hampshire and Pennsylvania; Democratic polling in both states shows Ms. Palin with high negative ratings among independents. Palin advisers say many of these voters do not know enough about her; Ms. Palin is campaigning in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and New Hampshire on Wednesday.


In some ways, Ms. Palin seems like a 2.0 version of George W. Bush - not the deeply unpopular president, but the plain-spoken and energetic campaigner who rose as a political talent in Texas and solidified his appeal in the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. Hers, like his, is a with-us-or-against-us message, as when Ms. Palin pledges total solidarity with "good, hard-working, patriotic Americans."


The Times questioned why Palin wasn't attacking her own party, portraying her as an empty suit.


Ms. Palin's speeches do not acknowledge that looking at past mistakes is one way to avoid making those mistakes again. And her addresses gloss over some uncomfortable details, like that the most recent big spender in the White House is the Republican now there.


Ms. Palin also rarely ends up in the weeds of policy details on the economy, health care or Iraq. When it comes to generalizing, she can muster awfully strong passion, as in discussing Mr. McCain's ability to get out of a jam.


"He's got the guts to confront the $10 trillion debt that the federal government has run up," Ms. Palin said in Virginia Beach as Mr. McCain looked on with a stiff smile, "and we will balance the budget by the end of our term."


If there are holes in logic or a lack of specifics in Ms. Palin's speeches, her audiences tend to fill the absence with gushing affection.


By way of comparison, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign trail has been riddled with gaffes, yet he doesn't get the scrutiny that journalists give every pause or hole in a speech by Palin. The Times has yet to mention Biden's novel explanation to CBS anchor Katie Couric about how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt got on television to talk to America about the 1929 stock market crash. Only two things wrong withthe anecdote:FDR wasn't elected president until 1932, and TV wouldn't be introduced to the public until 1939.