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The State of Sarah's Union

Palin's important speech in Nashville.

9:50 PM, Feb 6, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Sarah Palin's speech to the Tea Party convention in Nashville showcased all of the former Alaska governor's strengths. She was confident, funny, down-to-earth,  at times emotional--and she took a scalpel to the Obama administration and congressional Democrats. Ignore the critics who will say Palin spent too much time looking at her notes; her off-the-cuff approach and decision not to use a TelePrompTer was clearly calculated to highlight President Obama's reliance on scripted events and canned speeches.

The timing of the speech was also significant. Palin used the talk, broadcast live on Fox News Channel and C-SPAN, to respond to the president's State of the Union address from last week. Palin's mention that today is Ronald Reagan's birthday positioned her squarely among his heiresses. More interesting, Palin started off with a concentrated attack on the Obama administration's national security policies--not an issue for which the Tea Partiers are known. Palin noted that the president spent hardly any time on foreign policy during his annual report to Congress--indeed, she spent more time on our Israeli and Japanese allies, our Iranian and jihadist adversaries, and our strategic competitors than he did. And when Palin said that America needs a commander in chief, not a law professor, the crowd went wild; one was momentarily transported back to her famous speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The media are playing into Palin's hands. They've used her celebrity as an excuse to cover her relentlessly even though she holds no office--and yet the attention helps her communicate to her supporters and reach out to audiences who may be giving her a second thought.

"We are the loyal opposition, and we have a vision for the future of our country, too," Palin said. She repeatedly said the Tea Party movement does not need a leader. But is there an American politician who inspires such enthusiasm from her supporters (and her detractors)? And isn't that a unique strength in a polarized age in which the ideological stakes are so high?

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