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Palin the Good Cop

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Sarah Palin Introductory Tour continued through the weekend with stops at a pair of independent-league ballparks in Washington, Pa., a small city 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, and the St. Louis exurb of O’Fallon, Mo. The former rally was essentially a replay of the event in Dayton where Sen. John McCain announced the Alaska governor would be his running mate. Palin told the same speech, introducing herself, her husband and family. However, in Missouri — or Missourah, as Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) called it — Palin offered a telling glimpse of what exactly her role in the campaign would be.

In the sweltering heat, Palin received an enthusiastic greeting from an audience that the campaign said numbered more than 17,000, but was almost certainly considerably smaller. her speech was periodically interrupted by chants of “Sarah, Sarah,” and five audience members held up giant white letters that spelled “PALIN.” For the first time since McCain added her to his ticket, Palin sought to demonstrate that her experience in Alaska prepared her for the reponsibilities of the federal government. As Hurricane Gustav moved steadily toward New Orleans, three years to the week after Hurricane Katrina decimated the city, McCain and Palin paid a quick visit to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Operation Center in Jackson, Miss. yesterday, where they met with the governors of all four Gulf Coast states. Palin used this as a jumping off point.

Palin’s remarks about the hurricane preparations were boilerplate, but her delivery was relentlessly upbeat. Even as she talked about the impending doom and gloom facing New Orleans, she spun just about everything she said in an optimistic light.

As we’ve seen in other disasters, crisis on this scale can bring out the best in our country. They show the resourcefulness, the resourcefulness of our people shine through, and the heroic kindness of which we are capable. And whatever the scale of destruction, grief, perhaps loss of life that this hurricane might inflict, people in the Gulf, that region will once again be counting on the good heart of America, Americans like all of you. I know that relief workers and charitable groups, and volunteers, they’ll be up to the task. So I join Sen. McCain in urging all of our fellow Americans to stand ready to help in the work and relief effort to rebuild. Some terrible days may lie ahead for New Orleans, again, and the region. But my fellow Americans, we’re going to get through this crisis, as we always do in our finest moments, by pulling together, and by helping where the need is greatest.

Palin’s speaking style is reminiscent of a friend’s impossibly cheery mother. It’s difficult to imagine her as an attack dog. Palin could provide relief from the near-constant negativity coming from the McCain campaign’s ads. In a reversal of the typical roles of running mates, McCain and the rest of his staff will be able to keep doing what they’ve done all along — launching broadsides against Sen. Barack Obama, while Palin can spread rays of sunshine throughout the battleground states where she will likely be spending the bulk of her time. If Palin largely refrains from going negative, it will make it all the more difficult for the Obama campaign to attack her without appearing to be “picking on the nice lady.” Palin can play the good cop, pushing her message of government reform and change to the masses, to the rest of the campaign’s bad cop.

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