Sarah Palin's stiletto

Put away the Quayle and Eagleton comparisons. Palin's for real, and on the key issue of energy policy, she has to be reckoned with

Published September 4, 2008 11:00AM (EDT)

Shelve the Dan Quayle and Tom Eagleton comparisons. Sarah Palin had a glint in her eye whenever she stuck her stiletto into Obama and the Democrats that said, clear as the light reflecting off an Alaskan glacier -- I'm for real, and don't you forget it.

Ever since the news broke that Sarah Palin was John McCain's pick for vice-president, the narrative pretty much wrote itself for Democrats. 1) McCain's whole "experience" shtick was finished. 2)Who can possibly take this crazy libertarian secessionist wannabe library censor seriously? 3) McCain = reckless, impetuous, risky. The insta-poll numbers reflected the insta-analysis. Although the immediate effect of the nomination seemed to negate Obama's big speech in Denver, as soon as what America thought was the reality of the situation set in, the Obama bounce came back, big time.

But as I dug into her record on energy issues this week, it didn't seem quite so simple. Yes, she was a drill, baby, drill cheerleader, but she also had legitimate reason to claim that she had stood up to oil companies in Alaska -- in fact, unlike McCain, she has no problem with windfall taxes. Going head to head against Exxon and BP in Alaska takes some backbone, and if there's one thing that was clear to me after watching her speech in Minnesota, she's got spine. She might have stumbled a couple of times on the teleprompter when talking foreign policy, but when she was striding Alaska's North Slope, and chatting about pipelines, she was not posing.

I don't think she's going to pull in disaffected Hillary voters -- she's too much a card-carrying member of the religious right for that, which is one reason why the convention attendees were so delirious. But that's not all she is, by a long shot. On one of the crucial issues in this campaign -- energy policy -- Sarah Palin knows the territory.

She's a player. We got ourselves a ball game.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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2008 Elections Energy Globalization How The World Works Sarah Palin