At any other venue, ex-U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Iran-Contra-schemer-turned-conservative-commentator Oliver North and conservative gadfly Michael Reagan would be headliners. At the National Rifle Association (NRA) Charlotte confab, they’re the support act. But not the warm-up. The NRA’s fight card violates an unwritten rule in showbiz: keep your powder dry. Save the best for last. The portion of the lineup that I saw today began with Bolton talking about the U.N.’s plan to supersede the U.S. Constitution with international “law”. Reagan’s genetic progeny then spoke on generic conservatism. Followed by former Alaska Governor Sarah “Populist” Palin accusing President Obama of closeted gun grabbing dreams. After that, Oliver North said something, followed by a Congressman who said the same sort of thing, etc. Like most of the crowd, I was there for Sarah’s speech. It was revelatory, but not for the reasons you might think . . .

My name is Brad Kozak and I’m a Conservative. Note, not “Republican.” That ship sailed so far off course that the term “Republican” no longer stands for anything with a small “c” except cash, out of my wallet, into Uncle Sam’s hands. As a NRA-card carrying Conservative, when Palin’s VP run was announced, I was excited. I knew something about her work as governor of Alaska, and I liked her.

Then the train wreck that was the McCain “Straight Talk Express” rolled through town. IMHO, Arizona Senator John McCain was little different (or better) than Chicago machine man Barack Obama. I thought of McCain as a consumate chameleon in conservative clothes…”Progressive Lite” if you will. (One-third the speed…same outcome.) I saw Mr. “Hope and Change” as “Original Recipe” (same outcome, much faster timetable). Sarah Palin was . . . something else.

The press came down on her faster than you can spell P-O-T-A-T-O-E. Part of it was down to Palin’s “not-ready-for-prime-time” status. She was a college golfer playing The Bigs. Talk about the yips . . . Palin’s disasterous interviews with Katie Couric and that other talking head made her look like an salmon outa water, even though a great deal of the questioning was the worst kind of “gotcha” journalism (where the interviewer wouldn’t have known the answer to the same question without consulting Googling PAs).

Even so, I was left with the impression that Palin’s protagonists might be at least a little right. Perhaps Sarah was Plasti-Girl instead of Wonder Woman. My faith was shaken, and a little stirred. I wasn’t alone. A bunch of my Conservative cohorts shared my unease about Palin’s intellectual firepower and, equally important, her authenticity.

Cigar-wielding comedian George Burns once said, “Sincerity’s the key to success in show biz. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Most performers I know live by this credo. They want you to believe in their persona. Many end-up blowing their carefully-crafted images in an orgy of bad publicity, bad behavior and bad timing. But even before they crash and burn, showbiz types are deeply cynical. They figure if they live by the lie, everyone else must, too.

As you’d expect, and as common sense suggests, the Left-leaning punditocracy believe that Sarah Palin is as big of a fraud as any of them. As any pol. So they’re doing their level best to prove it—from casting aspersions about the Governor’s marriage/kids/pregnancies, to questioning her basic intelligence, to mocking her wardrobe, to smirking at her hunting abilities. It’s all about stripping off Palin’s mask to reveal a hypocritical, power-hungry, emotionally manipulative moron.

Problem is, she is none of those things.

Palin’s keynote speech addressed the Second Amendment in general. She zeroed in on how anti-gun groups have targeted hunting in Alaska, hoping to expand their work to the lower 48. (Or the lower 56, if you’re Obama.) Palin pointed out that “hunting” and “game management” are two different things, and observed how her critics resort to out-and-out lies to suit their own agendas.

The money shot:

Don’t doubt for a minute that, if they thought they could get away with it, [the Obama administration] would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the Second Amendment. It’s the job of all of us at the NRA and its allies to stop them in their tracks.

Yada yada yada. To understand why the Republicans are saving Sarah, and vice versa, you have cast aside your personal politics and just listen to her. Watch her in action. You’ll soon discover that she’s another WYSIWYG politician. Like Ronald Reagan, there is no man behind the curtain. She is what she is. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Palin says what she thinks, and thinks what she says. She doesn’t care about polls, personal ambition or who’s RINO she’s gonna gore when she lets fly. She simply offers up her opinion based on inconvenient truths (e.g., “morals,” “ethics” and “personal beliefs”). Palin’s a breath of fresh air in a smoke-filled room of professional liars.

In short, Palin has got that genuine thing down. Not because she’s studied it, synthesized it and practiced it. She appears to be genuine because she is genuine.

I know what you’re thinking: he’s been hoodwinked. Kozak’s projecting his political values onto a good-looking, smooth-talking cipher. You can fool an old fooler.

Yes way. Think of it like this: even in the world of professional showbiz (a.k.a., politics), you can tell the “real” from the “fake” (or from the “surreal”). Just wait for the screw-up.

Back in the day before the day, Elvis Presley performed on The Steve Allen Show. After humiliating himself with a basset hound (don’t ask), the rock and roll singer belted out a ballad. As he sang, his guitar accidentally hit the mike stand, making a single, solitary, momentary clank. If you’re not looking for it, you’ll miss it. If you’re listening for it, you’ll never hear it. But Elvis did. And he smiled. A genuine, oops I screwed up smile. And then he got back to the business of breaking hearts.

When a performer with honest depth of character screws up in front of an audience, they shrug their shoulders, self-deprecate (without going for a cheap laugh) and move on. The insincere get that “deer in the headlights” look. They thrash about, trying to figure the “correct” response to their lost mojo. How do I get my mask back in place?

If you know where and when to look, you can see the seams in a phony’s persona. This is what antagonistic journalists desperately want to see in Sarah Palin. Yet even Katie Kouric couldn’t “expose” Palin in that way. How could she? Palin’s sincerity makes her virtually bullet-proof. And, with each appearance, battle-hardened.

Don’t get me wrong: Palin is a polished performer. But again, she’s self-aware. You can see her seeing herself as she speaks. Reality checking her words and ideas to make sure she’s “telling it like it is.” When there’s a disconnect, no one’s as aware of it as Palin. She knows her critics are ready to parse her to pieces. And she’s OK with it. Because her audience is OK with it. They believe her core beliefs.

Will Palin run for president? I have no clue. She’s not doing things the “conventional” way. Endorsing John McCain and Carly Fiorina in the upcoming U.S. Senate elections certainly hasn’t endeared her to Tea Partying core constituents. Is Palin adhering to her moral compass, ignoring the “politically correct” thing to do/say? Or is it more proof of a soccer mom with piss-poor political instincts?

As for me, it doesn’t matter. Palin’s NRA speech has restored my faith in the lady. That doesn’t mean I’d follow her blindly. But I now see the media onslaught as an attempt to bring Palin down to their level. It won’t work. Flaws and all, Sarah Palin is the real deal. Oh, and she likes guns. A lot. And knows how to use them. How great is that?

3 Responses to NRA Keynote: Sarah Palin

  1. I like what she says, but I'm not buying the genuineositnessittude factor. Palin preens in that populist way: drawing attention to her self-deprecation as if to say "See? I'm one of you." What's more, I detect a fundamental petulance, an underlying nastiness to her criticisms of the left and (other) pols. THAT strikes me as a real. And it reminds me of . . . Barack Obama.

    Check out the unscripted aside at -27:36. "Aaaaa. Hypocrites." Or her constant reference to the "lamestream media." She's genuinely angry at her critics. She doesn't understand, or accept, that hypocrisy is the way of the world. Does the country need another zealot? Where's Abraham Lincoln when you need him? Off slaying vampires I'm told.

    In contrast, I met Ronald Reagan. Hung out with him for a while with his family. He was a genuinely nice human being. More to the point, he was bemused by his enemies. He rose above politics even as he wallowed in the mire. Hard to explain. Easy to see. Remember "There you go again"?

    You can kill your enemies with kindness. At least in politics.

    • I think Sarah, and the Tea Party, and some other Conservative types are genuinely nice people – within their own tribe. That tribe seems to be some combination of Anglo-Saxon, Scotch-Irish and whoever else they consider real Americans. They want a government that represents them first and foremost. But they are starting to realize that they, like the rest of the middle class, are losing influence with the interests that really control government.

  2. I liked Reagan and would have voted for him if I was not handicapped by Canadian citizenship. Reagan made America believe in itself. I am very skeptical about Sarah Palin. Up here we have a young woman running for the premier's job (equivalent to state governor) in Alberta. Her name is Danielle Smith and she is a very intelligent small c conservative with a goal of smaller government. She has added instant credibility to a fringe party and will be a force during the next election in two years. To me, she is what Palin needs to be as a politician rather than a populist: smart and well-informed -rather than emotional and armed with cliches..

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