It was just how Don Watson said it should be — an act of seduction. "A good speech is a lover’s embrace," he wrote. "You want to sit on the metaphorical mountain and with an arm sneaking round their shoulder speak of things you have in common — your love of trees or cows, the sacrifice of soldiers .." or maybe even the thrill of shooting a moose and dressing it in the field.
Admittedly Sarah Palin’s speech to the Republican National Convention was moose-free, but there was plenty about the sacrifice of soldiers, the wisdom of ordinary working people and the importance of family. It was a pitch perfect conservative speech that was strong on the candidate’s values and character and light on policy.
Just like when you’re field dressing a moose, you need to know what you’re doing when you give a high profile political speech. So not surprisingly, Palin had some help — this time from former Bush speech writer Matthew Scully. Scully started work on the speech before he knew who’d been giving it. The big themes came first and then the biographical details.
And while it was a great speech, it’s the biographical detail that has everyone excited. As talk radio host Rush Limbaugh put it "Sarah Palin: babies, guns, Jesus. Hot damn!" Even the cerebral Will Wilkinson couldn’t make into his second paragraph without exclaiming; "First, let me just get it out of the way: I think she is a tremendously sexy woman". As Will says, politics is often more about gut feeling than rational deliberation — it’s an animal thing.
No doubt for some guys it’s the guns and the hunting that gets their hormones racing. But that’s not true for her speech writer. While Scully is a conservative, he’s not a hunting enthusiast. In fact he’s a vegetarian and animal rights supporter. In an interview for the National Review he spoke about his book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy:
One thing I noticed, reading articles and books by sport hunters, is that they themselves are often uneasy about the things they do. And I hope Dominion will encourage more of that self-examination among the relatively few people — about five percent of Americans — with a taste for bloodsport. Hunting, if it can be justified at all, falls into the category of the necessary evil. When the aim is just the pleasure of stalking and killing, or the pride of a "trophy," the necessity is absent and you have to ask yourself what’s left.
In the past Scully hasn’t been afraid to criticise Dick Cheney for treating birds as if they were skeet. So I can’t help wondering what went through Scully’s mind when he realised he was working on a speech for the gun-totin‘ governor of Alaska.