We’ve certainly generated a lot of commentary over the last two days over what may be a nothingburger — the fact that Sarah Palin has yet to be invited to speak at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. As Rick Santorum told Jonathan Karl this week, no one has been invited to speak at the convention — at least not yet. There’s almost no doubt that Santorum will get a slot, having run second in delegates in the nomination race, and since he hasn’t received his slot yet, it’s fair to assume that those decisions haven’t quite been made yet.
Dustin took a lot of heat yesterday for suggesting that having Palin off the schedule might not be a bad idea:
I decided to keep an open mind prior to her 2008 GOP Convention speech, but afterwards was the only person in a roomful of conservative interns who thought it was merely decent. Everyone else was ecstatic about what she had said. I also watched part of her much-maligned Couric interview, but heard from my friend Adam Brickley — who as a college student helped launch Palin to the national spotlight — that I should not put much weight into what I saw there. I then spent the next two years reading her op-eds, watching her speak, and discussing the excitement many other young conservatives had for Palin and her future within the GOP, and realized I just didn’t think Palin added much to the conservative movement. Yes, she has her positive attributes, both personally and with regards to public policy. But between her unpopularity with the general public (yes, partially created and exacerbated by utterly dishonest media portrayals of Palin and her family, as well as completely hateful attacks on her by Paul Krugman and others after the Giffords shooting) and her lack of knowledge on issues outside of anti-corruption and energy policy, I think inviting her to speak at the convention would be a poor decision for the GOP.
Based on the reaction, one might have thought Dustin had called Ronald Reagan a Communist. No one in politics is above criticism (just as no writers on politics are above criticism for their criticism), and when we treat people like they are, we get … Barack Obama, for one. A wise manual on life instructs us to put not our trust in princes, a handy axiom to keep in mind while working in politics. Nothing Dustin wrote was mean-spirited or dishonest.
As it happens, I disagree with Dustin, but not exactly for the same reasons I saw in the comments yesterday. I think the RNC needs to invite Sarah Palin to speak at the convention — and moreover, I think it would be bad manners to not invite her. Four years ago, she took the slings and arrows for the party as John McCain’s running mate. That should at least earn her the respect of her party, even from those who may not want to back her as a candidate for office now or in the future. What does it say about the party if we can’t fit the previous #2 banner-carrier somewhere in four evenings of speeches?
The convention isn’t exactly an exclusive club, after all — and neither is the Republican Party. This isn’t the Tea Party Convention, nor the Moderates Convention, nor the Establishment Convention, nor the Paleo-Cons Convention. It’s the Republican National Convention, and it is supposed to unite all of the various factions and philosophies within the Big Tent of the GOP as we head into a tough fight for the White House, Congress, and all of the state races. Palin’s obvious influence and appeal to grassroots voters makes her (separately from the above argument) a must-have for the four-day event. By the same token, we also need to have Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Santorum in prime speaking slots, as they put their lives on hold and garnered significant support for their candidacies, and their supporters need to be united under the same Republican banner, too.
Herman Cain should speak … mostly because Herman Cain is one of the best orators in the conservative movement. In fact, can we get him two speaking slots?
Nor should those be the only featured speakers. Let’s hear from Chris Christie and Jim DeMint, Marco Rubio and Sam Brownback, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Brian Sandoval, and Susan Collins and John McCain, too. I don’t agree with any of these people 100% of the time — well, maybe DeMint and Rubio — but I agree with them enough for their contribution to matter. They each speak to constituencies we need to reach in this election, even when we don’t see eye to eye.
Conventions are about unity, and they’re also long enough to fit practically everyone who wants to appear. I’m looking forward to hearing Palin and Cain fire up the grassroots, DeMint and Paul remind us of the need to limit government power, Gingrich to hammer critics of the party, and Mitt Romney to unite everyone under one banner for the final ten weeks of the campaign. Let’s start working on that unity now.
Update: My old friend John Ziegler agrees with Dustin and disagrees with me.