It had to happen. But why now? Sooner or later, some liberal commentator was going to see through the red mist of liberal rage and understand that Sarah Palin is not just a empty head but a skilled politician.
And why did it have to be the dean of liberal pundits, David Broder? Here is his judgment on last weekend:
Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.
Let's go on.
Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.
Her invocation of "conservative principles and common-sense solutions" was perfectly conventional. What stood out in the eyes of TV-watching pols of both parties was the skill with which she drew a self-portrait that fit not just the wishes of the immediate audience but the mood of a significant slice of the broader electorate.
This is just what we don't want liberals to know at this stage of the game. No, no. Let's all just make silly jokes about making notes on her hand, and all the rest. Let's give Palin another year under the radar.
(That Robert Gibbs: how dumb can you be to mention Palin's hand notes at the White House? It raises Palin to the presidential level. I thought it was Politics 101: you never raise up the small fry opposition.)
Personally, I think that Broder is overdoing it a bit. I don't think that Sarah Palin is at the top of her game. I think she is still learning the craft of a national politician, and has a ways to go yet. But you can see already that, populist or not, she is going for the center. No more compassionate conservatism. Palin's book is drenched in references to "common-sense conservatism." And her speech was the same. It was all about common-sense solutions and ridiculing the silliness and lack of common sense in the Obama administration.
When the nation self-identifies 40 percent conservative and 36 percent moderate, you can see that "common-sense" and "conservatism" covers a majority of the electorate.
Common sense isn't enough, of course. You need empathy. And this report of Sarah Palin's visit to Walter Reed Army Hospital starts to build a narrative of Palin the empathetic. Says Anthony Tata, a retired Brigadier General:
As the leader of thousands of troops in combat, I’ve been honored to visit hundreds of wounded and had the privilege of burying too many friends and fellow warriors. Accordingly, my “insincerity detector” is pretty good and I give Governor Palin high marks. She was in the moment with those Soldiers and families. All wrapped in one person, she was leader, mother, friend, grateful American, and grieving parent.
You can't pay for stuff like that. It fills you with hope for change.