You see Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska; I see Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who vanquished the English in France and facilitated the crowning of Charles VII as King of France, thus ending English claims to the French throne.
Like Palin, Joan was an invigorator: She inspired the French to fight the English. When she failed to win over the generals and the nobles, she went over their heads to the people of France. Soon she had liberated Orleans, after a string of victories, and cleared the way for Charles’s investiture at Reims. Even before his ascent to the French throne, Charles had made the teenager co-commander of his army.
There is dispute over whether Joan actually fought or just carried the French standard in battle. No matter. She electrified the French. And although the 100 Years War dragged on for another generation, Joan had shaped the future of the French nation, giving it a sense of national identity that it had lacked:
She galvanized all levels of French society, revitalized a sick and cautious political establishment, and ignited the new feelings of nationalism in the French army and the peasantry. Essentially, what Palin has done so far for the Republicans.
Joan believed that she was the instrument of God; that she had heard voices from the age of 12, urging her to expel the English from France. Unfortunately, the voices were to be her death knell. She was captured by the English, who handed her over to the Ecclesiastical Court in Rouen, which tried her for heresy. She was convicted and burned at the stake. She was just 19, but she had changed the course of European history.
Later, the Roman Catholic Church decided that it had made a terrible mistake and denounced the trial, finding her innocent after the fact. But Joan was not canonized for another 500 years.
Look at Palin and see the “Maid of Orleans”: She has fought the Republican establishment and energized the rank and file of the party. And that is probably where the similarity ends, although she seems to be quite certain about God’s purposes.
The speculation in Washington is: When will the Palin bubble burst? So far, she has been repeating the same speech on the stump and has only granted one television interview.
The strategy of keeping Palin from the public is beginning to wear thin. And even John McCain himself seems to be hankering for the recognition that he is the nominee for the presidency not the trophy vice presidential candidate from Alaska.
Yet for McCain, it is also all about Palin. If he wins the presidency, she will be credited with attracting women and blue-collar voters to the Republican standard. If she falls apart in the next month, through a combination of hubris and ignorance, she will take down the McCain candidacy.
Also, the speculation in Washington is that Barack Obama’s forces are retooling for an assault to coincide with the one and only vice presidential debate. It is a debate fraught for both the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and for Palin.
Biden is given to talking too much and he knows too much, which is sometimes a disadvantage. He will be struggling to appear neither avuncular nor condescending. Palin needs to memorize talking points on every issue and stick to them. This is a dangerous tactic, but it is her best option. And it more or less worked in her interview with Charles Gibson of ABC.
Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the late senator from Washington state, who I interviewed on many occasions, answered the question he thought you should ask not the one you asked. He did this especially on television, as I found out when I was part of a panel on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Palin’s strategists will probably also try to give her a disarming one-liner that she can repeat frequently, which George W. Bush did with “fuzzy math” in debating Al Gore. People tend to remember the one-liner and forget the rest of the question.
Although Charles ennobled St. Joan and her family, he resented the fact that she had done what he had failed to do against the English aggressor. History may be repeating itself with John McCain.