Snark Attack

Tonight, Sarah Palin crystallized the McCain campaign’s main strategy against Barack Obama: withering sarcasm .

You could almost hear the words drip. “My fellow citizens,” she said, “the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of ‘personal discovery.’ ” Ouch! “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.” Yikes, cut it out already! “Listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform.” For the love of … “This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word victory except when he’s talking about his own campaign.” OK, OK, tap out!

Palin will likely get accolades for her oratory, her mom-next-door likability, and her willingness to hit Obama. But hats off for being not just on-message, but on-tone.

McCain’s campaign has lately felt like a laugh track. Obama travels to Europe. McCain mocks him as an elitist celebrity airhead. Obama fills a stadium. He’s like Britney. Obama works out. He’s conceited. Obama suggests inflating your tires to save gas. Call it “Obama’s energy plan.” Anything the Obama camp does, McCain has a pat response: derision. The message boils down to, Can you believe this guy is running for president?

So far, it’s been working. McCain’s “Celebrity” ads apparently cut into Obama’s lead in national polls. And until his acceptance speech in Denver, Obama seemed reluctant to hit back.

Palin seems well-suited to join in the fun. She’s smart, she can clearly land a zinger, and, unlike McCain, she actually looks like she’s having fun up there. There’s another aspect, too, and here we’ve all been instructed to tread lightly : Palin’s gender could well strengthen her attacks. Sure, the text is that she’s simply highlighting Obama’s weaknesses. But the subtext is that she’s emasculating him. Or at least that’s the way McCain’s people should hope it looks. This general election has already had its share of measuring contests . Team McCain has done its best to paint Obama as a fey elitist—not unsuccessfully, either. In that respect, Palin could be their best weapon yet.

“Now you know why we picked Gov. Palin,” McCain said when he came onstage after her speech. It’s true. Tonally, she’s a perfect fit.