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Commentary: Palin is a VP for the rest of us

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  • Sanchez: Sarah Palin's similar to the president in the movie "Dave"
  • "Palin is qualified to be president, and she showed why" Wednesday, Sanchez says
  • Sanchez: "She's every woman. ... She actually knows what our schools are like"
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By Leslie Sanchez
Special to CNN
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Editors note: Republican Leslie Sanchez was director of the Bush White House Initiative on Hispanic Education from 2001 to 2003 and is the author of "Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other." She is not a paid consultant to any current candidate. Sanchez is CEO of the Impacto Group, which specializes in market research about women and Hispanics for its corporate and nonprofit clients. Click here for a rival view.

Leslie Sanchez

Leslie Sanchez says Sarah Palin understands the life choices typical Americans face.

(CNN) -- In 1993, Kevin Kline starred in a movie called "Dave," playing a look-alike who winds up impersonating the president. In the movie, the real president has a stroke and is kept on life support in a restricted area of the White House by a power-mad chief of staff, played by Frank Langella. Dave fills in.

He brings in his accountant, and over bratwurst, they find $600 million to build homeless shelters for kids. At a Cabinet meeting, he gets the commerce secretary to kill an expensive program to make Americans feel good about the cars they've already bought. He becomes a better, more beloved president than the real one.

Dave's tagline was, "In a country where anybody can become president, anybody just did."

But the message was really that there's nothing magical about leadership, about encouraging men and women with logic and goodwill to be greater than we are.

That's also the message, it seems, of Sarah Palin.

She's every woman. When she takes the kids to practice, it's not to Washington, D.C.'s, exclusive St. Albans or Georgetown Prep or Gonzaga. Not even Fairfax or Montgomery County. She actually knows what our schools are like -- and how ill-prepared our children really are for the challenges of the global marketplace.

She knows how hard it is to raise children in a culture where every time they're out of your sight, they're tuning into a multibillion-dollar music, computer game, Internet and film empire that promulgates messages frequently at odds with small-town American values. It is an industry well-represented among the power elites of the Washington Beltway. Video Watch Palin take on the media, Washington power brokers »

She knows what it is to meet a budget -- not just for a state with $11 billion in income and expenditures or her state's seventh-biggest city, but for a family of seven. She knows what it's like to be a mother, and a wife, and to care for aging parents, and pay for the groceries, and the heat, and the mortgage, and to make the car payment.

And when it comes to the central moral issues of our time, she hasn't just cast votes and given speeches. She's had to make serious life choices. Presidents don't get easy choices, either. Is Palin your choice?

You want to compare management capacity? Nobody ever accused Joe Biden of private sector prowess; the man never held a job in his adult life other than United States senator and assistant public defender in Newark, Delaware. The other guy's been running bigger and bigger cogs in the Chicago political machine his entire adult life.

The buzz you're hearing is the mainstream media and political establishment reacting in anger that McCain's gone outside the circle in choosing a running mate. Why, wasn't Sarah Palin even at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last year?

Truth is, we all know a Sarah Palin. They're the ones who organize the picnics, coach the hockey teams, run the condo association, put together the Town Budget, supervise the courts and the police and the highway crews, even the power grid.

Experience? To borrow from Bill Clinton, "Who has the experience to assume the presidency?" Harry Truman? Lyndon Johnson? Gerald Ford?

Different life experiences altogether, but in each case, the core lessons, the character-setting events, all occurred in haberdashery shops and Texas Hill Country classrooms and practicing law with Phil Buchen in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The marble halls of power don't form character, they distort it.

Palin is qualified to be president, and she showed why last night. She demonstrated compassion, intelligence and strength. She spoke to American small-town values without apology and with wit.

John McCain is hoping that after two decades of elections dominated by aristocrats -- the first election in 28 years without a Bush or a Clinton on either ticket -- America is ready for a shake-up, but the establishment doesn't think an outsider could ever handle it -- and shouldn't be given the chance to try.


Only time will tell whether the American people will take a chance on some real change -- a vice president for the rest of us.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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