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As Ann Coulter has noted, the Media has three standard ready-made templates for public consumption when it comes to Republicans, particularly Republicans it views as a threat to their Left-Wing compatriots’ in politics on the national stage; a Republican is either  dumb/stupid,  evil/corrupt or  “out of touch”. Reagan, Bush 43 and Dan Quayle were neatly pigeon-holed into category 1, while Bush 41, Bob Dole and to an extent, John McCain, found themselves in category 3. Dick Cheney was placed in Category 2, which is usually occupied by members of the administration other than the President and Vice-President, people like Lee Atwater and most recently, Karl Rove – in other words, people who have the audacity to get a Republican into office.
Sarah Palin, needless to say, has long since joined Reagan and Bush 43 in the club of Republicans the media has chosen to stuff into the dumb/stupid category and since then, through a combination of sheer repetition, McCain campaign incompetence and Palin’s own inexcusable flubbing of a high-stakes interview, they have successfully gotten what amounts to a majority of the American public to concur with that perception. As with Reagan and the belief that he was an “amiable dunce” during his Administration, it’s become a staple item of Beltway conventional wisdom that Palin has nothing upstairs. With regard to Reagan though, history, as it almost always does, has proven that the Beltway conventional wisdom was long on the conventional and short on the wisdom.
The question is if the conventional wisdom is right now when it comes to the former Governor of Alaska.
Personally, I believe she’s a lot smarter and more knowledgable than she has allowed herself to be portrayed – anyone who has seen her being interviewed on Alaska and energy issues before she was catapulted unto the national stage may have thought a lot of things, but “dumb” or “stupid” would not have been in the top ten. So the answer is; only if she allows the conventional wisdom to be right.
Which is why, if you were to ask me who next Sarah Palin should give an interview to after Oprah, Bill O’Reilly, etc. I’d say … Katie Couric. Then at some point, Charles Gibson, then Jon Stewart. I’d advise her to go on CBS, ABC, NBC and even MSNBC to tangle with ‘Tingles’ Matthews.
Confession time; I wish she had said no when John McCain called her up to ask her to be his Vice President last year. I believe her saying yes is something she now wholeheartedly regrets as one of the worst mistakes she has ever made – other than letting Levi Johnston date her daughter – no matter what she says in her book. The second worst mistake, as far as I’m concerned was resigning in the face of the continued unprecedented campaign of personal destruction being levelled against her and her family long after the elelction was over and done with. It is imminently understandable given the circumstances, but I believe she should have stood her ground and gone to war with everything she had to defend herself and her office.
Lessons learned – the next person to receive the call from a Presidential nominee asking to join him (or her) on the ticket should at least insist on allowing him (or her) to either pick or have veto power over key members of his (or her) staff. I had a premonition the instant I learned that Nicole Wallace had been assigned by Steve Schmidt to oversee Sarah Palin’s communications operation for the campaign that it couldn’t possibly end well. This is not because I had any idea that she would turn out to be the backstabber (hence, Operation Leper) she turned out to be, but because of her record of utter incompetence and failure as the Director of Communications for the Bush White House.
Considering her record, her actions may not be any less incandescently stupid, but not exactly surprising. In the Bush White House, her every instinct and judgement call was not only wrong, but catastrophically wrong. With Palin, not only did Nicolle Wallace (with Steve Schmidt backing her all the way) enforce a media blackout until it turned actively destructive to the campaign, she then exclusively scheduled two interviews with people that were openly hostile to her charge and then, incomprehensibly refused to schedule more interviews to allow Palin make up for her flubbing of the sit-down with Couric – though one wonders how much of that is due to cutting-room shenanigans.
But what is done is done. Which brings us to today, where Palin is now a private citizen, but still a public individual and one of the most iconic faces of the Republican Party. It has certainly not escaped the Beltway’s attention that no one in the public sphere today can make the Republican base open their wallets and donate their time and money like Sarah Palin. And to that extent, even the most self-abasing Republican “moderate” in the sisyphusian quest of seeking liberal approval would acknowledge that she’s an asset to the GOP. But to the extent that the perception of her that the Left, their cohorts in the media and their aforementioned self-loathing “moderate” Republican fellow-travellers have invested so much time and resources in implanting into the collective mind of the American voting public continues to resonate, she’s also a liability.
One of the things we political junkies tend to forget is that we’re not the norm. Most of us here can name every United States Senator and most House members serving on Capitol Hill and the state (if not the district) he or she represents. By contrast, a significant number of the people who would stand in line at the polls to vote next year would not know the name of the Vice-President of the United States and would have only the foggiest idea of what the candidates on their ballots stand for. We actively seek information on politics, we read blogs, newspaper and magazine sites, watch C-SPAN, listen to talk radio, etc. They don’t. So most of the information they have is what they’ve passively absorbed from watching television (i.e. “Hope” and “Change”), skimming the headlines at the super market checkout counter, or reading the local paper running stories culled from the wire services.
So when one takes into account that FOXNews and talk radio only reach a fraction of the population reached by the networks (who usually take their cues and talking points directly off the pages of the New York Times and Washington Post), CNN, MSNBC and the wire services, it’s really not surprising that the image of Sarah Palin is that of the ditzy Tina Fey portrayed facsimilie – “I can see Russia from my house!” who has never cracked open a book in her life and does not know that Africa is a continent. This makes Palin a net liability, in my opinion, especially with the non-junkies, the non-political and not particularly ideological, marginally informed, yet electorally crucial so-called “middle”.
At least for as long as she remains a figure on the national stage and continues making statements on policy.
That is, if she continues to allow herself to be made a liability. No longer having to obey the dictates of the McCain Campaign, and being unsaddled with the intense concentration of incompetence that is Nicolle Wallace is obviously an advantage. The release of her book and the subsequent book tour presents an opportunity, and her Oprah interview from a few weeks ago and her interview with Bill O’Reilly is a great start.
This is where I disagree somewhat with Art’s (Achance) oft-stated conviction that “Republicans should make news in the places where they can get votes and from which they serve.” I agree with it in large part. It’s a much smarter and much better use of time and resources, and it’s more likely to end up being fair to all concerned. For state and local level politicians, including members of the House and Senate, this makes sense. There is no reason why Saxby Chambliss (for example), should be giving more interviews to the New York Times than the Rome News Tribune.
The slippery slope I’ve seen with this (especially during the “I hope he fails …” brouhaha with Rush) is that it can devolve into the practice of preaching to the choir. And considering the massive advantage in reach that the Democrats’ and their allies in the media have, that’s not a good deal for us no matter how high FOXNews’ ratings are and how listeners Rush has. That the media will do its best to distort, discredit and even destroy, any Republican that threatens the Left-Wing agenda is simply a fact of life that should have been factored into our calculations a long time ago – it doesn’t mean we should abandon the battlefield.
Sarah Palin needs to shatter the image a hostile media has created of her and re-introduce herself to the American people. What better way, after her book, than Palin V Couric II?
And this time, wherever she goes, I repeat; she should take her own camera and cameraman – I simply see no reason why any politician should allow him or herself to be the victim of the cutting room floor when camcorders are so cheap and YouTube exists.