Sarah Palin has caught crap from “the media” ever since John McCain pulled her out of obscurity as Governor of Alaska. Palin never became Vice President, and never finished her term as governor, but still remains a political firebrand, using her Facebook page and open invitation from Fox News to stay in the public eye.
When Palin was interviewed by Katie Couric and Charlie Rose during McCain’s ill-fated campaign in 2008, she dropped the ball pretty badly. She was unable to answer questions about George Bush’s policy of preemptive military action. She famously could not name which newspapers she read regularly.
In the televised debate with Joe Biden, she proudly announced that she would not necessarily “answer the questions that either the moderator or [Joe Biden] want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people,” using the forum as an opportunity to highlight her “track record.”
She declared herself a “Main Streeter”, a “Washington outsider”, and a “maverick.” She vowed to bring a “little bit of reality from Wasilla Main Street” to Washington.
It was in this debate that terms like “Joe Sixpack” and “hockey moms” leapt into America’s political discourse. She repeatedly used folksy expressions like “darn right” and “drill, baby, drill.” She winked at the camera.
These things caused the jokes to flow freely from late night talk shows and Sunday morning discussion panels.
When members of the press began to complain that the McCain campaign was keeping Palin from facing them to answer substantive questions, McCain appeared with Palin and accused “the media” of “gotcha journalism.”
Then came the Saturday Night Live spoofs that got as much or more attention that Palin herself, largely because they used actual quotes from her interviews.
Ever since the McCain/Palin ticket lost, there has been a strained relationship between Palin and “the media”. Recently, when her family was embroiled in what has been described as a “drunken brawl” at a party in Alaska, Palin was in the spotlight again. Audio from police interviews revealed what sounded like two of Palin’s children, Track and Bristol, in very inebriated states after the fight.
Bristol Palin declared the news stories about the fight to be an example of a “bias against conservative women” by a liberal media establishment. She argued that no one paid attention to Joe Biden’s son being kicked out of the Navy, though that was widely reported.
When a CNN anchor found the audio of Bristol’s post-fight rant funny, which caught her flak from all sides, she was forced to apologize. Her comments were also couched as something that would never have been said about President Obama’s daughters.
Recently, Palin appeared on the Fox Business Network and told Stuart Varney:
“The bottom line of course is those liberals, they love those Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, where they are out there playing the politics of personal destruction. They do want to destroy personally those they disagree with. They’re very, very intolerant of those who maybe hold opposing views to their liberal failed agenda views. So, you know, they want to crush us.”
Palin seemed to indicate that the recent negative attention her family has gotten is about political differences, about liberal versus conservative. The “liberal media,” she believes, hates her family.
But doesn’t the question deserve to be asked: Wouldn’t any famous family — especially one with a high-profile mother and a daughter who competed on Dancing with the Stars — that was in a “drunken brawl” and wound up on police tapes spewing profanity and half-drunken nonsense, soon find itself talked about on the news? Would it matter — in this age of YouTube videos, TMZ, and blogs — which political party they aligned with?
The attention the Palins get may not be about political differences. But it certainly is about entertainment. Her answers to Katie Couric were shockingly inane, and when re-couched by Tina Fey, they were funny. The police audio from the recent night in Anchorage was funny because it was profanity-strewn, not because Bristol got hurt.
Politics aside, Palin takes herself seriously, when loads of other people do not. It’s not about whether they agree with her. Palin makes the same mistake that Limbaugh has made for years before her: she paints all “liberals” — i.e. people who disagree with her, as well as anyone who would laugh at her daughter’s tirade — with the same brush.
Palin mentioned Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals book. This is likely a poke at Hillary Clinton, who did her senior thesis on the book in 1969, and was pilloried by conservatives for it in later years. Clinton’s analysis of the book has been characterized as “dispassionate, disappointed, and amused by [Alinsky’s] divisive methods and dogmatic ideology.” Nonetheless, Palin and others continue to bring it up as though it were an effective talking point.
If Palin read Rules for Radicals, she might find Rule #5 in that book:
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
But just because you are being ridiculed doesn’t mean you’re being targeted politically. Sometimes it just means that people think you’re ridiculous.