Sunday, September 07, 2008

Polishing Palin

Glenn, making a point I started to make in a previous post.
When they decide in a couple of weeks that Palin is ready to do so, she'll go and sit down with Brit Hume or Larry King or Charlie Gibson or some other pleasant, accommodating person who plays a journalist on TV and have a nice, amiable, entertaining chat about topics that are easily anticipated. Having been preceded by all sorts of campaign drama about her first interview and the excitement that she's not up to the task, her TV appearance will be widely touted, score big ratings, and will be nice entertainment for the network that presents it. It will achieve many things. Undermining propaganda isn't one of them. This idea that she's some sort of fragile, know-nothing amateur who is going to quiver and collapse when subjected to the rough and tumble world of American journalism is painfully ludicrous, given that -- as the Canonization of the endlessly malleable Tim Russert demonstrated -- that imagery is a fantasy journalists maintain about themselves but it hardly exists. The standard journalistic model of "balance" means that the TV journalist asks a few questions, lets the interviewee answer, and then moves on without commenting on or pointing out false claims, i.e., without exposing propaganda (Carney can check his own magazine to see how that sad, propaganda-boosting process works -- here, here, and here). Few things are easier than submitting to those sorts of televised rituals.

Moreover, Sarah Palin isn't Dan Quayle. She is extremely smart -- much smarter than the average media star who will eventually be interviewing her -- and she is very politically skilled as well. She didn't go from obscure small-town city council member to Governor to Vice Presidential nominee by accident. She'll be more than adequately prepared for the shallow, 30-second, rote exchanges that pass for political interviews in our Serious mainstream discourse. Anyone expecting her to fall on her face or be exposed as some drooling simpleton is going to be extremely disappointed. That might (or might not) happen with real questioning, but she's not going to face that.

If anything, this growing drama about Palin's supposed fear of facing America's super-tough "journalists" who are chomping at the bit to expose her is going to help her greatly, for exactly the reason Digby wrote here, after highlighting Chris Matthews' complaints that Palin won't yet submit to interviews:

People need to get over the idea that Palin's some kind of Britney Spears bimbo. She's a professional politician and from the looks of it, a pretty good one. She's not going to fall on her face on TV. They will build the expectations accordingly.

The ideological extremism and growing ethical questions that define Sarah Palin -- and especially the discredited, rejected core beliefs of John McCain -- means that the McCain campaign should have much to worry about in this election. Having Sarah Palin face the mighty, scary American press corps certainly isn't one of them. That's just a melodramatic distraction, one that will redound to the GOP's benefit. Palin will "face" our media soon enough, and it will probably be the easiest thing she'll have to do between now and November.
The fact that Palin is female and the McCain camp thinks disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters are dumb enough to vote for a candidate (or in this case, a candidate’s running mate) simply because she’s female probably has a lot to do with why McCain picked her. But that doesn’t mean Palin is a media-ignorant neophyte unaccustomed to lying on camera. So anyone expecting her to to be shaken off her talking points by the make-pretend scrutiny and softball questioning of a Brit Hume is going to be disappointed. Expect a lot of appearances on friendly Fox News and expect a lot of mentions of the memorized names of international leaders, but don’t expect many follow-up questions.

Palin isn’t going to do an interview in which the questions aren’t all easily anticipated (or agreed upon in advance) or for which she doesn’t have rehearsed answers. She isn’t going draw a blank, cry (unless the focus groups think she comes across as cold), wet her pants or walk off the set in a huff. She will come across as basically competent—even if her answers reveal patently ridiculous policy positions, at least they will have been communicated in a polished manner. She’s not Jeanine Pirro.

But that doesn’t change the fact that her positions are out of touch with the American mainstream. That doesn’t change the fact that her firing of a public safety officer for not firing her former brother-in-law from his job as a state trooper is now the subject of an investigation by the Alaska state legislature. That doesn’t change the fact that she left Wasilla, a town of about 5,500 residents, nearly $20 million in debt after her tenure as mayor. That doesn’ change the fact that she wanted to ban books.

That doesn’t make her qualified to be vice president.

UPDATE: Looks like Glenn was right, as one of the “pleasant, accommodating [people] who plays a journalist on TV” mentioned above gets first crack at pitching batting practice to Palin.
ABC News' Charles Gibson has snagged the first interview with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin since she was named the GOP's vice presidential pick on August 29.

Palin has been one of the most sought-after interview subjects, but presidential nominee John McCain's campaign has kept Palin away from the media amid speculation in some quarters about her relative inexperience.

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