Friday, January 09, 2009
"She Doesn't Have a Well-Informed Worldview."
Mrs. Frum appeared on The O'Reilly Factor last night to discuss Gov. Sarah Palin's interview for John Ziegler's "How Obama Got Elected" project. But the negative words quoted in the headlines aren't Danielle's. They were the words of Sen. Rick Santorum, invited onto the show to champion Palin.
It's pretty bad when even your supporters call you ignorant.
Perhaps sensing that Santorum's defense sounded less than whole-hearted, O'Reilly decided to do the job himself.
About half way through the conversation, O'Reilly loudly challenged Danielle (I don't have a transcript, so forgive any inexactitude in the quote): "Wouldn't you agree that the real problem was that Palin was mishandled by the campaign?" (O'Reilly went on to make clear that the "mishandling" that most irked him was the campaign's refusal to book Palin onto his show.)
Danielle may have a different point of view, but I think the correct answer to O'Reilly's question is an emphatic "No." However nastily and treacherously Palin's media handlers may have behaved after the election, their only error during the election was to offer too much access to Palin, not too little. Those handlers faced a daunting problem: Their party's nominee for vice president could not respond to questions without embarrassing herself. The handlers who kept Pain under wraps knew what they were doing. THad Palin refused all interviews during the campaign, there would have been some criticism, but it would have been forgotten by now - and the Gibson and Couric interviews would not be filling YouTube, ready to be rebroadcast in 2012.
Now Palin is hiring her own handlers, making her own decisions, speaking freely. And if anything, the results are even worse than they were in 2008.
Watch the Ziegler interview yourself, and you will see what I mean. Ziegler represented a new and subtle kind of danger for Palin, the overly friendly interview. Ziegler's questions were all traps, no less dangerous for being set unwittingly. Palin stumbled into every one.
Again and again, Ziegler invited Palin to engage in self-pity and self-excuse - and again and again she accepted.
She tells us she was a victim of sexism. She tells us she was a victim of class prejudice. She complains about her media treatment - then insists she never watched any of it. She deplores the unpleasant personal comments directed against herself, while offering up some equally unpleasant personal comments of her own. She repeatedly shades the truth in order to escape blame for her own mistakes. (She won't for example let go of our claim that there was some insult to Alaska embedded in Katie Couric's simple question: "What do you read?")
A smart politician rebuffs all invitations to speak about his or her own hurt feelings. It's not just that such talk sounds whiny and weak, although it does. Much more seriously, such talk betrays a self-involvement that alienates voters almost more than any other personal quality. Through the 2008 election, Barack Obama repeatedly said "It's not about me. It's about you." Exactly so! But Palin's replies to Ziegler make clear that for her, the election was about her. The next election will be even more so, because she has collected so many more grievances along the way.
I appreciate that NRO numbers many die-hard Sarah fans among its readership. Perhaps you were charmed by the Ziegler interview, or anyway sympathetic. But remember: In the last polls before the election, 59% of Americans condemned Palin as unready for the presidency. In the course of the campaign, her support among white women plunged by 21 points. Among independent white women, her support declined even more sharply by 24 points. By the end, half of independent white women expressed a "strongly negative" view of Palin.
If Palin seeks the presidency, these are votes she's going to need. On the evidence of the Ziegler interview, she has no better understanding of how to seek them than she did in August. Palin's supporters insist that she can grow and learn. Maybe someday. But on the evidence of this latest interview the growth and the learning have not started yet. Don't blame the handlers, then, for concealing Palin under wraps. Given their candidate's flaws and limitations, concealment and evasion was the right media strategy. So it remains, and so it seems it always will.
01/09 09:00 AM