Sunday, January 11, 2009

“Sweet Caroline”— an Early Review of the Upcoming Sarah Palin Interview

She’s back. Sarah Palin has done a video interview with media Conservative, John Ziegler, to be televised next month. The thrust, here, is to make the case that Liberal media bias does exist, and that this bias, focused against Palin in the election, gave the victory to Obama. The accusation is nothing new, but there’s a new wrinkle in it that didn’t exist before election time— namely, the candidacy of Caroline Kennedy for the open New York Senate seat. Palin compares herself— rural, middle class, relatively unknown, and Conservative, with Kennedy— urban (Manhattan), very wealthy, famous, and Liberal. Like Palin before the election, Kennedy has recently had some major gaffes in her response to media questions, but according to Palin, the media is giving Kennedy a pass because of her urban, wealthy, Liberal status.

Sarah Palin actually has some of it right. The mainstream media really is treating Caroline Kennedy with more gentleness than it showed to Sarah Palin, and that’s not counting the lampoons from SNL that helped torpedo the “Tundra Tootsie.” Where Palin has it wrong is in blaming the attributes cited above for the differences in media attention. None of this has anything to do with rural vs. urban, or Conservative vs. Liberal. What accounts for the difference in media treatment is the personality differences in the two women. It all comes down to personal style.

Presidents are selected by the American voters in the very same way that Junior High School students select their class officers. The contest is decided on the popularity of the candidates, and the popularity is based on their personality. It’s all about personality, and nothing more. Sarah Palin presented an image to the voters of a wise-cracking hipster, with flirtatious winks and elements of stand-up comedy in her speeches. I don’t know if all of this came from her, or if much of it was orchestrated by her handlers and advisers. By itself, it wasn’t a glaring negative, but even in Junior High School, a hipster can’t get elected if he or she is a phony. And a person pretending to be hip needs to be able to tell someone where they get their news. If they can’t name a newspaper, then they should say they use the Internet. But if they’re totally clueless about news, then they’re phony. Even worse, if they adopt a “how-dare-you-ask-that-question” demeanor, and bitch about the person asking the question, then they’re just plain lame.

Caroline Kennedy presents an image of shyness, and sincere humility about not being able to answer some essential media questions. She seems like a genuinely nice lady, and that’s not a public image that motivates SNL to do a nasty parody. Her shied isn’t Liberalism, it’s that she’s slightly boring to watch. By contrast, Sarah Palin is a lightening rod who is always fascinating to watch, in the same way that we were fascinated to watch Roseanne Barr singing the National Anthem at the baseball game in 1990. Palin needs to let this go. She lost the election fair and square.

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