Away from her friends on Fox, Palin folds like a cheap suit


MEDIAWATCH:MIDWAY THROUGH her debate with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin began dropping her Gs and channelling Marge Gunderson, the plain-speakin', pistol-packin' pregnant police chief in Fargo.

Palin declared, in no uncertain terms, that she needn't answer questions put to her by the moderator, that Obama-lovin' Gwen Ifill, who works for the ultraliberal Public Broadcasting Service, or anybody else in the mainstream media. She was gonna talk straight to the American people.

It was great theatre, but in a Beckett-like absurdist way. It is a tried and true tactic of the American right to blame any and all their problems on the "mainstream media". They even have an acronym for it: MSM, as if it's some malevolent Chinese food additive. According to the right, the only place the American people can get fair and balanced news is from the likes of Fox, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the right-wing ideologues who clutter the airwaves on talk radio.

The truth is, Sarah Palin and John McCain should thank their lucky stars for the dreaded MSM because, aside from the aforementioned ideologues, it is only those members of the MSM who uphold minimal journalistic standards of fairness and relative objectivity who are looking at Palin these days for anything but a punchline.

Even some right-wing pundits have had the temerity to point out that the nice lady from Alaska is an empty suit. Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan's speechwriter, got into trouble with her fellow Republicans when, while commenting on McCain's cynical sop to the religious right, she described Palin's selection as "political bulls**t" into a TV microphone she didn't know was on. Noonan's dismissal of Palin as a serious politician in a Wall Street Journalcolumn after the debate was even more devastating, because it came with time for reflection, and after Noonan had withstood withering attacks from Republicans who accused her of aiding and abetting the enemy.

The McCain campaign is blaming the MSM for Palin's steadily sinking poll numbers. An interesting tactic, given that Palin's handlers have steadfastly refused to let journalists from that mainstream media question her. They are especially wary of letting newspaper reporters have a go at her. She has done only a few sit-down interviews with handpicked TV presenters.

One of the interviews, with Sean Hannity, a right-wing pundit on Fox, was cringe-inducingly obsequious, like watching Ryan Tubridy interview Jesus Christ.

The interview with Katie Couric, an avowed liberal who gets paid $15 million a year to read the news on CBS, shouldn't have been much harder for Palin, but Couric asked a couple of questions that required speaking beyond rehearsed talking points, and Palin folded like a cheap suit. Palin fumbled around like a child caught stealing biscuits. At one point, she rambled on for more than a minute in a stream of consciousness that sounded like a cross between a paragraph in Finnegans Wakeand Robert De Niro's last, apocalyptic words as he sank beneath the water's surface at the conclusion to Cape Fear.

So worried were Palin's handlers about how she'd perform in the debate that, just days before it, they launched a pre-emptive strike on Ifill, a widely-respected journalist who just happens to be black.

You know, like Barack Hussein Osama. Wink, wink.

The conservatives had a point: Ifill is writing a book called The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, so she has a personal and financial stake in Obama getting elected.

But when Ifill was selected as moderator two months ago, she disclosed that she was writing the book, and no one complained then. Of course, McCain had not yet selected Tina Fey as his running mate. As it turned out, no one beyond the loony right-wing blogosphere suggested Ifill was anything but impartial during the debate.

It's sad but true that the mainstream media will carry on with the charade, all the way to November 4th, that Sarah Palin is a serious candidate, that she resonates with ordinary voters because she's just so gosh darn ordinary, even if the Republicans have no intention of letting said ordinary voters hear what she has to say in anything but a stage-managed interview. Objectivity is a beautiful thing.

It was beyond ironic, then, when Palin said she was taking the gloves off the other day and accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists".

As her indisputable source for this specious accusation, she cited none other than the New York Times, America's greatest newspaper, which she and the rest of the right constantly deride as a biased, bigoted mouthpiece of the liberal left.

Apparently, Governor Palin didn't read the article in its entirety, because the exhaustive piece concluded that Obama and William Ayers, who was a member of a violent radical group opposed to the Vietnam War, are acquaintances at best, and that Ayers became a respected professor of education after his radical youth.

In a media week when, aside from the more mundane news that the American economy is collapsing, it was all Palin, all the time, the best description of Sarah Palin's utter cluelessness about anything outside her own small, provincial Northern Exposureexistence came from a caller to a talk radio show, albeit a show not typical of the usual American talk radio fare.

National Public Radio's " On Point" is one of the more thoughtful call-in shows in America, and one caller told host Tom Ashbrook that after listening to the debate she had come to the conclusion that Sarah Palin is George Bush in a skirt.

No doubt, Governor Palin would find comfort in her belief that anyone who listens to NPR is a God-hatin', Obama-lovin' commie.

Kevin Cullen, who will be writing a weekly media column through the elections, is a columnist for the Boston Globe.