Yes, I have to admit this one takes me aback. I fully expected to find out that when Sarah Palin appeared on her favorite “journalist’s” cable show — Sean Hannity’s show — she would be trying to appear Presidential and start to lay to rest the view of a WIDE variety of pundits that Palin’s political motif has become that it’s all about Sarah all of the time.
She was panned widely for how poorly her remarks on the Arizona shooting appeared (partisan, playing to her base, barely mentioning the wounded and dead) compared to Barack Obama’s that same evening and for how defensive she was. So I fully expected that Hannity would do his thing and help her take the first vital step in the kind of PR makeover she will need not just to win a general election but to begin short-circuiting growing unease and downright opposition to her in powerful Republican quarters.
But Mediaite (an increasingly must-read site) gives this account (worth going through in some detail) which indicates she not only didn’t take the imagery shift she needed but she appeared angrier and more ideological than ever. BAD MOVE:
Sarah Palin may be known as “Mama Grizzly,” a political lightning rod, a published author, and a reality TV star, but tonight on Hannity she was a woman scorned. Pupils shaking and voice struggling to remain steadfast, the former Alaska governor gave defending herself post-Tucson (and post-controversial video response) to Sean Hannity the old college try, but at some point it was hard to remember whether it was Palin or Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who took bullets two weeks ago.
You have to wonder: who is advising Sarah Palin? A mole from the Huckabee camp? MORE:
In contrast to the more serene Palin that addressed the nation in her online video earlier this week, the Palin that met Sean Hannity tonight appeared flustered and personally injured.
The reason: the video was carefully scripted. Palin rouses partisans by making snark comments about Barack Obama and teleprompters but it was later discovered that she used one herself in shooting the video (oh well, that doesn’t count because she’s not Obama). It IS a skill to deliver a speech as well as Palin did throughout most of that video. If she hadn’t veered into “blood libel” territory and gave the impression that she seemingly felt it was mostly about her she could have turned her Arizona shooting video into a plus and could have taken the first step to start going beyond her talk show political culture and Tea Party movement conservative base.
She didn’t then and it certainly sounds like she didn’t on Fox. This will hurt her:
While she insisted repeatedly that “my defense wasn’t self-defense,” she continually noted the threats against her and her family, defended her words personally, and ended her last segment, defiantly, “I’m not going to sit down; I’m not going to shut up.”
But who is telling her to “shut up?” The criticism of Palin is over her use of a crosshairs symbol and her “reload” reference. No one is telling her to sit down and shut up on issues.
You could say Palin should quit while she’s behind — but she did that already in Alaska.
Here is the real killer for Palin’s hopes to expand her base:
Even when discussing deranged killer Jared Loughner, she described him as “left-leaning” (Loughner’s only political views, other than loving Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto, appear to be anti-grammar), and, catering to her fans, repeatedly mentioned Providence and quoted the Bible, and made a cringe-worthy attempt at tying in Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to her own plight. She went through a timeline of the Tucson murder as experienced by the Palin household, and, in defense of her use of the phrase “blood libel,”noted that others in the media had used it, too. Hannity, to his credit, pushed her on this point, but she held on to that defense.
Palin is proving to political pros one thing: she is incapable of a) trying to expand her base and b) cutting her political losses. She feels compelled to continue a battle and must confront. This suggests that if she’s ever elected, she would be the most polarizing President since Richard Nixon.
Mediaite has a lot more but ends with this:
Palin’s course of action during this interview was a perfect strategy from the perspective of a Fox News contributor– she sold her story, played the victim, and equated her suffering with that of the people she claims to represent (Hannity viewers among them). For the rest of America, however– especially swing voters– wallowing in self-pity when six people are dead and a Congresswoman is in the hospital cannot be expected to go over well. Her task tonight, should she be interested in the presidency, was to prove that in times of crisis she could keep her cool and address the situation while looking beyond herself and not getting in the way of the tragedy. Instead, she stood front and center before it, reminding Americans that she– and, vicariously, they– were the true victims of this massacre, not the people that were shot two Saturdays ago. As brilliant as her argument may be as a sales pitch for herself, it was far from presidential, and her enemies are not likely to resist the temptation of chewing on her political remains tomorrow morning.
Go to the link to read Mediaite’s account in full and the videos.
There will be many more articles and posts on this and many of the posts on the web will be written by partisans of one side or another.
But if you are a political pro like a Karl Rove or a James Carville you have to look at her performance and say: not ready for prime time national politics..absolutely no learning curve..not a wise investment for a major political party.
UPDATE: Another writer on Mediaite was more sympathetic in an earlier report. Here is the part that ties in with some of the points quoted above:
Sarah Palin gave her first interview tonight with the politically friendly Sean Hannity and addressed many outstanding issues that have surfaced since the Arizona shooting tragedy of nine days ago. In a live satellite link from her home studio in Wasilla, Alaska, the seemingly defiant and at times angry Palin candidly shared the open wound in her psyche, injured from the media maelstrom that followed the tragedy in Tuscon. Palin was neither transcendent nor reflective in the discussion, though it made for compelling television….
…All in all, Palin did reasonably well in her interview from the perspective of her loyal followers. But the most legitimate critique to be made towards Palin in this endeavor was that she seemed to, in no way, try to transcend the discussion to something larger than herself (she never did mention Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by name.) This is a remarkably solipsistic individual, which is understandable given the role she’s played in this recent debate. But it was a missed opportunity for Palin to show the nation that she can connect with those who won’t already blindly follow her.
May I use the word once?
UPDATE II: To follow the reaction from various blogs GO HERE.
UPDATE III: Here’s a bit from Taylor Marsh:
If Sarah Palin ever used her time on the air to turn the conversation away from her own defense to talk about an issue I think the world would stop on its axis to commemorate the moment. It’s always about her….
But I assure you, nobody thought Sarah Palin would ever choose to shut up. She simply doesn’t have the impulse control or discipline.
At least she admitted it was a crosshairs graphic, which makes her defenders look stupid, though her excuse was everyone does it. I don’t think anyone else has ever named specific politicians to be “targeted,” let alone followed it up with “don’t retreat, reload” rhetoric.
[JG COMMENT: Yes, American politics today now means some folks will say anything to try and defend their candidate. Truth is a diminishing commodity — which is why credibility in politics is diminishing as well.]
UPDATE 4: The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik on Hannity:
I have written before about how obsequious Hannity gets with Palin, and all but genuflects before her image, which was beamed into the Fox News Manhattan studios from Alaska where Fox News built a studio for her.
Hannity doesn’t really do interviews with her. He plays defense attorney asking about “criticisms” made of her, and then setting her up with graphics and loaded questions so she can attempt to refute the charges made by hateful people against her. He questions nothing, no matter how contradictory or screwy her answers might be.
Here is her answer when he asked her about allegations that she took down the image of crosshairs targeting the district of U.S. Rep Gabriel Giffords after the congresswoman was shot. The image was on the website of her PAC.
“You know, I believe that someone in the PAC — in fact, the contract graphic artist — did take it down,” she began.
My goodness, I thought, almost a straight answer from Palin, even if she was distancing herself with the “contract graphic artist” language. But she was only beginning.
“And I have no problem with it being taken down,” she continued. “I don’t think it was inappropriate [that it was taken down] if it was going to cause much heartburn or even more controversy…. Knowing that it had nothing to do with an apolitical or perhaps even left-leaning criminal killing these innocents….I didn’t have a problem with it being taken down, if in fact it has been taken down.”
But a responsible interviewer might have asked her about the seeming contradiction between “it was taken down” and “if in fact it has been taken down.” He might also point out that folks are not interested in whether she had a “problem” with it being taken, they want to know why she or members of her team DID take it down. Was it because they were ashamed of it after the shooting?
Instead, Hannity showed an old bulls-eye map that the Democrats once had up and then offered a statement about how Bill Clinton had a “war room” and how “war analogy is very common in politics.” All of it was preamble to asking, “So, why do you think the left singled out you out, Governor?”
Again, this isn’t journalistic interviewing, it is what a defense attorney would do while questioning his client in an effort to refute charges against her.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.