Many writers here at TMV and elsewhere have noted how former Gov. Sarah Palin — now looking like she’s gearing up to run for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination — is sticking to a press strategy where she issues statements via Facebook, Twitter, does prepared videos and in all but a few instances avoids questions from the mainstream media or even the growing number of critics in her own party (her response a few weeks ago was to call some Republicans who are criticizing her “limp”).
Rather, she operates by issuing forth zingers and attack lines but is not showing herself to be able to handle unscripted moments — let alone a VARIETY of scripted moments. She also has repeatedly criticized Barack Obama for using a teleprompter and her in her latest Facebook video various journalists and bloggers noted she was using…a teleprompter. Now a prominent GOPer has come out and said that Palin doesn’t have a future as a 2012 contender if she doesn’t start doing some unscripted moments. New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie, who in one poll was the only Republican polled would could beat Barack Obama. Christie was quite blunt:
He argued that unscripted, even adversarial exchanges with reporters and the public are essential to judging a candidate, and that if Sarah Palin continues to avoid them, “she’ll never be president.”
At a lunch with New York Times journalists and the newspaper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., Mr. Christie was asked about the Sarah Palin video, released earlier in the day, that had caused a stir. He said he had not yet seen it, but he doubted that it would shed much light on her character.
“I think people need to be judged by the way they conduct themselves in the public arena, in a way that is as minimally staged as possible,” he said. “That’s where you really get to know people.”
When it was noted that Ms. Palin has preferred communicating with the public in ways she can control, Mr. Christie said that “rightfully has been criticized.”
He described his town hall-style meetings – videos of which have made him a rising star among Republicans nationally – where attendance is not limited to supporters, and he routinely takes questions ranging from fawning to hostile. For presidential candidates, he said, moments like that are probably inevitable.
“You have to look at it and see, what are they like when they’re tested, what are they like when they’re not scripted, what are they like when they’re pushed,” he said. “And I would contend to you that if Governor Palin never does any of those things, she’ll never be president, because people in America won’t countenance that. They just won’t.”
Take bets now on whether he’ll be raked over the political coals by talk show hosts (Palin’s big reservoir of support comes from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck) and whether he feels compelled to walk these comments back.
But what he says is likely true: American politics and media have indeed changed considerably over the years, but it still seems unlikely that someone who issues statements, Tweets, and puts up Facebook postings cannot go beyond the (narrow) constituency he/she already has.
On the other hand, Palin has shown a)no ability to be able to do that b)virtually no desire to do that.
Hey, wait: Can they hold an election for President of Facebook?
UPDATE: One prominent Democrat says he believes Palin has hit the end of her political ride:
Thursday’s papers have been filled with largely unfavorable contrasts for the former Alaska governor. And at least one Democratic member of Congress has decided to declare that the Palin trajectory is now firmly in downturn mode, her brand tarnished.
“I think that the president’s message is going to prevail,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told the Bill Press Show on Thursday. “In fact I think Sarah Palin may be looking at the end of her political ride. I think she may be at the end of her ride right now. If Sarah Palin would have said ‘you know what, I probably have been responsible for overblown rhetoric and I’m going to watch myself,’ that would be different. But she is completely unrepentant. And the enormity of this tragedy, I think, put a very, very clear damper on her prospects. And her reaction even dampers her political ride more.”
UPDATE II: MSNBC’s First Read’s crack team of analysts’ take on how Palin now looks given her Facebook video of yesterday in comparison to Barack Obama after his speech last night:
** The Incredibly Shrinking Palin? The president’s speech made Palin’s response look very small by comparison. While Obama tried to uplift, Palin tried to settle scores. While the president called for more civility, the former Alaska governor talked about duels and “blood libel.” And while Obama’s message was, well, presidential, Palin’s was not. We’ll say this: If Palin has ambitions for the White House — and we’re still not sure she does — then her tone, message, and timing from her eight-minute video was a serious miscalculation. Is this what happens when you live in a bubble? Is this what happens when you don’t have advisers you trust that live outside her bubble? Palin’s speech struck as a natural response only if she spent the last three days reading every nasty email and Tweet she received, and didn’t extract herself from the story.
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.