Will Palin Back Down on Media Now?
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin suggested not long ago that the news media's treatment of Caroline Kennedy and her pursuit of Hillary Clinton's Senate seat will perhaps "prove that there is a class issue here" that might help explain Palin's rough handling when she was the GOP's vice presidential candidate. Kennedy's decision to withdraw from consideration after her own troubles with media scrutiny give her an answer. But somehow I doubt we'll hear Palin discuss the possibility that she was wrong.
I don't mean to rub Palin's nose in her own overreaching comments for sport, and it's awful tempting to just let her fade into obscurity. But her media bashing went to such excess and was such a pointed tactic of her campaign that it deserves both scrutiny and rebuke.
While grousing about the media is commonplace among politiicans, it is also part of an enduring pattern of both right and left to turn the failings of the mainstream media -- and there are many -- into a political conspiracy. The right sees a monolithic liberal machine manipuilating the public and the left sees a corporate machine doing the same, but in the name of protecting the wealth and power of the business elite. Both arguments are poppycock. But the strategy is also, frankly, a disturbing and misleading tactic that exaggerates the influence of journalists and devalues the independence of American voters -- all while trying to shift debate away from policy and ability.
The thrust of Palin's recent attack, aired in an interview with radio talk show host turned documentary filmmaker John Ziegler, is that the mainstream media subjected to her to a different and tougher standard because she was a conservative Republican from a rural state. In doing so, she swings wildly, suggesting at different turns that the reasons are rooted in politicial bias, sexism, class issues and contempt for truth.
The only thing missing from her list was the simple truth: Palin is and was a little known and lightly tested politican who could have assumed what is arguably the most important job in the world. That Barack Obama is now President Obama is proof enough that a light resume is not a disqualification for the job. But what can and should disqualify a candidate for any high office is an inability to show that he or she has the skills and judgment to carry out those duties.
Part of that process is to be able to withstand public scrutiny in the form of being asked to articulate your policy goals and political ambitions to the public and through the news media. While Kennedy cited personal reasons for dropping out, her decision followed repeated stumbles and fumbles with the media and doubts by voters, as reflected in polls, that she was us up to the job.
Should she wish, Kennedy could learn from this experience and try again, as could Palin. Many politicans, most notably Richard Nixon, overcame repeated defeats and media difficulties. But so far, Palin and some of her supporters on the right seem determined to turn her campaign into the victim of a frightful media boogeyman.