Now that the extremely unqualified Sarah Palin has (barely) gotten past her first media interview with the very tepid Charlie Gibson, she has headed back to the Lower 48 for glittery campaign appearances before inexplicably adoring supporters. With a slightly revised script (the lie about the Bridge to Nowhere remains), Palin has been put back in the protective cocoon she has been in since she was announced as McCain’s running mate, screened off from any human contact with the press corps traveling with her. You wonder how long that media contingent will put up with this before they throw their pens and microphones at the stage and refuse to distribute the pretty pictures nationwide. There is such a thing as self-respect, you know, although you wouldn’t know it to look at Palin herself.
"She will do interviews, but she'll do them on the terms and conditions" the campaign decides, said McCain manager Rick Davis on September 7th on Fox Noise Sunday. And when might that be? At "the point in time when she'll be treated with respect and deference...We run our campaign not the news media." Well, alrighty, then. But, with those standards – respect having to be earned and royal "deference" not regularly conferred to mere mortals – Palin would never get to appear before the public except in campaign commercials and SNL parodies. The McCain campaign still needs to build on the Palin mystique by giving us glimpses of Her Wonderfulness without paying for it. What to do, what to do?
Enter Fox Noise, the RNC conduit that has featured outright GOP advocacy in its "news" and talk shows since its inception. Sarah Palin’s next "interview" will be televised this Wednesday with Sean Hannity, as partisan a hack as exists on any cable channel, anywhere. Fox makes a meaningless distinction between its "news" personnel and it "commentators", although both kinds of on-air personalities infect each other’s programs. Now, it will use its most rabidly Republican talking-head to make "news" by giving a beyond-friendly forum to Palin. One can only hope, for her sake, that they keep her away from the Fox make-up artists, where the women of Fox are lipsticked, hair-teased, rouged and tarted-up within an inch of their vacant lives.
We got a taste of what Hannity’s "interview" of Palin might look like last night, when the formerly-respectable Greta Van Susteren all but jumped into bed with Palin’s husband Todd in a fawning puff-piece. "What should I call you? First Dude?" "Just call me Todd." You can almost see Greta swooning...How about First Hunk, big boy? The most probing question, on Todd’s trip to Washington: "You got to meet the president? That must have been fun." Sheesh. The rest of it was just how cool is your house, how cool is your plane, how cold is it on the North Slope, how cool is it to have your wife as McCain’s running mate... You couldn’t tell it by Van Susteren’s ridiculous down-vested who’s-yer-buddy tour of the Palin estate, but Todd himself is a legitimate news subject, with recent reports that he plays an integral – if unofficial and unpaid – part in the governor’s office in Alaska. It was embarrassing to see Van Susteren, who grew up in Appleton and used to have a real show on CNN before getting her famous nose-job and moving to Fox, fall so completely off the edge of the journalistic earth.
Sean Hannity won’t have the same problem "interviewing" Sarah, having never done a lick of responsible work, pimping for the Republicans for all of his professional career. I never understood how Republicans get away with appearing with such dramatically partisan, lying shills like Hannity and Rush Limbaugh without getting tainted with host’s regular body of work, which includes the worst kind of lies and poisoning of the political climate. Imagine if a Democratic candidate allowed himself to be interviewed by Michael Moore (an unfair comparison – Moore is a real journalist). There would be three weeks of howling by the GOP echo-machine just for being in the same room with him. Yet, GOP candidates can get big wet kisses by any old reactionary wing-nut and be rewarded for "submitting to an interview".
I can already see Hannity’s smug smiling face asking Palin probing questions like "why do you think the mainstream media has been so unfair to you?" and "after all you have been through, how do you stay so wonderful" and "are you comfortable? Can I get you a soft cushion?" It will make news – one good thing about it is that Hannity will help Palin continue to paint herself into a right-wing corner.
But then what does the campaign do? Will she ever appear on a Sunday talk show? Is the debate with Biden the only time she is going to subject herself to independent questioning? The novelty of having the unknown Palin on the ticket, along with McCain's convention poll surge, is already wearing off, just like the Ferraro bounce in 1984. Then what do they do -- throw her out on Meet the Press to sink-or-swim? I think Palin will be spending a lot of time in the warm bosom of Fox, hoping the partisan network can save the doomed McCain from his own bad choices and wild gambles.