September 7, 2008


Drawing a Bead on the Press (DAVID CARR, 9/07/08, NY Times)

When she was announced as John McCain’s running mate, I told my wife that the governor had no idea what was about to hit her. By the time she was done speaking, I realized the reverse was precisely true as well.

She was a huge hit in the room and beyond. Ms. Palin, a woman who clearly understands the power of words, had a way of pronouncing media — “MEE-de-ah” — that made it sound like something legless and slithering. [...]

Her cultural resonance is familiar to anyone who’s ever read a fashion makeover article or clipped “Lose the Baby Fat in a Month!” But it is fundamentally different from what we’ve come to expect from women running for higher office. Senator Clinton is a politician who also happens to be a wife and mother. Ms. Palin is a wife and mother who also happens to be a politician. She is a parent of five who joyfully juggles it all, up to and including firing the chef and the driver, a kind of aspirational model that still seems attainable.

In the press galleries at the convention, journalists wrinkled their noses in disgust when Piper, Ms. Palin’s youngest daughter, was filmed kitty-licking her baby brother’s hair into place. But to many Americans — including some I talked to in the convention hall — that looked like family church on Sunday, evidence of good breeding and sibling regard. [...]

Like a lot of delegates at the Xcel — and the woman whom they nominated as John McCain’s running mate — Ms. O’Hara was fired up by all the sudden energy, but a bit suspicious of those who were there to cover it.

“Conservatives have a bad history with The New York Times,” she said, looking at my press ID, still smiling and still very friendly. “How can I be sure that you won’t take my words and twist them to suit some agenda that you already have?”

Her friends from Montana leaned in and enjoyed the spectacle as I stammered my way through a response. I’m working on an answer because I don’t think it is the last time that question is going to come up.

Confessions of a Secret Sarah Admirer: Maybe I'm a sucker for a frontier myth, the narrative of a person who rises up in a frozen, faraway place by making her own rules. (Kathleen Deveny, 9/06/08, NEWSWEEK)
I have a dirty little secret.

I really like Sarah Palin. It's kind of embarrassing, because I was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and because I live in a liberal bubble in Brooklyn, N.Y. I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but the more my friends and media colleagues attack Palin for being a lightweight or a hick or a lunatic, the more I like her.

I liked her the first time I saw a picture of her, nearly a year ago in this magazine. It illustrated a story about how women leaders like Palin and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano were gaining power at the state level. Palin, BlackBerry in one hand, Red Bull in the other, checked her messages as she crossed the street, seemingly oblivious to her youngest daughter, Piper, who trailed along behind her, jumping rope in the crosswalk. Now that's my kind of working mom, I thought.

I liked her even more after her speech at the Republican convention, and not just because she gave a masterful performance. I am riveted by her family and struck by what appears to be her complete confidence in the choices she's made.

Sarah Palin's style: the issue at hand (Booth Moore, September 7, 2008, LA Times)

[I]n a little more than a week, the Republican vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, 44, has stolen the campaign's style spotlight, causing a run on Kawasaki 704 eyeglass frames and upswept hairstyles.

Fashion can be a potent tool for packaging a candidate (or "co-candidate," as political spouses take on more substantial roles). And though men can speak volumes just by washing the gray out of their hair, or choosing to wear makeup on TV, women have bigger challenges. Keeping the focus on the issues, not the clothes or their looks. Projecting authority while seeming approachable, not elitist. If you're a woman in the spotlight of a high-profile race, the issue quickly becomes: What changes are you willing to make to your appearance to get people to take you seriously? And in a savvy, YouTube-aware way, how will you use style to telegraph your essence?

A beauty queen turned politician by way of the PTA, Palin has a style strategy that's quite clever. In an interview in Vogue magazine in February, when rumors of her as a possible VP candidate were only whispers, the Alaska governor said she was trying to be "as frumpy as I could by wearing my hair on top of my head and these schoolmarm glasses."

Oprah Says No to Palin, and Gets an Earful (Katharine Q. Seelye, 9/07/08, NY Times)
Oprah Winfrey has said she will not interview Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the hottest political star in the firmament, and the decision is drawing negative reviews from many fans of the doyenne of daytime television.

A group of Republican women in Florida has announced a boycott of Ms. Winfrey’s television show and called for cancellations of subscriptions to her magazine, “O: The Oprah Magazine.”

And the decision to spurn Ms. Palin — who has remained sequestered from the media and has declined multiple requests for interviews from major news organizations — is prompting many Oprah fans to post complaints on her Web site. [...]

Ms. Winfrey angered many of her fans last year when she ventured into politics for the first time with her endorsement of Mr. Obama. The demographics of her audience was a closer fit to the profile of the typical supporter of Hillary Clinton than of Barack Obama, and may also be closer to the typical supporter of Sarah Palin: As of last fall, her daytime audience of 8.6 million viewers were 75 percent women; more than half were older than 50; about 44 percent made less than $40,000 a year, and about 25 percent had no more than a high school diploma, according to Nielsen Media Research.

-Readers See Bias in Us Weekly’s Take on Sarah Palin (STEPHANIE CLIFFORD, 9/07/08, NY Times)
The celebrity magazine, which usually focuses more on Britney and baby bumps than elections, drew criticism from readers for the cover. A record number of commenters on the Us magazine Web site — more than 6,600, at last count — weighed in, most focusing on the magazine’s perceived bias.

Many contrasted the cover of Ms. Palin with a June cover, “Why Barack Loves Her,” featuring Barack and Michelle Obama. “Barack and Michelle in an embrace and a fluff article on their marriage ... only to be followed by a picture of our possible future VP with her newborn baby and an insulting and untrue title to the magazine cover?” one reader posted.

Palin & Press: A Testy Start (Howard Kurtz, 9/08/08, Washington Post)
From the moment Sarah Palin stepped onto the national stage, she was mauled, minimized and manhandled by an openly skeptical media establishment.

That lasted six days. By Thursday morning, after a speech in which she chided the journalistic elite, the previously obscure governor of Alaska was being hailed by many of the same media gurus.

The media's tattered reputation has not fared as well, not after the frenzy over Palin's mothering skills, her baby and her pregnant teenage daughter. [...]

When the McCain campaign announced last Monday that 17-year-old Bristol Palin is pregnant, there was no reason to avoid covering it, and it is one heck of a human interest story. But the reason the campaign went public is that national reporters were calling to ask about charges by an anonymous blogger on Daily Kos that the governor faked her own pregnancy and is actually the grandmother of 4-month-old Trig.

Campaign officials were deluged with questions from reputable news outlets about the governor's amniotic fluid, the timing of her contractions and whether she would take a DNA test to establish the baby's parentage, not to mention bogus charges about her son being a drug abuser. There's an important distinction here -- mainstream outlets have not given such rumors any credence -- but that is lost on frustrated McCain aides who have to ask Palin about each new line of inquiry.

When the National Enquirer -- which was, after all, right about John Edwards's extramarital fling -- ran a thinly sourced report last week that Palin once had an affair, mainstream media outlets ignored it until Schmidt distributed a statement denouncing the story as a vicious lie. "The efforts of the media and tabloids to destroy this fine and accomplished public servant are a disgrace," Schmidt said. By lumping "media and tabloids" together, he seemed to suggest that all Palin stories bubble up from the same fetid swamp.

-Anatomy of a Smear (Dean Barnett, 9/07/08, Weekly Standard)
[I] think it’s time to take another brief look at the left’s method of smear dissemination. Yesterday on a blog hosted by the prestigious magazine the Atlantic, a post popped up at 11:49 a.m. with the breathless title, “Here We Go.” The post read in its entirety, “Todd Palin's former business partner files an emergency motion to have his divorce papers sealed. Oh God.” The post linked to the Alaskan court system where you could see the motion if you cared to click through.

Although the author didn’t care to make his innuendo explicit, the insinuation was clear – the National Enquirer had previously reported on what it called “a rumor” that the former business partner in question had had an affair with Sarah Palin. The breathless title and the brevity of the post implied that the smoking gun for the affair laid in the court filings that the former business partner wished to conceal. Naturally, because the purported scoop had the imprimatur of the Atlantic, many other news sources picked it up in rapid order.

Quicker than you can say “conspiracy theory lunatic,” this particular lunatic theory jumped off the tracks. The Court denied the motion to conceal the papers, allowing the curious to sniff through them. Shock of shocks, Sarah Palin’s name wasn’t even mentioned in the filings. Nor was there anything regarding an affair with her. In this particular wild goose chase, the goose flew free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 7, 2008 10:22 PM
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