Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Palin Unplugged: now playing nowhere.

The blogosphere happily continues to twitter about last week's VP debate (the real one, not the parody above), so throwing our two cents in at this point would simply be redundant. Instead, we'd like to focus on the disturbing practice that's emerged from both the McCain camp and the media: the unnecessary cloak of protection shrouding Palin from any sort of critical scrutiny.

The headline at left appeared on CNN's site Friday morning, mere hours after the debate. Critics, politicians and pundits alike expressed joy that Palin actually managed not to screw up—just as the fictional debate moderator notes in the SNL parody. For Palin, this is apparently a victory in itself. But why?

Perhaps it has much to do with her recent interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. Palin clearly appeared way out of her league, a fact neither interviewer actually called her on. Yes, we can argue that Gibson and Couric were tough on her, but both also quickly backed off when Palin floundered too much. Again, the question hangs in the air: why? Palin is vying to become our next veep, a mere heart attack away from the presidency. It's a tough job and requires a tough and knowledgeable candidate. We've had eight years of mediocrity—and look at where it has gotten us.

And maybe that's where the lower expectations come from: the idea that Palin is simply not experienced, smart, or eloquent enough to stand on her own. The problem with this reasoning is that we have clearly had plenty of candidates, both presidential and vice presidential, who fit this bill. Remember Dan Quayle? Not exactly a font of knowledge, but WB doesn't remember him getting a free pass when it came to media scrutiny regarding his qualifications (i.e. lack of them). So what is it about Palin that has everyone rushing to her defense and lowering their standards of expectation?

It's too easy, though not wholly inaccurate, to blame it on sexism. While the fact that she's a woman probably plays a role in the sanctuary she receives, the same did not happen for Hillary Clinton. The CNN headline above is demeaning on more levels than gender alone: one could easily make the argument that class also comes into play, as no one would equate moose-hunting and wolf-slaying Palin with the same "elite" circles Clinton occupies. Palin neither looks nor sounds like most politicians we see on the national stage, a fact that is both obvious and implicit.

Whatever the reason, the time for protecting Palin must end now. She chose to accept the offer to run for vice president. This means a certain level of media scrutiny and criticim, the kind that carefully weighs the qualifications and knowledge a candidate can bring to the table. While this doesn't warrant unfair attacks on a personal level, it does mean that hard questions should be posed equally to ALL the candidates, not reserved for those who can take it. Love her or hate her, Palin showed in her debate with Senator Biden that she is indeed tough and can take a punch like the rest of them.

As the governor herself would say: Gosh darn it all to heck, even the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal has run a headline calling for the Repubs to "Free Sarah Palin." So let's unlock the tower and let the fair damsel out to face the media, and the people. With only a month to go, Americans deserve at least that much.

(And by the way, Governor: It's noo-klee-are, not nook-you-lar. Really. It comes from the word nucleus, and it'd be ridiculous to call that a nook-you-luss. Wouldn't it?)


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