Since we were talking about old-timey principles of journalism, I thought we’d take a moment to remember that it used to be rude to quote someone verbatim. People talk bad. Even the most eloquent speaker salts his remarks with likes and ums, and a small-town mayor or GAO clerk cannot be expected to spit out paper-ready sentences on command. As a courtesy to their sources, reporters clean up quotes. Sometimes, though, a particular person will abuse this practice. Maybe this person has made no secret of her distaste for reporters, and maybe she mistreats the language in ways that a professional writer would find galling. That person is likely to wind up in print exactly as she speaks, for example like this:
Seeing as how Dick – excuse me, Vice President Cheney – never misfires, then evidently he’s quite convinced that what he had evidently read about me by the lamestream media, having been written, what I believe is a false narrative over the last four years, evidently Dick Cheney believed that stuff and that’s a shame.
That’s Sarah Palin defending herself, sort of, against Dick Cheney. Props to Ben al-Fowlkes for the link.
In an interview with ABC News, Cheney opined that it was “a mistake” for John McCain to choose her as his running mate in 2008 because she was not sufficiently experienced. Fortunately, she put those concerns to rest on the campaign trail. It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when Sarah Palin was considered a strong addition to the ticket as long as her mouth did not get near an open microphone. Now, of course, she has retreated from all aspects of politics except the speaking part.
Yet she is no better at it. The irony of Palin’s continual railing against the “lamestream media” is that she is solely a media presence; she occupies no political office, she communicates entirely through Facebook and commenting gigs, and at least one member of her family seems to be on a reality show at any given time. The word salad above, in which she rails against the mainstream media, was delivered on the top-rated cable news network. Palin criticizing the “lamestream media” is like Ronald McDonald complaining that his hamburger is all pickles.
So that’s the bitter irony of Sarah Palin. The regular, non-ironic sadness is that she really does appear to be dumb. It’s not her fault, exactly, that she became a national political figure after two years as governor of what is barely a state. Yes, she accepted the nomination, but who wouldn’t? The answer is “a person of unusual sense and self-awareness, the kind of person you would want in the office of Vice-President.” Sarah Palin is not that. But neither is Neil Cavuto or Joe Scarborough, and those people appear on TV and do just fine.
Let’s say you are Sarah Palin. You were a sportscaster and popular small-town mayor, and every time you went on TV people told you how likable and smart and pretty you were. No one added “by the standards of Alaskan television, of course,” because everyone was in Alaska and it was implied. You are not good with implied information. You always knew you were pretty sharp, though, and when John McCain—pre-meltdown John McCain—asked you to be his running mate it surprised you, but it also confirmed what you thought all along. You, Sarah Palin, must be pretty great. Otherwise, why would they have picked you?
Then you get to the mainland and everyone is dicks—newspapers, debate moderators, Katie Couric, everybody. Weeks after you were shocked by a phone call from John McCain asking you to help him run for president, you read the same story in every news outlet: people are shocked by how stupid you are. When you read quotes from other political figures they sound eloquent and informed, but when you read your own quotes it’s all vague antecedents and repetition and “what he had evidently read about me by the lamestream media, having been written.”
Late 2008 presented Sarah Palin with a choice: she could accept that her nomination for the vice-presidency was a major achievement confirming her wisdom and talent, or she could accept that it was a historic gaffe to nominate someone as dumb as her for any rank above backup weather lady. Is it any wonder that she hates the media even as she continues to cling to it? Being famous made her feel smart, and being in the news made her look dumb. It’s awful what Sarah Palin does, but we made her do it. Her only other choice was to go back to Alaska and wonder what could have happened.