Sarah Palin can't expect anyone to take her seriously as a presidential candidate -- not after what she said this week.
In recent days, the former Alaska governor and Tea Party fave has been on a tear against Journolist, a list-serv for nearly 500 journalists, policy wonks and academics, most of whom are self-identified liberals working for self-identified liberal outfits. The participants on this off-the-record e-mail chain promoted their work, debated politics and policy (occasionally quite sharply), and traded and tested ideas for articles and columns. Last month, The Daily Caller
, a conservative website, began running articles based on Journolist archives it somehow obtained. Some conservatives immediately denounced Journolist as a secret cabal that established a party line for the dreaded liberal media.
Palin was one such right-winger. On Tuesday, citing a Daily Caller article
that focused on how several liberal opinion journalists in 2008 were pondering how to respond to stories about Jeremiah Wright (Barack Obama's controversial reverend), she contended that Journolist was proof that the mainstream media -- or, as she calls it, the "lamestream" media -- is biased, characterizing Journolist members as " 'prominent' mainstream media personalities." That was a misrepresentation: writers and bloggers for The Nation, The American Prospect, Mother Jones (my home base), the Center for American Progress, the New American Foundation, and other liberal media organizations and think tanks are not usually considered mainstream media leaders. (The founder of Journolist, Ezra Klein, did move from The American Prospect to The Washington Post, but he was knowingly hired by the newspaper as a liberal blogger.) It's hardly surprising that out-of-the-closet progressives would share progressive ideas with colleagues. Journolist was no conspiracy; it was a community -- a virtual bar, without booze. I explain all that here
. (Membership declared: I was a mostly nonactive member of Journolist; I haven't used it in years.)
Palin's blast revealed deep ignorance. Journolistas were generally not prominent MSMers. And the few prominent journalists who were part of Journolist were mostly already known as commentators of a liberal bent. Yet Palin was pretending that Journolist was evidence of an MSM cabal. Worst, she tweeted, "forget freedom of speech and freedom of the press if these yahoos ever get their way in America."
During an interview with The Daily Caller, she went further, calling Journolisters "sick puppies"
-- as she reacted to another article
on the now-defunct list-serv revealing e-mail messages sent the day John McCain surprisingly picked Palin to be his running mate. In these e-mails, several participants -- including two Mother Jones reporters who worked for me at the time -- pondered why McCain had picked Palin and what would be an effective critique of her. That liberal reporters would privately discuss how best to criticize a conservative politician whose policies they oppose does not strike me as shocking. In fact, I am certain that during the 2008 campaign journalists at conservative media outfits talked among themselves about how best to puncture Obama.
But Palin was offended. In responding to The Daily Caller piece, though, she conceded a major point about herself: She does not possess a hardy enough constitution to be president. In that interview, The Daily Caller reports, Palin
said the media became a key reason she decided not to finish out her term as governor.
Consider that for a moment. Eight months after the grueling 2008 campaign was over, Palin, by her own admission, was not tough enough to handle the media and had to quit her job as Alaska governor. After confessing that, how can she possibly present herself as presidential timber? If she allowed herself to be hounded out of office in Juneau by the big bad press, could she withstand the slings and arrows of the media while under pressure in the White House?
This part of her reaction to The Daily Caller article is a tell. Looking to scapegoat the media for her decision to quit -- a decision widely described at the time on the left and right as bizarre -- she displays her own weakness. Does a true commander in chief turn tail when "sick puppies" bark?
I wonder if Palin meant to reveal this much. Possibly, she was lazily exploiting the latest Journolist revelation. Bashing the liberal media is good for Sarah Inc. It sells books and six-figure speeches. And it's good politics, for this theme is an oldie-but-goody relished by the GOP base and Tea Partiers -- the sort of voters who will dominate the Republican Party's 2012 presidential primaries. Still, saying that she could not do her job in Alaska because of pesky reporters is a true admission of weakness. If you can't stand the heat from reporters (including the ferocious liberals of Journolist), how can you be strong enough to deal with the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Taliban, and, oh yes, the terrorists? They're a bit more fierce than Katie Couric.
One of my Twitter followers, Greytdog, sent me this tweet on Thursday: "perhaps the question should be why is the media obsessed w/Sarah Palin who hasn't done anything except quit & twit." Good point. But given that there is a chance she will run for president in 2012 -- and be a credible candidate with a base of supporters and fundraising potential -- that means there is a chance she will become president. (I'm not handicapping the odds of either possibility.) Consequently, she deserves to remain under close scrutiny from journalists. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Ronald Reagan was regarded by some as a joke: a Grade B movie actor pitching for GE and then Barry Goldwater. He certainly warranted watching.
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