Let’s say that you are a prominent public figure. Let’s also say that for the past five days media figures and national politicians have been accusing you of complicity in a horrifying mass murder. Let’s also say that the accusations have absolutely no basis whatever, but none of those media figures (most of whom purport to be objective, truth-telling journalists) and national politicians will even hint that is the case.
What would you do? Would you hunker down and hope it all blows over, though you know darned-well it’ll all be there waiting for you the second you pop your head back out of your hole; or would you use your own bully pulpit to push back against the charges, accuse your accusers of political hackery, and try to get some elbow room so you can live like a normal human being?
If you chose the latter, then Politico thinks you are a horrible person who should probably be catapulted into the sun.
At sunrise in the east on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest—or capacity—in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics. And at sundown in the west, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation.
Palin was defiant, making the case in a taped speech she posted online why the nation’s heated political debate should continue unabated even after Saturday’s tragedy in Tucson. And, seeming to follow her own advice, she swung back at her opponents, deeming the inflammatory notion that she was in any way responsible for the shootings a “blood libel.” (See: Shooting presents 2012 test)
Obama, speaking at a memorial service at the University of Arizona, summoned the country to honor the victims, and especially nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, by treating one another with more respect. “I want America to be as good as Christina imaged it,” he said.
It’s difficult to imagine a starker contrast.
Many Republicans believe that it’s mostly the media that is obsessed with Palin, and that there’s little chance she could win the party’s nomination. (See: Republicans disappointed at Palin)
But if she does manage to, Wednesday illustrated why so many in the GOP fear that it would be disastrous.
The former Alaska governor has a knack for supplying rhetoric that will delight her supporters, send her critics howling and invariably create a frenzy of coverage. But her response suggests she is capable of hitting just that one note.
If you sense a “damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t” vibe here, you’re not alone. You’re also not alone if you think Jonathan Martin was unfairly comparing apples to oranges. Clearly, Sarah Palin was on the defensive, not because she’s a shrill harridan, but because she’s been under nigh-constant attack since Saturday afternoon. President Obama’s progressive minions — the ones to whom he administered the lightest of scoldings last night — have been at her hammer and tong. You can understand why she’d seek to play some defense, unless you’re Jonathan Martin or a member of the Palin-hating, stick-up-their-ass crowd inside the Republican party. The President, on the other hand, has remained mostly above it all, not a difficult trick when he has MS-NBC and CNN doing the knife work for him. It’s easy for him to descend upon Arizona bearing stone tablets into which are carved words of peace and consolation. The comparison is unfair.
Let me also note that Martin is wrong about what Palin had to say. She never suggested that “the nation’s heated political debate should continue unabated”. She did defend vigorous debate, which will occasionally get heated, but that’s not nearly the same thing. The difference between the two is the difference between an MMA bout and a back-alley street fight. One of them is bounded by rules and constraints where the objective is victory not death and the other isn’t. You don’t have to be a genius, or a professional journalist, to see the difference. I hesitate to say that Martin purposefully mischaracterized her statement, though. It’s entirely possible that he never actually read the full text of her statement helpfully republished on Martin’s own web site before he wrote that sentence. After all, shoddy reporting and political attacks have been most of what we’ve seen from the MSM since Jared Loughner gunned down 18 people in Tucson and I wouldn’t be surprised if Martin didn’t bother to read her statement before he passed judgement on it.
If Martin’s intention is to damage Palin as a darling of the Tea Parties and a potential 2012 candidate, he needs to do a better job. Pathetic hackery like his piece today make folks like me, who are lukewarm about a potential Palin run, far more inclined to support her.
UPDATE: Ben Howe has a very good related article at Red State on Sheriff Dupnik and the media’s narrative.