Between the Lines: Drawing the battle lines between Palin and the media

Palin and the McCain campaign will likely have to keep playing defense during the coming months.

September 4, 2008 22:29
3 minute read.
Between the Lines: Drawing the battle lines between Palin and the media

the palins 224.88 ap. (photo credit: AP)


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The usual bad blood between political conservatives and the mainstream media (MSM) in the US got even badder and bloodier this week. With the benefit of a front-row seat to the dust-up afforded by a visit to my native land, I can comfortably say it's difficult for me to recall the last time this always-contentious relationship had reached this level of negative intensity (perhaps during the Watergate era). The spur was, of course, the surprise pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate. In what McCain aides have decried as the "media feeding frenzy" that followed, a steady stream of revelations emerged about this previously little-known figure, most sensationally that the unmarried 17-year old daughter of this new champion of "family values" was very much in the "family way." "Washington pundits and media big shots" and the "Washington media elite" were attacked from the podium at the Republican National Convention by the likes of Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and Palin herself, while those Washington pundits on the right followed up with even sharper barbs directed at the MSM. Yet it was the National Enquirer, a paper not particularly known for leftist bias (especially after being the first to expose the scandalous affair of Democratic presidential contender John Edwards) - or for that matter, the reliability of its reporting - that apparently forced Bristol Palin's pregnancy into the open, when it first started making inquiries about the matter to her family and friends, and followed this up with other scandalous allegations. Those Israelis who support Binyamin Netanyahu and regularly decry what they see as liberal bias at work in the local media coverage of the Likud leader, will no doubt strongly identify with the position of the McCain-Palin camp in this dustup. But there's no denying the fact that McCain has to shoulder some of the blame for the seemingly hasty manner in which, at the last minute, he picked a virtually unknown quantity to share the ticket with him. While Yuval Levin of the conservative journal National Review was among those harshly criticizing the Palin coverage, he also noted: "Part of the fault was surely with the McCain campaign's own press strategy. They kept the secret a little too well to begin with (in part surely because the idea that it might leak out in advance was declared to be disrespectful of the Democrats' convention), so reporters were thoroughly surprised. And after revealing the pick, they chose not to have Palin do a round of press interviews right away, making some reporters so angry and hungry they began to eat the furniture." I don't know about furniture, but reporters wouldn't have been so ready to devour Palin if McCain's team hadn't served her up as so much fresh red meat. Did they really not anticipate that the story of her daughter's pregnancy would soon leak out or be deemed relevant given Palin's strong support for "abstinence-only" sex education? Any such revelations are better gotten out sooner rather than later, and presented as coming voluntarily from the candidate rather than admissions forced into the open by press coverage. In this regard, it is perhaps worthwhile recalling Netanyahu's startling on-air confession back in 1993 of an extramarital affair and an alleged attempt to blackmail him over it. Although he was widely derided at the time for what seemed a panicked admission, having it come out into the open when it did made it a virtual nonstory by the time Bibi successfully contended for both the party leadership and the premiership. Palin and the McCain campaign will likely have to keep playing defense during the coming months, as more problematic aspects of her background, both personal and political, emerge from the intensive media scrutiny. Given her scant public record on Israel or Jewish-related matters - not a big concern in Alaska, naturally - the US Jewish press will certainly be among those on her case. In fact, her well-publicized meeting this week with AIPAC officials came off as quick damage control after she was reported as having attended a 1999 rally for then-presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and just last month a presentation at her local church by the founder of Jews for Jesus. If Palin and her campaign handlers want to avoid more such uncomfortable revelations, they'd best get her out in front of reporters as soon as possible, well prepared with answers to everything that has come out so far - and the more that surely will.

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