Verner column: Pity the Palins, besieged by evil media
Leave it to the mainstream media to cheapen and pervert one of those rare, inspiring occasions when a politician stares deeply into the teleprompter and speaks to us directly from the heart.
That’s what happened Wednesday night during Gov. Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention. It was a stirring performance ó perhaps the most dramatic convention scene since Barack Obama strode between the majestic columns at Denver’s Invesco Field, parted the sea of swooning delegates and wiggled his ears, creating an atmospheric disturbance that forced Hurricane Gustav to veer westward and spare New Orleans from another devastating blow. (Some of us had hoped for a campaign about big ideas. Instead, it’s shaping up as big ears vs. big hair.)
I loved Palin’s backwoods bravado and feisty attitude, especially the line in which she cast herself as a pit bull wearing lipstick. After eight years of the play-nice Bush administration and its tiresome emphasis on bipartisan leadership, this is just what’s needed ó an infusion of pit bull politics and sharper delineation between red and blue, Schlitz and chardonnay, Nome and New York. I was also gratified to hear a politician finally portray the media as the true enemy of America. For a while there, I was afraid this campaign might get bogged down in irrelevancies such as job losses, stagnant wages and health-care costs. It was a great relief ó and a joyous moment at the convention ó when Palin came out snarling at the media “elitists.” Run against the media … why didn’t someone think of this before?
It didn’t take the media long to prove Palin’s point, either. As much as I enjoyed her spunky performance, it was tarnished by the broadcast networks’ crass attempts to drag her family into the picture. Literally.
During Palin’s rousing speech ó in which she urged Americans to eat more moose and convert to hybrid snowmobiles ó the cameras continually cut to her children, zooming in for closeups of Bristol, Willow, Piper, even baby Trig.
How could the media be so heartless and intrusive?
Only a day earlier, the McCain camp had bitterly criticized journalists for reporting on the revelation that 17-year-old Bristol was pregnant. The criticism was entirely justified. Candidate’s young families shouldn’t be dragged into the media spotlight, and teen pregnancies are a private matter that shouldn’t be exploited for crass political purposes, unless you can score points by invoking liberal Hollywood filmmakers or Jamie Lynn Spears.
The point was even reinforced by Obama, who has two young daughters and took time out from his busy schedule text-messaging embittered voters in Berlin to comment: “People’s families are off-limits, and people’s children are especially off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics.”
But did the media back off? Of course not. That’s why Governor Palin took extraordinary measures to protect her children by quickly evacuating them from the media-saturated wilds of Alaska and concealing them in prominent seats at the GOP convention. In fact, to remove any possibility that her pregnant daughter might be subjected to the harsh glare of public attention, they flew in her boyfriend and slyly hid him in the middle of the convention, too.
It was a brilliant strategem ó sort of like Congress concealing pork-barrel spending in the middle of the federal budget ó and it might have succeeded if Fred Thompson had continued talking for another 24 hours. Eventually, however, the comatose broadcast crews revived, and when Palin gave her electrifying speech, the cameras continually panned to her poor, sacrificial family members, who stoicly tried to remain off limits by standing and waving for the benefit of the convention crowd ó and 40 million television viewers.
In a desperate attempt to divert the media’s attention from her younger children, Palin cleverly pointed out that her older son Track was also in the audience and would soon ship out for duty. This provided only brief relief, however, before the cameras’ cold glare shifted back to the cowering Palin youngsters.
Finally, in one last heroic effort to protect the sanctity of the family circle, Governor Palin gathered the embattled brood about her on the stage as the media swept in for the kill. It was a heart-wrenching scene, made all the more poignant by the fact that, only days earlier, we had watched Michelle Obama perform exactly the same selfless act while trying to protect her daughters from the vicious media sharks in Denver. Political differences aside, these are two brave women, reminiscent of those hardy pioneer mothers who threw their bodies atop their young children to shield them from the onslaught of spear-toting savages.
Sadly, you can’t subdue the lap-toting savages of the media. We have neither conscience nor shame.
My suggestion for both Palin and Obama is that, for the duration of the campaign, they send their children to stay with President Bush in the White House. As we saw at the Republican National Convention, nobody wants to go there these days.
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Chris Verner is editorial page editor of the Salisbury Post.