Sarah Palin put an effective end to the contretemps over David Letterman and his admittedly “coarse” jokes about Palin’s daughter.  After Letterman apologized on national television last night, Palin accepted the apology.  She also made an important point about free speech that answers some of the countercritics of the dispute:

Sarah Palin has accepted comedian David Letterman’s apology made during Monday night’s broadcast of “The Late Show” for crude jokes made about her and her teen daughters last week.

In a statement to FOXNews.com early Tuesday, the Alaska governor said, “Of course it’s accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who ‘joke’ about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve.”

“Letterman certainly has the right to ‘joke’ about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction,” Palin said. “This is all thanks to our U.S. Military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America’s Right to Free Speech – in this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect.”

Letterman’s apology hasn’t yet quieted the calls for his firing, as Tommy Christopher noted last night after its announcement.  The boss was unimpressed, as was Laura in our Green Room.  Still, it seems hard to imagine that an effort to fire Letterman and boycott his advertisers would proceed after Palin’s gracious acceptance of Letterman’s latest retreat.  After all, Palin and her daughters were the aggrieved parties in this exchange, and if she doesn’t want to pursue it, then it will take the steam out of the effort elsewhere.

This is a smart move by Palin.  She has become more confident and capable on the national-media stage, and she needs to establish herself as a major player on policy and not just a personality.  Palin needs to rise above the petty personal attacks that tend to paint her as a damsel in distress, requiring rescue from her fans in the form of boycotts and protests.  She’s proven herself tougher than that in Alaskan politics, and Palin certainly can make the transition on a national level — as long as she doesn’t keep the focus on victimhood, no matter how legitimate it might be.

Her parting shot should also resonate.  Some pundits had cast Letterman as the victim of howling mobs looking to silence him, and Palin’s statement reminds the critics that no one disputed Letterman’s right to say whatever he wants.  That doesn’t, however, make him free from criticism, nor from legitimate free-market reaction to his caddish “jokes”.  Criticizing Letterman was every bit the same kind of free speech that Letterman enjoyed in making the jokes, as was the effort to punish his sponsors — who pay for Letterman’s speech — at the cash register.

Update: Jim Treacher says the rest of us should accept the apology, too.