Green Room

Why Sarah Palin should appear on Letterman’s show

posted at 2:17 pm on June 16, 2009 by

A lot has been said already about David Letterman’s comments on Governor Sarah Palin’s daughters. And some aren’t going to like what the title of this post suggests, but I do think it’s worth exploring the possibility that the Governor would appear on the Late Show, now that he has apologized and Governor Palin has accepted.

When Letterman first offered to have Palin on, I think everyone recognized it for the “joke” that it was: a not-so-subtle challenge to Palin that if she wanted to engage him, it would be on his terms and without a mea culpa for her daughters. No doubt, his drubbing over the last week from the full spectrum of political observers, most notably NOW, compelled some reflection on Letterman’s part about the apology, which brought us to last night’s soliloquy of sorry. As far as Letterman is concerned, his apology (and it was, I think, a full and sincere one) ends the issue.

But this episode, for a variety of reasons, shouldn’t just end there, and it’s a mistake to interpret a Palin appearance to be a reward to Letterman for bad behavior. Letterman’s invitation is an opportunity to remind Americans of, or alternately introduce them to, the subtext of the Letterman-Palin feud — that Palin and her family are a special target for the lib media. That her appearance resulted from a symptom of the media’s double-standard disease is all the more important.

And Palin and Letterman don’t even have to say a word about the subtext at all. Through Letterman, Palin would get to engage her detractors openly, comprehensively, confidently, and on a highly visible public stage, simply by being present. It’s an opportunity that to this point hasn’t really been possible.

As a rhetorical strategy, Palin’s timing actually makes a great deal of sense, said Richard Vatz, a professor of political communication at Towson University and a self-described conservative. Noting that the pregnant-daughter jokes had been dying down, Letterman’s crack stood out, making him easier to isolate for criticism, he said.

“If a large number of people are doing something against you, it’s hard to take on the whole group,” Vatz said.

Palin can’t do much to curb the anti-Palin misogyny that’s out there, but she can make its most visible and egregious instances a cautionary tale that she and her family are not just going to be stepped on, and one of the best ways to do that is to draw those critics closer to her when they’re weakest. And not all critics should be, or have to be, addressed on-set; Bill Maher is more amoeba than big fish. The Governor can’t be running around, putting out embers in the middle of a forest fire.

And make no mistake, Letterman won’t become some Palin partisan if she comes to his studio, but an appearance on his show, under these circumstances, will do much to undermine and undercut future shots at her and her family, a clear demonstration that rather than avoiding controversy, the Palins and Sarah Palin specifically are not afraid to fight their detractors, defeat them, and bring them if not into an orbit of congeniality, then some semblence of neutrality. Crazier things have happened.

MARCIE KLEIN, SENIOR PRODUCER “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”:  Well, the first, I actually was the first person to meet her. She, one of the NBC pages, or someone in my office brought her up to the eighth floor, and I was standing there, and I, I, I thought, “Oh my God, she looks just like Tina.” I mean, I couldn’t believe how much she looked liked Tina. And, Tina was happened to be in my office, and I ran into my office, I shook her hand, and she had incredibly strong, you know, handshake, but I was overwhelmed by how much she physically looked like Tina, and how — Tina Fey — and how a lot of people come to our show, actors, musicians, and they’re nervous. I mean, you know, “Saturday Night Live, I watched this my whole life.” She was not nervous. I thought, “This is the most confident person I’ve ever met.” I walked into my office and said to Tina, “You’re gonna freak out, she looks exactly like you, or you like exactly like her.” She said, “She’s prettier than I am.”

MENIN: Do you think that maybe she wasn’t nervous because she hadn’t watched the show before? Did she say if she’d watched the show before?

KLEIN: I’m sure she watched the show before, I don’t know, but I think she’s just a person with a lot of confidence. And I think when you see people with confidence, you like that. You know, you trust, you know, you, there’s something, there’s something to confidence that, that people respond to.

Indeed, there is.

Letterman won’t be the last on-air personality, blogger, or media entity that takes a shot at Palin, and I think everyone appreciates the fact that Palin’s unique place in the American psyche will compel other scumbags to besmirch the Governor in ways unimaginable for other politicians, particularly Democrats. But the fact that she won’t be afforded such common courtesies of decent dialogue and criticism isn’t a sufficient reason to spurn those who come, hat in hand, to atone for their over-reaches. In fact, it’s a reason to do the opposite.

It’s not about Letterman. It’s about Sarah Palin effectively defending her family and herself, now and for the long haul. And one of the best ways to do that is to appear on Letterman’s show.

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My problem would be more that if she went on right now, Dave would try and do a straight interview in the O’Reilly style, with a couple of “What’s the Gross National Product of Uzbekistan?” style queries thrown in to make sure there’s at least one “Palin is an idiot” soundbytes for the next day’s TV shows.

jon1979 on June 17, 2009 at 7:57 AM

You don’t think she’d know by now that she needs to call them out on that? Remind them that they’d never in a million years ask Biden such questions, let alone Obama?

If she avoids opportunities because someone else might use them dishonestly, what’s the point of being in public office?

Jim Treacher on June 17, 2009 at 10:09 AM

If she avoids opportunities because someone else might use them dishonestly, what’s the point of being in public office?

Jim Treacher on June 17, 2009 at 10:09 AM
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So says Jim Treacher political strategist. Oh yes, Let’s all listen to Jim political advice for a sitting governor. Oh yes, ignore Charle Krauthammer and listen to Jim Treacher by all means. I leaning toward Charles K myself, but for the rest of you go ahead and take Jim Treacher’s advise. ——> NOT!!!.

Americannodash on June 17, 2009 at 11:34 AM

You don’t think she’d know by now that she needs to call them out on that? Remind them that they’d never in a million years ask Biden such questions, let alone Obama?

If she avoids opportunities because someone else might use them dishonestly, what’s the point of being in public office?

Jim Treacher on June 17, 2009 at 10:09 AM

Remember, I’m not saying don’t ever do it, I’m just saying don’t do it right now, when the left and the big media (OK, an admitted redundancy) are drooling at the prospect of paying Palin back as soon as possible. That’s when one of those “gotcha” questions gets tossed in there and then touted by Letterman’s supporters as helping to somehow at least prove his point that she’s no better than a “Slutty Flight Attendant”. And as long as there are no shots at Bristol or Willow, the media will say the questions are fair, no matter how obscure they are.

Wait a few months, to the point that if they’re going to try and pull the same crap, they’ll have to gin up the hype from about a 1.5 on a scale of 1-10 on the heavy rotation pop culture scale, and their actions at trying to get back at Sarah will seem far more obvious. Doing it now, they could justify the hype and ensuing spin by saying everyone wants to see Letterman confront Palin and they’re just giving the public what they want.

jon1979 on June 17, 2009 at 3:19 PM

Americannodash on June 17, 2009 at 11:34 AM

I detect a faint note of disapproval.

Jim Treacher on June 17, 2009 at 9:53 PM

I detect a faint note of disapproval.

Jim Treacher on June 17, 2009 at 9:53 PM
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The wordsmith that you usually display on a daily basis is lacking, I know that you could have come up with a better words than faint disapproval. Faint disapproval from my point of view does not come to mind but outright distain of your positioned opinion may have been a better choice. By the way, are you getting a lot of positive feedback about encouraging your point of view on this matter? I mean besides my positive input to you.

Americannodash on June 17, 2009 at 11:31 PM

Americannodash on June 17, 2009 at 11:31 PM

I understand what you’re saying.

Jim Treacher on June 18, 2009 at 2:01 AM

Jim Treacher on June 18, 2009 at 2:01 AM
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I hope that you have come back here this one last time.
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You are a writer with many gifts. He!!, you can deliver more zingers in one hour than most people can disperse in a month. Play to your strengths and focus that powerful gift of yours on the soft tyranny we see coming at the American public. I will acknowledge that you’ve done it the past but pick a target and dismantle their argument with your humorous cutting edge zingers. Be relentless in your persuit of pointing out the hypocracies that exist today with the individuals or of a groups past statements or positions. Be factual and precise and have a standard of principles that other individuals will applaud and admire. I will only forewarn you that you must have your house in order first (zinging them without being accused of hypocracy. Be zinger neutral by providing a set of standards of like nobody else can). Thinking they could be called “Jim Treacher’s rules of engagement”. Those who try to make an argument with no means of support and lacking a foundation in the guidelines provided by your manifesto shall be addressed accordingly. Jim Treacher’s rules of engagement (JTROE) could be the document that defends those from being attacked wrongly by showing that the group or indiviuals attacking are they themselves hypocrytes. I think I have said enough now. It is up to you Jim. Take what I say to you as a positive rather that a negative. Your a good man and this world needs minds like yours. Use those gifts and bump it up a notch. I only have best wishes for you if you decide to add this to your parlance and writings in the future.
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Americannodash on June 18, 2009 at 8:00 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3