Is Sarah Palin as “significant” as Paris Hilton? So says Mika Brzezinski in what has become a rather notorious episode of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. My good friend Matt Lewis appeared on the show this morning to discuss his new book, The Quotable Rogue: The Ideals of Sarah Palin in Her Own Words, and made the argument that Palin has “driven the debate” on a wide range of public policy for the last two years, especially with her Tea Party activism. Brzezinski scoffed and said that Palin might be no more significant than a lightweight celebrity more known for a sex tape than deep political thinking:
Joe Scarborough read Brzezinski out for her comment, noting that Palin is only one of two women to have run on a major-party ticket for Vice President:
GEIST: You said a minute ago, Matt, she’s the most significant woman of the 21st century. I can just hear our viewers screaming at their TVs. What about Hillary Clinton? Do you really think she’s the most significant, more so than Hillary Clinton?
BRZEZINSKI: I can’t, I can’t –
LEWIS: I said arguably, and I think you could make a case for Nancy Pelosi, as well, by the way, and Hillary Clinton and I’m sure some others. But I think you could make a good case for Palin because of the way — look at the Tea Party movement, which she was sort of at the forefront of. I think you could make a good case that Sarah Palin was in fact the most significant woman in terms of driving the debate, and certainly in terms of media coverage Sarah Palin has dominated it.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, but so does Paris Hilton, but that doesn’t mean they’re significant.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on one second, don’t — let me stop right here. Don’t compare her to Paris Hilton.
BRZEZINSKI: I didn’t. I’m just saying –
SCARBOROUGH: You said so is Paris Hilton. You put her in the same category.
BRZEZINSKI: No. I’m saying there are people who get media coverage that maybe shouldn’t?
SCARBOROUGH: She’s one of two women — hold on a second, Matt.
LEWIS: The death panel comment is –
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on, hold on, hold on. Okay, let’s put it in perspective. I’m tired of her. People ask, “Why do we bring her up.” They’ll ask, “Why are we talking about her here.” You talk about Paris Hilton. I think that feeds into that narrative. Here’s the bottom line: She is one of the two only women who have ever been nominated for vice president of the United States of America. That ain’t nothing. It’s just like Dan Quayle for four years after he was vice president –
BRZEZINSKI: Okay, you’re going to have to let me respond.
SCARBOROUGH: — garnered more attention than that. That is why she remains significant.
BRZEZINSKI: No. I’m going to tell you there already was one and given the women that we have on the global landscape today, like Hillary Clinton, I mean, my lord. I’m sorry.
SCARBOROUGH: She’s in the top 10. I’m not saying she’s the most significant. You compared her to Paris Hilton.
BRZEZINSKI: No. I compared his statement about media coverage to Paris Hilton, okay? So, you know, you can jump on that like some of the –
Scarborough’s right, and even undersells his point. Her significance started as governor of Alaska, and then progressed as a national-party nominee for VP. But she’s done even more since then. Her PAC supported a number of Republicans in the 2010 midterms, most of whom won their elections in part due to her support. Palin has done as much as anyone has in the past two years for political organization in both grassroots and traditional party structure, all while being ridiculed by media figures like Brzezinski, whose main claim to fame is … being on television, and being the daughter of a former National Security Adviser in the Carter administration. If anyone has less standing to make a point about superficial celebritydom on Morning Joe, I’d like to know who it might be.
Besides, let’s not sell Paris Hilton short, either. She managed to sound more coherent than Barack Obama on economics during the 2008 campaign.