What Sarah Palin’s “Today Show” appearance proves she needs the media.
by Chris Cillizza
Sarah Palin’s hour spent as a guest host on NBC’s uber-popular “Today Show” this morning proves one thing beyond any doubt: She needs the media. Badly. And she knows it.
Former half-term Alaska Gov. and losing GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin delivers the keynote address to activists from America’s political right at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. NBC’s “Today” show is bringing Sarah Palin on board as a co-host — for one morning, this Tuesday, April 3. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)Ever since Palin emerged on the national stage in the late summer of 2008, the one consistent part of her rhetoric has been a disgust/distrust with the media.
“I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone,” Palin said in her 2008 Republican National Convention speech.
As the scrutiny of her qualifications increased, Palin’s vitriol toward the media swelled too. Most famously, she accused Katie Couric of playing gotcha journalism for asking her what sort of things she read — a claim that was, is and always will be ridiculous on its face.
After Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) presidential bid came up short, Palin doubled down on her anti-media rap. By 2010, Palin’s riff against the “lamestream media” was in full flower. In a speech in September 2010 in Iowa, Palin took that critique to new heights, telling the media (in part):
“You’re worse for using, in that lamestream media, those unsubstantiated untrue hits, it’s not fair to our country, it’s not fair to the electorate, it’s not fair to our democracy, and it is not fair to our troops willing to sacrifice all for our freedoms, journalists, ok?”
What was always true — even in the depths of Palin’s campaign against the media — was that she needed the media. Out of office, Palin’s best (only?) way to remain in the spotlight was to keep making news by attacking the news. If the media ignored Palin, she had — and has — no ability to be the sort of celebritician (a combination of a celebrity and politician) that she clearly wants to be.
Palin, of course, knew that. Criticize her for many things but one thing she gets is how the media-political complex works. (Remember that Palin was — in a past life — a sports reporter on TV.) On that front, she carries a sort of instinctual understanding of how to play the game.
In case there was ANY doubt about that fact, Palin’s appearance on the “Today Show” this morning provides conclusive proof.
Palin cruised her way through the hour — talking about politics, Jessica Simpson’s (mostly) nude spread on the cover of Elle magazine and entertaining with Tori Spelling .
The most telling moment of the hour was when Palin praised “Saturday Night Live’s” Tina Fey as “pretty clever” for her biting impersonation of the former Alaska governor. (It was one of a number of decidedly self-deprecating moments from Palin throughout the hour.)
That admission amounted to a wink and a nod by Palin. She knows that the worst thing in the world (or at least in her world) is to have people stop talking about her. And the best way to keep people talking is to maintain the sort of hate/love relationship with the media that her political career has been built on over the last four years.