Press wastes no time get­ting per­sonal against Palin

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

There was not much of a hon­ey­moon be­tween Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the press.

Cov­er­age has turned per­sonal and in­va­sive against the Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, pit­ting jour­nal­ists in­tent on “vet­ting” a new­comer against those who say such treat­ment is un­fair, bi­ased — and sex­ist.

Mrs. Palin first was treated with giddy cu­rios­ity by the news me­dia, por­trayed as a con­ser­va­tive “dream girl” in high heels, a mag­net for dis­grun­tled Democrats and an in­trigu­ing young foil for Sen. John McCain. News soon mor­phed into spec­u­la­tion about her fam­ily cir­cum­stances and life­style — and the pos­si­ble ef­fect on her suit­abil­ity for of­fice.

Some say the hub­bub is jus­ti­fied, and that a vig­or­ous press is part of high pol­i­tics. Oth­ers con­tend that mis­chief is afoot.

“McCain picks her at the last mo­ment, he knew about her back­ground, yet he didn’t al­low her to sit in front of the press and of­fer her own story. Sarah Palin must know that if you go on to the na­tional scene, you’re go­ing to get creamed. This isn’t like ap­ply­ing for the city coun­cil. She chose to make her preg­nant daugh­ter and fam­ily part of the cov­er­age when she ac­cepted the nom­i­na­tion,” said Tay­lor Marsh, a pro­gres­sive talkra­dio host and blog­ger.

“The me­dia isn’t be­ing sex­ist here. McCain thinks Sarah Palin is ‘Miss Repub­li­can 2008,’ a woman who could br ing in Hil­lary Clin­ton’s sup­port­ers. Now the press must ask whether she is ready to pos­si­bly be the com­man­der in chief. It is the duty of the news me­dia to vet those in high pol­i­tics. That’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Some say the press is clearly awry.

“It’s com­pletely fair to ques- tion Palin’s ex­pe­ri­ence, ques­tion her record, and ques­tion her judg­ment. Ev­ery can­di­date should ex­pect that. But what’s jaw-drop­ping here is how a sup­pos­edly fem­i­nist me­dia elite can so abruptly drop all their prin­ci­ples and start ques­tion­ing whether a mother of five can han­dle this job. They don’t only look bi­ased, but ex­tremely par­ti­san and op­por­tunis­tic,” said Tim Gra­ham of the Me­dia Re­search Cen­ter.

Wendy Wright, pres­i­dent of Con­cerned Women for Amer­ica, agreed. “The choice of Gov­er­nor Palin is ex­pos­ing the rank hypocrisy of the ‘en­light­ened’ gate­keep­ers of the main­stream me­dia.”

“While some blame blog­gers or Democrats for the most ap­palling ru­mors or smears, the main­stream me­dia has also been ea­ger to fo­cus their ob­ses­sive cov­er­age — not on Gov­er­nor Palin’s ac­com- plish­ments — but her per­sonal de­ci­sions as a woman. De­ci­sions for which the me­dia clearly have vis­ceral con­tempt,” she said.

A sym­pa­thetic pub­lic could ul­ti­mately fa­vor Mrs. Palin, she added, fault­ing jour­nal­ists who of­fer more fa­vor­able cov­er­age to Sen. Barack Obama, and those who ap­pear to think “that the Palins should have cho­sen abor­tion over giv­ing life to a spe­cial-needs child or teenage preg­nancy.”

Phil Ped­likin, pres­i­dent of the Down Syn­drome As­so­ci­a­tion of North­ern Vir­ginia, said the cov­er­age of Mrs. Palin as the mother of a child with Down syn­drome has been very mixed.

“We have found it frus­trat­ing that, even though Gov­er­nor Palin has never sug­gested it, quite the op­po­site re­ally, the em­pha­sis of many re­ports has been on the ‘bur­den’ that she faces be­cause her child has Down syn­drome. Also, she is some­times por­trayed as a hero be­cause of this ad­di­tional ‘bur­den.’ We are not he­roes be­cause we have chil­dren with Down syn­drome. Our chil­dren are the he­roes,” Mr. Ped­likin said.

Mr. McCain did not mask his dis­plea­sure with the press. He can­celed an ap­pear­ance on CNN on Sept. 2 af­ter the net­work aired a par­tic­u­larly com­bat­ive ex­change be­tween an­chor Camp­bell Brown and Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman, who was called upon to de­fend Mrs. Palin’s abil­i­ties.

CNN cor­re­spon­dent Jack Caf­ferty coun­tered Sept. 3 by sug­gest­ing Mr. McCain find an­other run­ning mate.

“This vet­ting con­tro­versy is a faux me­dia scan­dal de­signed to de­stroy the first fe­male Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for vice pres­i­dent of the United States who has never been a part of the old boys’ net­work that has come to dom­i­nate the news es­tab­lish­ment in this coun­try,” said Steve Sch­midt, a se­nior cam­paign ad­viser.

“This non­sense is over. It’s time to be­gin the de­bate,” he added.

The cat­er­waul, how­ever, could very well be just an­other fac­tor at the nexus of con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics and me­dia, how­ever. The speed of un­fold­ing events also played a role.

“With Barack Obama, the me­dia had the lux­ury of vet­ting him and his unique fam­ily sit­u­a­tion over a lengthy pe­riod of time. With Sarah Palin, they are looking at a pub­lic fig­ure who is largely un­known in a very com­pressed time frame. The level at first was sort of friendly — jour­nal­ists were ask­ing what she would bring to the cam­paign, could she bring in Hil­lary Clin­ton sup­port­ers,” said Mark Jurkowitz of the Project for Ex­cel­lence in Jour­nal­ism.

“Then the in­evitable hap­pened. The ques­tions about who she is, and what we re­ally know about her have been asked in an in­tense burst. It could sub­side af­ter the con­ven­tion and cam­paign­ing gets un­der way — or if there are other rev­e­la­tions worth ex­plor­ing,” he said.

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