‘Say It Aint So, O!’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

If ever there were a can­di­date des­tined to shine on “The Oprah Win­frey Show,” Sarah Palin would be that woman. In less than a week, the Alaska gov­er­nor, for­mer PTA mem­ber and 44-year-old mother of five — in­clud­ing an in­fant with Down syn­drome — sur­vived a vi­cious press as­sault on her fam­ily only to win over the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans with her brave and un­apolo­getic speech at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

In a me­dia in­stant, Sarah Palin went from an un­known moose hunter to a mass phe­nom­e­non on the precipice of be­com­ing the vice pres­i­dent of the United States.

She is the Oprah au­di­ence per­son­i­fied — an un­likely fem­i­nist icon that braved the storm while deftly pro­tect­ing her chil­dren. Many al­ready are say­ing she has the in­side track for the top slot in 2012.

Mrs. Palin is his­tory in a dress. And her script is straight out of Hol­ly­wood — like those teen movies with the cliched end­ing fea­tur­ing the fe­male vale­dic­to­rian de­liv­er­ing the speech of a life­time pro­ject­ing a bold and trans­for­ma­tive fu­ture with an in­de­pen­dent-minded woman in charge. That fu­ture is now. Women want to get to know Sarah Palin. And they want to meet her fam­ily.

Yet Oprah Win­frey, the high priest­ess of the fe­male empowerment move­ment and Amer­ica’s most adored tele­vi­sion host, de­nies her mas­sive and loyal au­di­ence’s most ob­vi­ous wishes be­cause of her sin­gle-minded drive to put Barack Obama in the White House.

On Sept. 5 un­der scru­tiny for this de­ci­sion Oprah Win­frey re­leased a state­ment:

“At the beginning of this Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign when I de­cided that I was go­ing to take my first pub- lic stance in sup­port of a can­di­date, I made the de­ci­sion not to use my show as a plat­form for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fan­tas­tic in­ter­view, and I would love to have her on af­ter the cam­paign is over.”

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton can cer­tainly re­late to the Palin shutout. Oprah helped an­ni­hi­late the can­di­dacy of the first fe­male ma­jor party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date by fail­ing to hu­man­ize her the way only the Queen of Day­time Talk could.

Surely, Hil­lary will for­give and for­get.

Given that in pre­vi­ous elec­tion cy­cles Miss Win­frey fa­mously gave both sides equal time, many of her ador­ing throngs are draw­ing the con­clu­sion that in the me­dia ti­tan’s mind — and in the Demo­cratic Party’s iden­tity pol­i­tics play­book — race trumps gen­der.

The en­trance of an­other his­toric woman into the elec­tion only re­in­forces this idea.

“She sup­ports Obama be­cause he is black, which is just as bad as NOT sup­port­ing him be­cause he is black,” voiced an anony­mous woman (per­haps Geral­dine Fer­raro) at Oprah.com. That sen­ti­ment — the ele­phant in the mid­dle of the me­dia spin room — is com­monly re­peated through­out Oprah’s highly traf­ficked mes­sage boards. A small band of de­fend­ers ig­nores the charge and blames Karl Rove for the mess.

“Af­ter more than 20 years of in­ter­views, you do not have the ca­pa­bil­ity to han­dle ask­ing her ques­tions about her life rather than her plat­form?” writes an­other an­gry fan. “Just be hon­est that you don’t want her on the show be­cause her pop­u­lar­ity may de­tract from your per­sonal po­lit­i­cal can­di­date. I’m very dis­ap­pointed and you have lost a lot of cred­i­bil­ity.”

The cozy re­la­tion­ship be­tween Oprah Win­frey and Barack Obama pre­dates the en­dorse­ment she gave him in May 2007. First of all, both were mem­bers of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s con­tro­ver­sial church. Of course, that topic is off lim­its.

Miss Win­frey launched the first­term se­na­tor as a na­tional brand when she lav­ished praise on him dur­ing a show in 2005. Dur­ing Mr. Obama’s next ap­pear­ance in Oc­to­ber 2006, Miss Win­frey stated she would sup­port Mr. Obama if he ran for the pres­i­dency — even though Mr. Obama pre­vi­ously stated he wouldn’t run due to his in­ex­pe­ri­ence. “I am a be­liever in know­ing what you’re do­ing when you ap­ply for a job,” he said in 2004.

But when Oprah Win­frey gives you her bil­lion-dol­lar bless­ing and her platinum Rolodex, what’s a fresh­man se­na­tor to do? A study by Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land economists makes the case that her en­dorse­ment alone was worth more that one mil­lion votes in the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

Then there was the post-Den­ver post-speech hoorah: “I think it’s the most pow­er­ful thing I have ever ex­pe­ri­enced,” Miss Win­frey told her fel­low be­liev­ers in the press corps. “I cried my eye­lashes off.”

The sce­nario reads like the Visa cam­paign: “Price­less.”

Yet since Miss Win­frey en­dorsed Mr. Obama and his po­lit­i­cal for­tunes im­me­di­ately sky­rock­eted, Oprah has seen her ex­cep­tion­ally high pop­u­lar­ity take a dras­tic hit.

Ac­cord­ing to a Gallup/USA To­day poll in March 2007, Miss Win­frey pos­sessed a whop­ping 74 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing. (In­ci­den­tally, Mrs. Palin’s ap­proval rat­ing in Alaska is a Mother Theresa-like 80 per­cent.) Miss Win­frey’s sup­port dipped to 61 per­cent by Au­gust 2007, and dur­ing the pri­maries, her ap­proval dropped fur­ther to 55 per­cent — the low­est in her ca­reer.

The Palin punt should wash away many more ar­dent sup­port­ers, many con­ser­va­tive and Repub­li­can Oprah­watch­ing faith­ful among them.

Peo­ple marvel that Mr. Obama was able to slay Mrs. Clin­ton, for­merly the in­evitable Demo­cratic choice. But as they say, be­hind ev­ery suc­cess­ful man, there’s a strong woman. In Mr. Obama’s case, it’s cer­tainly not Michelle. It’s Oprah. If Mr. Obama is elected, no one will have more power and ac­cess than Oprah Win­frey — the ul­ti­mate lob­by­ist.

But maybe those mil­lions of women that she played for fools — and de­prived of an elec­tion cy­cle filled with ex­cep­tional fe­male elec­toral achieve­ments and elec­tri­fy­ing tele­vi­sion mo­ments, many among them Hil­lary fol­low­ers and a cadre of Sarah sup­port­ers — will deny her that his­toric op­por­tu­nity.

Hell hath no fury like an Oprah Book Club mem­ber scorned.

An­drew Bre­it­bart is the founder of the news Web site bre­it­bart.com and is co-au­thor of “Hol­ly­wood In­ter­rupted: In­san­ity Chic in Baby­lon — the Case Against Celebrity.”


Color be­fore gen­der? Oprah Win­frey

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