I wonder to what extent Sarah Palin is being primed (and by whom) to be a serious contender for the 2012 GOP nomination. She is definitely a “candidate” at this early stage and is looking towards a run in 2012. Whether she turns into a serious candidate remains to be seen. She both has a real base of support and a lot of serious negatives. If Obama is still popular in 2012 and looks unbeatable, I also wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of other Republicans sit back and allow her to be a sacrificial lamb.
The controversy over the poor taste of a few of David Letterman's recent jokes continues to receive attention in the media and blogosphere, but the actual jokes have become overshadowed by the manner in which Sarah Palin has decided to sacrifice the good of her children for political gain, along with the mob mentality expressed by some on the right wing.
In the most benign reaction from the right, ditto heads repeat endlessly how Letterman’s jokes were in poor taste. True, but this is hardly worth spending any more time on. Everyone agrees that the jokes were in poor taste. Even Letterman agrees that he should not have told the ones about Bristol Palin (but he sticks by the reference to Sarah Palin as looking like a slutty flight attendant).
The controversy began over the slutty flight attendant joke and it wasn’t until later in the night that some dishonest right wing bloggers realized they could get millage from a joke about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. They realized the benefit from whining about a joke about Bristol was limited. While it might not be in good taste, tasteless jokes are commonplace on late night television. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson have all told jokes about Sarah Palin and about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy. With Bristol Palin now appearing in public, including at a recent public event in New York, right or wrong she will be considered fair game by the late night comics. The bloggers came up with a way to smear Letterman over this with blatantly untrue claims that the joke about a daughter getting knocked up was not about the daughter who had actually been pregnant but about Palin’s 14 year old daughter Willow. The joke was clearly about Bristol Palin--the daughter who had been pregnant and had recently been in New York publically discussing the topic. (Actually the joke was even more about Alex Rodriguez and his antics with women, but we don’t see Rodriguez protesting the joke.) Some right wingers have been spreading outright lies about what Letterman said, claiming the joke was both about rape and about Willow Palin when there is no basis for either claim. It really is irrelevant as to who was at the game. It is just the format for the jokes as Letterman throws whoever he wants to joke about into going to the game with Sarah Palin. Monday night he joked about Bristol. His jokes about a Palin daughter and pregnancy are clearly about Bristol (the daughter who is well known for having been pregnant), regardless of whether she was there. Tuesday night Letterman joked about Rudy Giuliani going to the game with her. It also doesn’t matter whether Giuliani was there with her. This is a common type of formula for Letterman’s jokes. The news report cited by the right wing bloggers only say that Willow was with Sarah Palin at another event on this trip.I haven’t seen anything which says for certain who actually was at the game, and it is sure doubtful that there was anything on this before the joke was written. If Willow was there we don’t know if Letterman knew it, and he was clearly joking about Bristol. As I said before, who was really at the game with Sarah Palin is irrelevant. It is simply a formula for a joke this week to joke about someone who was at the game with her, as he did Tuesday with Rudy Giuliani, who may or may not have been there. Letterman’s jokes typically contain some degree of both fact and fiction when talking about current events.
When Ann Coulter says something far worse than anything David Letterman said she laughs it off as a joke and claims that liberals have no sense of humor. I sure don’t find the political correctness claims be be “nonsense”. But certainly conservatives are as quick to censor as liberals. The problem with the right’s attacks based upon political correctness is that it is an issue where a minority back political correctness while many more liberals are more concerned with freedom of speech. It comes down to the problem of attributing a view to all liberals (or to all conservatives) when there is such a vast range of people who might fall under one label. Coulter’s claims of a lack of humor might have been made against feminists at some time, but she has also made the charge against all liberals when liberals have complained about things she has said. Some of the right wing blogs have been using the example of Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot, and then saying liberals had no sense of humor when they objected.
I should also add that there are also many conservatives around who are strong supporters of civil liberties. They also tend to be the same ones who are uncomfortable with the anti-intellectualism of the Sarah Palin/Joe-the-Plumber wing of the GOP.
I sort of like the classification used by the conservative economist Richard Posner in his recent interview with The Economist. He distinguishes between his brand of conservatism and “idiot conservatism.”
Strange that the conservative bloggers who say Letterman's Monday’s joke couldn’t be about Bristol (as if a joke about a pregnant daughter of Sarah Palin would be about anyone else) because Bristol wasn’t there aren’t bothered by Tuesday’s joke about Giuliani, who wasn’t there. The right wing bloggers who started this smear campaign have little interest in either feminism or in defending a child such as Willow Palin. In actuality they are doing the opposite as it is the right wing bloggers, not David Letterman, who are responsible for dragging Willow Palin through the mud. Letterman did not mention Willow Palin, did not tell a joke about a 14 year old, and did not tell a joke about rape as the right wingers are claiming. If it is wrong to tell a joke about a 14 year old being raped, it is also wrong to make false accusations that Letterman did this.
The whole issue could have died when Letterman explained the jokes and invited Sarah and Todd Palin onto the show. Instead Sarah Palin decided to sacrifice the good of her children by continuing to drag Willow Palin through the mud in order to gain politically. While David Letterman never told a joke about raping a fourteen year old, Sarah Palin told such a joke about raping her own daughter.
Sarah Palin's response to the invitation:
“The Palins have no intention of providing a rating’s boost for David Letterman by appearing on his show. Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman.”
It is curious that Sarah Palin, despite her outrage in recent comments, is the one who is making a tasteless quip at the expense of Willow. Of course it is not unusual for Palin to take advantage of her children for publicity.
Just to keep things straight, David Letterman has not made any jokes about Willow Palin. It is the right wing blogs who dragged Willow into this, and now Sarah Palin has joined them by making such a joke about Willow. In doing so, Palin shows she is both not above taking advantage of her daughter to make a political point and that she is not above joining in with right wing smear campaigns. Just as it is wrong to make jokes about a 14 year old child, it is wrong to spread false accusations that David Letterman has done this.
I suspect that sooner or later Palin will appear on Late Night with David Letterman, just as John McCain did following his feud with Letterman last fall. As a politician such publicity will probably prove to be too much to resist. Besides, as Letterman has jokingly pointed out, “The road to the White House goes through me.”
On the other hand, perhaps Palin will not do what other politicians would do in such a situation. Palin remains unique in staying away from the Sunday morning talk shows following her disastrous attempts to answer questions in interviews during the 2008 campaign. Most likely Letterman would keep such an appearance light, but Palin still might be afraid of being embarrassed should Letterman throw her any questions about actual policy matters.
Jason Zengerle says essentially the same thing. (He’s responding to Victor Davis Hanson as well as Sarah Palin’s argument but it is essentially the same argument heard multiple times from the right):
I know logic isn’t VDH’s strong suit, but is it really so hard to believe that the joke Letterman was making about a Palin daughter getting “knocked up” was about the Palin daughter who, you know, got knocked up? And when you consider that said daughter has decided to make herself a poster- (and cover-) girl for teen abstinence, then, by stepping into the media spotlight, she’s exposed herself to the jokes (funny or not) of late night comics.
As for Palin, her response is just gross. Responding to Letterman’s invitation to appear on his show, this is what a Palin spokesman said:
The Palins have no intention of providing a rating’s boost for David Letterman by appearing on his show. Plus, it would be wise to keep Willow away from David Letterman.
The first part about not wanting to boost Letterman’s ratings is fair and I can’t blame her. But isn’t the second part just adding insult to the original injury Palin claims Willow suffered at Letterman’s hands? It’s hard to complain about someone making jokes about having sex or raping your 14-year-old daughter when you then go on to make the same joke yourself.
P.S. VDH says Letterman would never make jokes about the offspring of the Obamas, Kerrys, Bidens, or Gores. Not true.
My bet is that those spreading the smear will continue to smear Letterman with their lies about what he has said as this is really not about any belief that Letterman had made jokes about a 14 year old girl.
On Wednesday's show, fortunately, Letterman in response to the smears did not dwell on giving Palin an apology which she did not deserve as Dave did get in some more jokes at Palin’s expense during the monologue. He said he felt depressed about being called pathetic by Sarah Palin. To get over it he went out and spent $150,000 on clothes, and he does feel better now. He did express some concern about pissing off a hunter. After returning from the monologue Letterman read the protests from both Todd and Sarah Palin and said he totally agreed with their condemnation of the types of jokes they described. Then he stated that “that’s not what I did” and proceeded to repeat the actual jokes he told--pointing out that it’s a joke, “that’s all its supposed to be.” He agreed the jokes were ugly and he regretted telling them, but there are thousands of jokes he’s told over the years that he regrets.
I suspect those right wingers will be even more upset considering the frequent laughter and applause from the audience as he quoted the unwarranted attacks on him, repeated his actual jokes, and threw in a few new jokes. The funniest part was clearly that Palin and other conservatives were making such a big deal over a couple of jokes. All in all Letterman did a good job of responding to the attacks. He managed to both show respect for idea of not joking about a fourteen year old while showing well-deserved disrespect for the bogus attacks.
In the end one would expect both Letterman and Palin to benefit from all this publicity (and expect that Paliln will eventually accept the offer to appear on the show). It may or may not have anything to do with the Palin jokes, but Late Night With David Letterman has moved into first place in the late night ratings.
Blogosphere reactions to Letterman from the right tend to be of two types. Many attack Letterman because of making a joke about Bristol Palin, often going on to talk about the virtues of Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, or other comedians. While I would prefer that Bristol Palin not be a target of such comedians, the fact is that every one of them has made similar jokes about Bristol Palin. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson, along with Letterman, have all made jokes about Bristol Palin. It makes no sense to single out Letterman. This is not really about him telling a joke about Bristol Palin. It is about a smear campaign from some on the right who were first angry because he told jokes about Sarah Palin, and then realized he had also told a joke about Bristol. Attacking him for making a joke about Bristol wouldn’t get much millage, so they invented the false claims that the joke was about rape and that it was about a younger daughter.
Many others concentrate on personal attacks on David Letterman, with them typically being far more vicious than Letterman’s jokes. Such attacks hardly support any attempts to take the high ground against Letterman. It should also be remembered that Letterman’s jokes were just that, jokes, and not the types of personal attacks now coming from some on the right.
Besides what I mentioned above, there is one additional common attack being made on Letterman--claims that the joke is motivated by partisanship and that he wouldn’t make such a joke about a Democrat. These attacks most likely come from people whodon’t really watch the late night talk shows and know what types of jokes are common and buy into the current right wing meme of being persecuted.
Letterman regularly makes fun of politicians and people in the pubic eye regardless of party. It certainly is not, as some have claimed, a matter of attacking the children of people he disagrees with. Bristol Palin has become a common target of comedians because of the humor value, not for partisan reasons. Letterman also tells jokes about John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer, and would have no qualms about telling jokes about a daughter of a Democrat in a similar situation. Letterman, like all the late night comics, thrive on jokes involving sex. Party does not matter here.
On Thursday’s show Letterman has commented on problems from shooting his mouth off but says everything is ok with Sarah Palin. He says that Sarah Palin called and invited him to go hunting. He usually tapes his Friday shows on Monday after the actual Monday show so we probably won’t hear anything more this week, at least in response to events from later in the week. It is possible that he included more jokes about Palin when originally taping the show on Monday.
Perhaps Palin’s initial bizarre reaction could be overlooked as the reaction of a mother who was mislead by the right wing bloggers into thinking that her daughter was under attack. Her behavior is even harder to justify after she went on television today to continue to both attack Letterman and repeat the false claims about what he said, again showing that she places her political gain over the best interests of her children. I would think that Willow would prefer that her own mother stopped talking about her being raped on national television.
This is no longer a matter of the inappropriateness of Letterman’s jokes. It has become a prime example of the mob mentality of the authoritarian wing in the right as they attempt to shout down anyone who attempts to criticize or joke about their reactionary views.
Sarah Palin has no qualms about spreading lies which keep her 14 year old daughter in the news, or even joking about her, if she thinks it will help her politically. We know that relations between Palin and the McCain camp were not very good by election day, but perhaps she should listen to the advice of a couple of McCain advisers:
“If the right goes after Letterman they make him look big and themselves small,” says Mark McKinnon, a campaign advisor to George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “It’s win-win for Letterman.”
Republican media consultant Fred Davis, a chief ad-maker for the McCain campaign, added: “I think it’s a mistake too many conservatives are making right now. They are trying to find anything to attack.”
Davis sought to downplay the egregiousness of the offending Letterman cracks, saying, “David apologized. He said it was over the line. He is a funny guy and his job is to do sarcastic humor. That’s his thing.”
James Walcott puts the reaction of the right into perspective:
Here it is Friday and outraged conservatives are hanging on to their outrage against David Letterman’s Palin mockery as if it were a mountain-climbing rope, hoping to get as much traction and leverage out of it as possible while the rest of the media, perversely, refuses to join in and ramp this up into another Imus pillorying. As mentioned before, I didn’t think much of Letterman’s (writers’) jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughter visiting Yankee Stadium, but I take Letterman at his word that the “knocked up” line about Alex Rodriguez and the daughter didn’t refer to 14-year-old Willow, and the followup crack was clearly directed at Elliot Spitzer’s libido, not the Palin girl’s wanton attractions. I agree with Margaret Carlson, even though it gives me an itchy sensation, that Sarah Palin is badly misplaying this by refusing to accept Letterman’s apology and invitation to appear on the show, instead calling for a torch-carrying peasant uprising to besiege Frankenstein’s castle (with Paul Shaffer lurching to one side in the role of Igor). Unless Obama appoints a Comedy Czar to reprimand and restrict Inappropriate Punchlines, humor is going slop over into bad taste or cheap stereotype, and making an immoderate to-do over this is comes across as opportunistic grandstanding–reveling in your own ire. There are comments sections in righty blogs where the posters vent their fantasies on how Todd Palin ought to violently handle this to defend Willow and Bristol’s honor–variations on smashing Letterman’s teeth down his throat or all over sidewalk, or busting him in the ‘nads–and pound home the word “rape” in their indictment of Letterman, accusing the host of condoning/promoting/making light of statutory rape, hitting the word hard over and over again as if hammering their fist into their palm. It’s clear they get off on the mental impact of what they insist their denouncing, like anti-porn advocates who wallow in every detail to make their case.
He does have some reasonable advice for Sarah Palin:
If I were Sarah Palin I’d get myself booked on Conan O’Brien’s marionette show, giving his ratings a surefire jolt at Dave’s expense, and then behave like Graciousness Itself, all smiles and tight-skirted sexpot dignity, not even deigning to mention Letterman by name. If Palin wants to be Madame Prez someday, she’s got to get out of that comfort zone known as the Fox News ghetto anywho.
Steve Benen points out that Palin gets into too many feuds:
Palin is in a feud with Letterman. She was in a feud with the organizers of the fundraising dinner for the Senate and House Republican campaign committees. When beauty pageant contestant Carrie Prejean made headlines, Palin decided to jump into the argument. The governor has been in a feud with her teenage daughter’s ex-fiance. Palin has even been in a feud with actress Ashley Judd.
Far be it for me to offer Sarah Palin advice, but I have a radical idea: maybe the governor can try an “above the fray” approach for a while?
Margaret Carlson also advises Palin against getting into a feud with Letterman:
Palin has spent much of her public life in feuds with the state legislature, with her ex-brother-in-law, with John McCain’s staff, with Levi Johnston’s family. An early fight with the chairman of Alaska’s Oil & Gas Commission paved the way to the governor’s office. She mostly wins, especially when the target is as easy, say, as a high-school dropout whose mother is under federal indictment. The Johnstons make the Palins look like Rockefellers.
But picking a fight with a trained comedian, refusing to accept his apology, and continuing to battle after the white flag is shown reveals a complete lack of political sophistication.
Letterman apologized at unprecedented length for a comment about Palin’s recent trip to New York. There was, he said, “One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankees, during the seventh-inning stretch, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.” To which the Palins shot back: “Laughter incited by sexually perverted comments made by a 62-year-old male celebrity aimed at a 14-year-old girl is… disgusting.”
Who said anything about a 14-year-old girl? Not Letterman. That would be… the Palins. It turns out it was Willow, not Bristol, who went to the baseball game. But who knew that until the Palins brought this “disgusting” comment so painful to their younger daughter to the attention of the 300 million people not tuned into David Letterman?
Letterman’s joke was indeed tasteless—he even owed A-Rod an apology. But I doubt there was another soul in the world who didn’t understand the joke to be about the older Palin daughter, who lapped Jamie Lynn Spears as the most famous pregnant teen in the world once she was trotted out at the Republican National Convention in August. Not that Bristol should have been left at home in the dark, but if you want a “zone of privacy” around your daughter, do you have her appear on stage with her then-fiancé hinting at prospects of a White House wedding waving to the crowd like Charles and Diana of the Klondike?
And exploiting Bristol as an unwed teen mother didn’t stop with the campaign. Back in Wasilla, where Bristol could have been sheltered and given space to rebuild her life, the Palins arranged to send her out like a vaudeville act, traveling the country to talk about teenage pregnancy under the sponsorship of Candie’s, a clothing company known for sexually provocative outfits for tweens…
Palin appears to be squandering her leftover fame from the campaign on staying famous, settling scores, making headlines over petty concerns, securing the cover of People magazine for Bristol. She could have been the keynoter at the Republicans’ biggest fundraiser of the year on Monday night but instead played a coy, will-she-or-won’t-she game for weeks.
So in the end, Palin spent a week when she could have given a substantive speech, laid out a political philosophy, or choosing the issues she wants to run on, deliberately misinterpreting a bad joke, in the process dragging yet another child into the celebrity scrum.
And by the way, isn’t making a federal case out of a tasteless joke exactly what the right wing loves to ridicule feminists for doing?
Michelle Renee saw the irony in Palin’s overreaction:
I sat back in my chair after reading this and thought, “Isn’t part of the problem 16 year olds getting pregnant?” Comedians joke around. They make fun. They find a hot button and push it. That is what they do and I personally love that they can take almost any topic, serious or not, and make me laugh about it.
Palin, on the other hand, is a comedian of a whole other kind. She doesn’t even know that what she is saying about Letterman while she herself is the one needing to apologize to young girls for her and her daughter’s example has many of us in stitches.
If anyone needs to look at what they have said that is a problem and has been a poor example to young girls, how about “I can see Russia from my house” or “My 16 year old daughter is pregnant”. I am not perfect and have made some really stupid choices in my lifetime. But to sit back, film an interview while a turkey is being slaughtered behind you, throw a baby shower for your teen daughter, babble on television trying to pretend you know anything about foreign policy like a badly operated puppet and then point fingers at Letterman and say he is the problem and needs to apologize…wow.
That is ignorance and denial I can’t help but laugh at while scratching my head wondering how the hell this women ever got on the McCain ticket in the first place.
We are still waiting for you to apologize, Ms. Palin. But we are not holding our breath.
While the primary motivation of these right wingers is to silence opposition to their views, as usual their arguments only resonate in the echo chamber of the far right. There is the danger that Letterman could suffer if those who are unaware of the facts believe the false claims being made about him. Fortunately the 2006 and 2008 elections showed that most Americans are no longer fooled by the endless string of distortions from the right wing or the left wing for that matter. While conservatives are waging a fatwa and calling for the firing of Letterman (if not for more violent solutions), Letterman is beating The Tonight Show in the ratings for the first time in eight months. His unusual response of talking about the controversy demonstrated that, even if his act includes jokes which sometimes cross the line, he is basically a class act and the king of late night. The Scoop summarized why Letterman is on top and ended with a comment on his response to Sarah Palin:
Without going into laborious detail, regardless of your stance on his original inflammatory remarks, Letterman’s response to Palin can be categorized as deft and well-executed. It won’t hurt him. If nothing else, the summit just came into clearer view. The race to the top is really on, and in the end, the competition will be good for all involved.
These smear campaigns are likely to “hurt” David Letterman about as much as repeated smears from the right hurt Barack Obama in 2008.
To conclude, here's a very interesting speculation by Adam B, a friend of The Next Right on the left, on Nov 7, 2008:
There are many in our party, and in the DailyKos community, who believe that Gov. Sarah Palin is finished in public life, that she has been humiliated, disgraced and permanently retired to an ice floe off the Pribilof Islands for a long, quiet life of snowmobile races and muktuk dinners. I am not among them.
The media loves a comeback story, as will her die-hard band of loyalists. So after some time outside the public eye, expect Palin's memoir to come out in the next year or two, with appearances on all the major news magazine shows and daytime chat shows. She'll call up Hannity and Limbaugh when she gets bored, and even Hugh Hewitt when she's really bored.
Palin will be the most in-demand GOP fundraiser in the country, and will begin to build her own network of contacts and supporters in all the key states.
And she will gain over time the one thing she was missing this cycle, and it isn't "experience" but what experience is often a proxy for -- mastery. What Gov. Palin needs to do if she is to return to national politics is to find ways to convince people that she knows what she's talking about, and this can be done. She can develop her own views on the role of government and America's role in the world. She should become a voracious reader -- I'd start her out with The Economist -- every week, cover to cover, including the special reports on corporate social responsibility and the new nomadism -- as well as my smart friends over at The Next Right.
And in 2015 (if not sooner), I'd predict, we'll see a new Sarah Palin criss-crossing the early primary states, with a few more lines in her face and perhaps a Bonnie Raitt streak of grey in her hair at the age of 51 -- a reformer with results from the Last Frontier -- and we will need to take her very, very seriously.
Or to take another example: the losing candidate for Vice President in 1920 lacked experience, but gained much respect as an energetic campaigner for his party's ticket, especially in the West, where he railed against the large sums of money being spent by the other party in the election. Still, his party failed to win outside the South, and the Electoral College was a rout. After the election he returned to his home state, built up quite a record as Governor, gave rousing speeches at his party's conventions, and in 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to his first of four terms as President of the United States.
Yes, my friends, we will have Sarah Palin to kick around once more, and she will be formidable. Mark my words.
I doubt that, and hope not.