Taking on Letterman

David Letterman’s jokes about Sarah Palin were in poor taste. Misogyny exists in the media. And there is a double standard when it comes to the way that the Palin family has been treated in the media and the way that the Obama family has.

But I have to agree with Time’s James Poniewozik’s post that “what it is—with the references to the “Hollywood / New York” mentality and the media not getting “our” values—is about positioning Palin for 2012 as the Agnew-esque candidate of cultural resentment against the media, Hollywood and “elites,” with a 21st-century twist of identity politics.” Palin appeared on “Today” this morning where she talked again about the Letterman incident, and later did the same on CNN.

Running against Hollywood is certainly nothing new, although what usually gets lost is that the industry actually is not a monolithic place that speaks with one voice. Jon Voight earned praise from Republican leaders when he gave a speech at a Republican fundraiser this week calling the president a “false prophet,” a comment that matches in outrageousness anything the likes of Janeane Garofalo has said from the left. Save for the short-lived traction of McCain’s “celebrity” label on Obama, such an anti-entertainment playbook has had diminishing returns, not just because the message is muddled when you consider that the GOP also reaps the benefits of Hollywood, but that it’s just a worn strategy.

If Palin’s challenge is to establish credibility as a viable candidate in 2012, versed in the issues and appealing to the broad middle, this isn’t it. Taking on a late-night talk show host’s humor is more sideshow than substance. Dan Quayle scored points for attacking the fictional character of Murphy Brown and Agnew’s barbs at the media are legendary, but those were the high points of their political careers.

Margaret Carlson writes on The Daily Beast, “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.” And she reminds that “Palin spent a week when she could have given a substantive speech, layout 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.”
 

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