Palin’s media problem

Aaron Guerrero Contributor
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When The Daily Caller reported last Tuesday about the listserv Journolist, the online community of left-leaning journalists, professors, and activists that had willingly offered advice to the Obama campaign in 2008 on how to tamp down the Jeremiah Wright controversy, it ignited a firestorm that prompted debates across the blogosphere and cable news networks over issues like journalistic ethics, media bias, and civil political discourse.

The right sold the story as verifiable proof of the liberal media’s at-all-costs mentality when it came to getting Barack Obama elected. The left countered that it was a ho-hum affair due to the fact that a majority of the listserv members worked for openly liberal press operations and were up front about where their political persuasions lied.

By Thursday, the controversy gathered even more momentum when The Daily Caller further reported that Journolist members discussed how the Obama campaign should react to McCain’s selection of then-governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Some of the ruminations regarding the selection were less than flattering, but others were measured and inquisitive.

Within the same day, Palin sounded off on the controversy, granting The Daily Caller an exclusive interview.

She rattled off her familiar gripes about the “lamestream media,” noting how they had attempted to “destroy” her, her family, and her staff. She added:

“The lamestream media is no longer a cornerstone of democracy in America. They need help. They need to regain their credibility and some respect. There are some pretty sick puppies in the industry today. They really need help.”

Other than the new riff about “sick puppies,” Palin’s condemnation of the press in the Journolist fiasco is pretty par for the course. From California to Maine, most are aware of her broad based contempt for the journalistic profession, and whether it be on Fox News, or through Twitter and Facebook, she uses every venue at her disposal to remind her supporters of how raw a deal she got, and continues to get, from the “elites” in the media.

But Palin’s remarks to The Daily Caller pertaining to her resignation as governor of Alaska and the role the media played in it merit closer attention. The former vice-presidential candidate cites the media as “a key reason she decided not to finish out her term as governor.”

For someone who relishes the fight in the public arena, this is a rather startling admission. One that seems wildly out of sync with a political exterior that has her somewhere between a pitbull with lipstick and a Mama Grizzly.

By her own admission, Palin let the press play a key role in her decision to pull the plug on her governorship, sparking new questions over her toughness and ability to handle the pressures that come along with elective office. But more importantly she may have raised alarming concerns over a future presidential run.

As the will-she or won’t-she speculation intensifies for 2012, Palin and those closest to her must also consider this: how would she handle the media glare over the course of a lengthy presidential campaign?

Palin’s press performances in 2008, fairly or unfairly, lead to her undoing, as perceptions of her being severely underqualified for the position she was pursuing took hold.

But if Palin thought dealing with the press was a tough chore before, wait until she enters a marathon presidential campaign.

Could she cope with such an extended period of scrutiny?

Remember, this is someone who has yet to enter the set of shows like “Meet the Press” or “This Week,” testing grounds for all serious presidential contenders. And while she clearly feels more comfortable within the confines of a Fox News studio, taking to those airwaves alone won’t cut it, especially if she’s serious about winning. To persuade doubting independents and broader audiences that her candidacy stretches beyond a conservative base, Palin will have to indulge the alphabet networks along with other less hospitable media outlets.

Think about it. How much credibility would Palin lend both herself and her candidacy if she squared off with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric again? It would serve as demonstrable proof of both her growth as a politician and in her confidence to talk about substantive issues with serious reporters, qualities that were sorely missing during her final days as a vice-presidential candidate.

Amongst the GOP base, it will always be good politics for Palin to mock, deride, and delegitimize the media. But she should not let her animosity blind her from taking such a group more seriously. For if she does indeed decide to run for president, how she goes about handling the “lamestream” media will be as important as any strategy for winning Iowa or New Hampshire.

Aaron Guerrero is a 2009 UC Davis graduate, who majored in political science and minored in history. He formerly interned for Rep. Dan Lungren and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and is a freelance writer.