Palin is right about firing Bashir, but for the wrong reason

Paul Goldman Former Chairman, Democratic Party of Virginia
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Sarah Palin is right when she says MSNBC should have fired Martin Bashir. But she is wrong in claiming Bashir or MSNBC has a particular animus toward her. Truth is Palin and Bashir are opposite sides of the same media coin. Palin plays the working class hero, Bashir the urban professional. But unlike Felix and Oscar, they are not the odd couple. There is nothing odd about them at all. Both are the norm, a couple of commentators whose status is based on celebrity, not insight. They need each other. They know it but they can’t admit it. Since they can’t do comedy, they do tragedy — enduring fixtures in the long decline of what passes for political commentary today.

Palin has managed to convert her status as the first woman nominated for the GOP national ticket into a full-time living. She quit her office as governor to go for the gold. But there is nothing on her resume to point to any special substantive achievement, much less her image as working class hero. Without an urban yuppie attacking her, especially someone with a british accent and a name like Martin Bashir, Palin would be a pale imitation of herself.

Mr. Bashir’s claim to insightful commentator status is based on interviews with Princess Diana and Michael Jackson. Like Ms. Palin, he has no singular substantive achievement in politics suggesting any particular insight.

Let’s be honest: Palin the fearless working class hero and Bashir the insightful yuppie are just opposite images in the same fun house mirror. They make empty gestures at serious issues.

Some of us don’t. Years ago, I was the only white person, in the whole state of Virginia, willing to be campaign manager for an African-American helping to force the white establishment in the Democratic Party and the state to take down the “No Blacks Need Apply” sign hanging from the door to statewide office in the Old Dominion. They wrote a book about that Wilder campaign, When Hell Froze Over. I even had the audacity to bring an action against the Good Ole Boys running the Democratic Party with the U.S. Department of Justice for discriminating against rural whites and urban African-Americans. We won that too.

They were plenty of Palins, of Bashirs, on sides, all talk and no walk. Yada, yada, yada is all they had. We gave them no mind, we needed serious players.

MSNBC claims to have a viewership that is more insightful and more concerned with substance. Oh really? Mr. Bashir’s comments stem from his apparent outrage at Mrs. Palin’s claim that our children would be enslaved to debt. It is a silly comment, but she knows it appeals to her base. “Sarah speaks for us,” as it were. Whatever.

Enter Mr. Bashir, disputing Palin. Good yuppie that he is, he needs to show his moral superiority, going on a rant about his outage at 18th slavery, citing the inhumane, unspeakable punishment meted out by one slaveowner.

He is morally outraged by Palin’s implicit comparison to real slavery. It’s good copy. But he then goes further, suggesting Palin be subjected to the very punishments he just found so morally reprehensible. But if he were truly so morally outraged, why would such a thought ever enter his mind, not to mention touch his lips? The basic point of morality is to know what is so wrong that you shouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.

My prediction: Once the media tires of their schtick, Palin and Bashir will do a Golden Oldies road show, maybe an HBO special. Their packaged moral outrage at each other can then be monetized, like in the movie “Wag The Dog.”

Palin and Bashir would need to invent each other if they didn’t already exist. Fox at least fired Palin for being a 24/7 “woe is me” whiner who, even when she had nothing to say, said it badly. They were trying to maintain some semblance of credibility.

But she never sunk as low as Bashir. It is telling MSNBC hasn’t fired him. They finally admitted to being in the entertainment, not the insightful commentary, business. But we already knew that.