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Palin vs. 'Oprah': the anti-smackdown


When former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin resigned as governor of Alaska this summer, she explained that she felt she could effect more change and deliver her message more effectively as a private citizen than as a lame-duck official.

During an appearance on Monday’s “Oprah,” Palin's first major appearance on her "Going Rogue: An American Life" book tour, her message seemed simple enough: None of what happened during the 2008 presidential campaign was her fault because she was beset by manipulative handlers and a hostile, badgering media. In the course of the one-hour interview, Palin referred to those who reported on her daughter Bristol Palin’s pregnancy as “haters” and called Katie Couric “the perky one.”

“You’re talking about Katie Couric,” Oprah Winfrey interjected as Palin was explaining her annoyance the Couric couldn’t let her just enjoy the “incredible rush of energy” she felt after a rousing John McCain rally. “Because you’re pretty perky yourself.”

The only thing she, Palin, did wrong was ... well, going by just her conversation with Winfrey, she didn’t do anything wrong. She and McCain lost because the economy tanked and Couric had an agenda to present her in the worst possible light no matter what she said.

Palin said she wished she had not been subjected to such a “double standard” in the media about her campaign wardrobe clothes and her children. And about that look of disappointment you saw on her face when she was not allowed to speak after McCain’s concession speech ... well, she had wanted one more opportunity to say that Americans needed to keep moving forward and that “united we stand.”

Even the inevitable “Levi question” could not take the lovely smile from her lips. Winfrey, hoping (as those badgering media types do) for some sort of emotional shift from her resolutely upbeat guest, pressed Palin about her feelings toward Levi Johnston, Bristol’s ex-fiancee. Johnston, who because of his connection to Palin has become a C-list celebrity (posing most recently for “Playgirl”), cannot say enough bad things about her, some of which Winfrey felt compelled to recount.

But Palin remained firmly on message: She was not going to discuss the intimate workings of her family on national TV. But she said she was sorry that Johnston was following a path of porn and profit and that she was praying for him and that he was certainly welcome at Thanksgiving dinner because he would always be the father of her beautiful grandson.

Charming, articulate, unflappable and firmly in control of her material, this was the Palin the McCain campaign had no doubt dreamed of all those long months ago. Of course, Winfrey wasn’t pushing her on the Bush Doctrine or even the newspapers of her choice, but watching a polished and possessed Palin as she once again made her case -- she’s just an ordinary working woman trying to do right by her kids and serve her country and is guilty of only a little naivete -- it’s hard not to see the formidable candidate she could have been if she had been given a little (OK, a lot) more time to prep. Or even if she had watched a few more episodes of “West Wing.”

“Do you wish you had just named some magazines?” Oprah asked Palin of her fateful Couric interview in which she seemed unable to name a news source she consulted regularly. “Yes, of course,” Palin answered, making it hard to know which was more worrisome: that Oprah used the word magazines (presumably because she doesn’t own a newspaper) or that Palin chose to not actually name one even now.

The two were quite fascinating to watch together, steel-spined divas treating each other with a graciousness Jane Austen would appreciate -- Winfrey called Palin’s book “interesting;” Palin thanked Winfrey for being an inspiration to her. In a clip available on the "Oprah" show's website, the two had a bonding moment over "journaling" -- both are practitioners and Palin's lifelong habit is one of the reasons she believed she could write a book. Both women have created “regular-folk” brands that belie their actual socioeconomic status, and no one knows better than Winfrey the power an individual can have over culture and policy.

Which may explain why, though Winfrey ended the interview by asking Palin if a talk show were in her future (a question Palin adroitly did not answer), she began the show by addressing the rumor (long forgotten, it must be said, by pretty much everyone) that she Winfrey had snubbed Palin during the campaign by not asking her to appear on her show. (After endorsing Obama, she had no political candidates as guests.)

Palin, bless her heart, looked Winfrey straight in the eye and said she had no idea that this was even part of the media conversation. “No offense to you,” Palin said with a winning smile, “but it wasn’t the center of the universe.”

Which certainly marks a milestone of some sort.

-- Mary McNamara

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Harpo Productions, Inc., George Burns)

Comments () | Archives (16)

Whether you adore Palin or despise her...and/or feel either way about Winfrey...the interview was dull, dull, dull. With 1 or 2 exceptions - most noticeably that Thanksgiving clip already played endlessly across the media spectrum, so we knew the punchline - Winfrey never asked a meaningful follow-up question. I'm not suggesting that she should've gotten hostile or even challenging. But she simply let Palin ramble away in countless directions, rarely saying anything. Winfrey chimed in only enough to move the conversation to the next topic on her checklist, as if the fact that she'd landed Palin first was work enough. Palin offered her usual collection of vague generalities, much of which we've heard before - the only thing with depth were the new highlights in her hair - in that Mommy & Me voice that most of us now simply tune out. If Palin wishes to drive book sales and raise her awareness, whether from the haters or the lovers, she really needs to stop making white noise and throw in a few new points. And get an interviewer who's willing to engage.

Easy there Mary. Your cattiness (I would have used another more appropriate word that starts with a b ) is coming through.

Boring. Everyone was nice and a bit catty I would say. Personally I am of the opinion that I do not believe a word Sara says. She makes herself sound just lovely and perfect.

She found a way to make a lot of money and she is going for it.

Ironically, the comment by Lynnie was more insightful then this article.

Wow! The author of the piece didn't even attempt to hide her political affiliation in a summary of a television show. Nice journalism!

This blog is a joke. You all are going to no end to make this woman somebody. I laugh when Repubs try to blame Katie C. for Palin's FAILURE on this interview! She failed miserably and now it's too hard to admit that you made a mistake in your choice for the vice presidential candidate. She is more than unqualified and there were plenty of other Repubs to choose and you found the worst of the worst. Even if Katie had an agenda, the agenda would have had nothing to do with Palin's crazy answers. She got stuck in her OWN WORDS because she had no clue what she was saying. Wow! I guess Katie also forced her daughter Bristol to lay down and get pregnant at 16 too!! You guys make me laugh!!! Deny deny deny cause you want to maintain evil thinking!!!! That's o.k. though...

I was disappointed that Oprah had Palin on her show at all. I realize Oprah and her company are about making money, but giving Palin a platform to spew more of her ignorance doesn't seem like the civic thing to do. Buy her book? Not in a million years. I doubt Palin has read many books herself and I'm pretty sure she isn't going to win a literary award for "Rogue."

Articulate?! Maybe "verbose" is a more accurate description.

Let Sarah Palin have her 15 minutes, they're almost up. She will never be a serious contender for president or even senator because she is simply not smart enough, and she quit her job in Alaska. Just walked out.

Articulate? Were you watching the same interview?

I think Sarah Palin's interview as usual was full of lies and general nonsense.
If people can recall the election and her debates, as well as her interviews, as well as her many campaign speeches, they will agree that Sarah Palin was one of the primary reasons the McCain ticket lost. That said, she shouldn't have been, John McCain himself was reason enough for his campaign to lose. The most telling example of his own incompetence was, attaching Sarah Palin to his campaign as his potential VP. Does anyone seriously think either one of those two could have handled, the problems besetting America and the world today?
They wouldn't have been able to properly manage the election situation in Iran, McCain with characteristic stupidity would just have inflamed the situation and allowed the Iranian govt to use the US as a scapegoat, rather than what Obama did which was to allow the Iranian govt to put itself in a position where it had sole responsibility for what happened, this is a strategy which may pave the way for real change in Iran. McCain would just have sung "Bomb Bomb Iran" and Palin would have said something equally stupid. That team could not handle the terrorism in Mumbai, the economy, those american journalists ling and lee in north korea, or any situation in the world that required serious deliberation.
I don't know why anyone would listen to Palin's inanities now, I mean she felt sorry for Katie Couric because she has low self esteem, PUHLEEZE!

BTW she really did say she could she Russia from her house, and Tina Fey really did sound a lot like her. That Sarah Palin, she really is annoying!

"The two were quite fascinating to watch together, steel-spined divas treating each other with a graciousness Jane Austen would appreciate "

What a joke! Palin wouldn't know Jane Austin from Jane Jetson. Oprah only demonstrated that her ratings are so in-the-tank that she has to book creatures like Palin to attract the stay-at-home moms who share Palin's seething resentment of anyone with a real education, talent, experience, or even intelligibility. Successful politicians don't hide in busses and travel from Grand Rapids to Rapid City, and they have articulate positions they arrived at after serious consideration, not gut reactions based on superstition, fear, and unconcealed bitterness.

Palin, people love her or hate her just like Obama, Bush, Clinton......, "nough said!

Are there any men, serious men, on Palin's interview schedule? Seems that the female interviewers, even those with supposed intellectual, serious social and political backgrounds can be so easily manipulated and distracted with the stupidity of "is you mom a good cook?" Grow up, girls. This is a woman with ambitious political goals. Did you ask Obama if he can go to the bathroom by himself?

When did she say "she could she Russia from her house"? I heard many people claim she did but all I heard her say was the truth, Russia can be seen from Alaska.

The lingerie is sexy, especially to attract men by their delicacy and the variety of styles, colors and beautiful scenery.


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