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Well, at least Fox News is hiring

January 13, 2010 |  7:16 am

While experienced and talented journalists continue to lose their jobs at a heartbreaking rate, it is comforting to know that Sarah Palin has managed to land a cream puff of a deal — as a political commentator on Fox News with, it would seem at least from her first go-round on “The O’Reilly Factor,” the wide-ranging beat of her very own self.

Bill O’Reilly is not known for generosity of spirit, so one can only imagine it is actually in the former Alaskan governor’s contract that she not be expected to comment on anything much besides the left wing’s despicable and inexplicable hatred of her.

"Why are they so intimidated by you?” was O’Reilly’s first question of his new colleague, which is pretty much the definition of not only a leading question but also a bona fide softball. Palin didn’t have much of an answer, besides, you know, the obvious — that the dreaded liberal media just can’t stand the conservative message, which, as reduced to dust by Palin, is that government should get out of the private sector’s way.

I may as well just state here, and for the record, that I am a “pinhead,” as O’Reilly so objectively characterized anyone who thought that Palin failed as a vice presidential candidate because she was woefully unprepared and unqualified.

The same adjectives could certainly apply to her as a political commentator. Though Palin recently showed a certain self-centered charm and sass on “Oprah” and other stops on her book tour, she was visibly nervous sitting across from O’Reilly, who is, to be sure, not an easy man with whom to share a screen.

Even at his paternal best — he did everything to make Palin feel at home save adjust her microphone and offer her a mint strip — O’Reilly is wired to destroy. At one point, he asked Palin if she thought Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was nuts, as in literally insane. Palin didn’t quite rise to the bait and good thing too. Following his lead just a bit, the former governor said that when she had met Pelosi, the speaker was taking children on a tour, adding sarcastically that “I thought it was nice she had so much time on her hands.” O’Reilly laughed before adding earnestly, “but children do need to be led on those tours,” leaving Palin to backpedal, chagrined.

Much time was spent with Palin specifically defending criticisms made on “60 Minutes” by journalists Mark Halperin and John Hellemann and Steve Schmidt of the McCain campaign that she didn’t know there was a North and South Korea, that she thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, that she didn’t understand what the Iraq war was about, with O’Reilly posing questions along the lines of, “Of course you know the difference between North and South Korea, so that’s just a lie” and Palin agreeing, pointing out that all such accusations were lies from unnamed sources and didn’t matter anyway because Americans don’t care about things like that, they just want to know how to improve the economy.

It may have been the most insightful thing she said all night, but alas, O’Reilly did not agree with her and kept the topic firmly on the mendacious liberal media and their mysterious vendetta against Palin. But even then, after assuring his new colleague that in her new position as Fox News pundit she could “”neutralize '60 Minutes’ just like that” (another fascinating piece of her job description), the master could not resist the rabbit punch. When Palin smiled and added that the American people were neutralizing those biased media outlets by deserting them for Fox News, O’Reilly interjected that he had nothing against “60 Minutes.”

But then he went on to encourage her to run for office, letting her know that any time she wanted to set the record straight, he and Fox News were there for her.

-- Mary McNamara