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Sarah Palin's book should give Katie Couric something to read

January 22, 2009 |  5:20 pm

Alaska Republican Governor Sarah Palin, the GOP's VP candidate, has a Pennsylvania crowd chanting her name, not John McCain's, during the 2008 general election campaign

Looks like Alaska's Republican Gov. Sarah Palin is gonna give Katie Couric something else to read besides her TelePrompTer scripts.

The 44-year-old mother of five has reportedly retained high-powered Washington super-attorney Robert Barnett, who's negotiated mutimillion-dollar book deals for numerous high-profile clients from Bill Clinton to his wife (who started work on her next book as secretary of State today) and the young Great Changer's audacious autobiography.

Palin, whose family is not wealthy, could make a bundle from a thoughtful book, which could also help the political reconstruction work on her image as a dimbo. There have been larger political reconstruction projects in recent U.S. history. Think, well, Big Bill himself, who was once on TV denying having sex with someone not his wife. And then a few years later reported making, what, $105 million or something in the post-presidential aftermath.

Of course, he was president and a Democratic commander in chief living in Chappaqua. She's a Republican governor living in Wasilla.

Palin showed a real ability to electrify crowds and TV audiences during her brief stint on the national stage as John McCain's VP running mate. Her amazing performance at the Republican National Convention five days into the spotlight showed a real public presence in the proper circumstances. Then her campaign handlers started putting her in exactly the opposite kind of setting, one-on-one with media sharks out to prove her a dummy. And it worked.

But she's got a fine line to walk now. She's got to keep Palin out there in the media now and then to keep her name in the GOP buzz for 2012, but she can't keep talking about last fall, even though that's what she'll surely be asked about. She's also got to be seen focusing full attention on running an open, efficient state government well.

Palin has an election in Alaska next year one way or the other, either a reelect Republican Alaska Governor Sarah Palin stops to talk with a group of young girlsfor the governor's office or taking on GOP incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, daughter of the man that reformer Palin knocked out of power in 2005-06.

Media strategists would advise Palin to get off the "media were unfair to me" theme and use the book to look ahead, not back. To construct her platform and reason for running in 2011, as her potential GOP competitors like Bobby Jindal et al are already doing at the grass-roots level.

Less Glenn Beck. More Iowa Lincoln dinners.

As true as the media bias often was, that argument sounds petty to those who haven't endured it or seen family members demeaned. It looks rookie and it's nowhere near strong enough to run on since the media isn't up for election. How well did Spiro Agnew do with that pitch? Exactly. Who?

Few political newcomers anticipate the glare, ferocity and glee of some media in pouncing on their every perceived flaw, even unfairly, and especially if they're female. Hillary Clinton's pantsuits were fair game. Palin's hair up or down was duly noted daily. And her shoe colors. All obvious qualifications for major public office. What about Joe Biden's vanity hair plugs or admitted plagiarism? Out of bounds. That's the way it is for now.

The enduring pros get over it, ignore and move on. We'll no doubt hear some media complaints in Laura Bush's book. And she'll have ample evidence that'll get Republicans nodding in assent. But she's not pondering a political future.

For all Palin's public pluck and exuberance, she has so far shown zero ability to take any question and turn it to her advantage. She takes each question and tries to answer it. Like what she reads from Couric. She seemed surprised at such a condescending question and stumbled in answering. If she admitted N.Y. Times, some conservatives might be angry. Etc. She ended up giving the appearance of reading nothing.

How about: "What do you mean, what do we read in Alaska? Katie, we have actual newspapers and magazines just like the real world down here, except we don't need daily ozone alerts about unhealthy air to breath. And we have balanced government budgets, even surpluses. Ever been online, Katie? You can read anything there, as I do daily."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Joseph Kaczmarek / Associated Press (McCain and Palin in Pennsylvania); Associated Press (Palin stops to talk with a group of little girls).

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