On Second Thought, Sarah Palin WAS a Victim of Sexist Media Coverage ...

I'd never given much weight to conservative gripes about the media's supposed mistreatment of Sarah Palin. She was clearly in over her head -- someone running for Veep who couldn't accurately describe the duties of that office -- and so I thought the whole meme was easily dismissed as just another example of the right's culture of victimization. Hell, it's a movement practically built around the notion that the media are conspiring to undermine "traditional American values."

But watching the reaction to Barack Obama's health care address last week led me to rethink that view. Like many, I was a bit dismayed -- but not at all surprised -- that the Beltway media would jump on Obama for discussing actual policy issues during his speech rather than going for those emotionally satisfying but utterly vapid -- and wholly-fabricated -- anecdotes about how his proposals might impact the life of some salt-of-the-earth worm farmer somewhere in the Heartland.

That led me to think about how they tend to dumb down our discourse; recall the Beltway punditocracy pursuing the same lines of attack -- the nerdy, out-of-touch, ivory-tower dweeb who can't connect with people because he's always going on about boring, serious stuff -- against Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. They even used it against Clinton for a while early on in his national career.

There is, of course, more than a grain of truth in the idea that one has to communicate in terms people can relate to. But it's also true of our elite press corps, as Brad Reed put it, that "they’re dumb as rocks and everyone knows they hate, hate, hate thinking about policy."

That got me thinking about how they regarded George W. Like Sarah Palin he was a relatively inexperienced governor of what was then a deep red state (one in which the governor's office is famously weak), a former frat boy, failed businessman and someone who confused the Prime Minister of Canada with a greasy mix of fries, gravy and cheese curds (don't send me hate-mail from Montreal --  it's greasy!). But by and large the media decided he was genuine, and that apparently was a better qualification for running the country than actually knowing anything about public policy.

So the question is: why didn't they give Palin -- just as fake-folksy as Bush, if not more so -- the same pass? Why were they suddenly so eager to dig deeper into Palin's readiness to serve in such high office? A Katie Couric-type certainly could have quizzed Bush similarly in 2000, but none did.

What's the difference? They're both Republicans, so it's not a case of the Beltway media's knee-jerk disdain for smarty-pants Democrats. I can't think of any reason except that Palin is a woman.

Now, to be clear, I don't think it's a bad thing that they exposed her a the in-way-over-her-head neophyte and intellectual light-weight that she clearly is. I'm just noting what seems like a double-standard. The best evidence that the media treated Palin unfairly is the complete and total pass that they gave to a similarly challenged guy named George W. Bush.


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